Happy New Year! January has arrived yet again and for many of us the dropping of the ball in Time’s Square is a call to action. Public relations and media machines do a great job of spinning the “New Year, New You” messaging and giving everyone a false sense of needing to tackle self improvement head on. I am not going to lie. I do love the idea of a new year and a fresh start. But let’s be honest, for most people, the enthusiasm for tackling the New Year’s resolution has waned by mid February, just in time for our culture to start drumming the “get beach body ready” beat.
Whether you like to take on a new focus at the start of the year or jump in when the spirit moves you there is one challenge most people face when trying to establish new habits.
Ah, a fickle friend indeed. I hear this a lot from folks I’ve worked with. “I start off strong but then lose the motivation to continue.” Perhaps this rings true for you as well. You have the best of intentions of cleaning up your diet and are going strong until the weekend when friends invite you to a local burger joint. All bets are off. And before you’ve even wiped the grease from your chin, you have confirmed to yourself what you’ve known all along. You just don’t have the motivation it takes.
As someone who has run a few marathons, I’ve given the idea of motivation a lot of consideration. And here is the conclusion I’ve come to.
If you are relying solely on motivation to make a change, good luck. Here’s the thing. As I said before, motivation is fickle. It is finite and will likely dissipate when the going gets tough. Before you know it you are back to square one, feeling discouraged and frustrated.
Let’s go back to marathon training. Yes, I was certainly motivated to cross the finish line but that goal was miles away (see what I did there?) when I first started and there were MANY times I was not interested in lacing up and hitting the road. So what kept me going? A few things.
1. Have a plan
For me, a plan is always a good thing. Knowing ahead of time what the day’s workout would entail prevented me from having to rely on my own motivation in the moment. If I had to count on being motivated, it would have been far to easier to decide to run a few less miles that day. But my type A personality can’t help but check the boxes, so if my plan called for seven miles at tempo pace, seven miles it was.
2. Stop taking on too much, too soon.
Sometimes when we set a goal for ourselves that feels a bit out of reach, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at what it may require of us. As my dad has said many times, “The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” He’s not wrong. How else are you supposed to eat an elephant? Taking it one day, one moment at a time keeps you present and focused. Look too far ahead and you will be off the rails before you know it.
3. Stay Curious
Another important quality that I have relied on is curiosity. I consider myself to be a very curious person. I have learned to lean on this characteristic when motivation is on the decline. I become curious as to what might unfold on the day’s run. What interesting thing may come across my path?(Once it was a bear!) What will it feel like to run and finish the marathon? How might my body feel better if I fuel one way versus another? The only way to find out is to do it.
4. Savor how good it feels to be done.
This one is powerful. That feeling when the workout is done and you are stepping into the shower? Pretty great. Give yourself those moments as often as you can. You won’t regret it.
Learn to rely on more than just motivation to help you stay the course and you will be amazed at where you end up.
What keeps you going?