By Michelle May, M.D.
Have you ever felt motivated to exercise, eat better, lose weight or make other positive changes on New Years day, only to feel your enthusiasm slip away as time passes or the going gets tough? Although motivation seems elusive at times, when you understand how to tap into your sources of inspiration, you’ll feel more in charge of your attitude and know what to do to maintain and restore your drive and motivation.
Peel Away the Layers
First, clearly identify your personal reasons for making a change. It’s important to peel away the layers to make sure you get to the heart of your motivation. Some sources of motivation are internal: thoughts and feelings like fear or longing. Others are external: events, people, situations or rewards that inspire you. Both internal and external motivators can fuel the process of change, especially when you tap into those that create strong emotion for you. These powerful motivators will keep you moving in the right direction.
Candace was surprised to discover that what she really wanted was more significant than she initially thought:
I stopped setting New Years Resolutions several years ago. Before that it was the same thing every year: 1. Lose Weight. 2. Exercise. Who wants to keep failing year after year? However, as I “mature” I realize that “losing weight and exercising” isn’t really what matters to me so that’s why my resolutions just left me feeling deprived and guilty. What I really want is to experience more enjoyment in my life and to feel more vibrant and healthy. This year I’ve decided to set two resolutions that inspire me:
1. Practice mindful eating during at least one (if not all) of my meals each day.
2. Find opportunities to move more every day.
Here are ten more tried and true tips that can help you make a change successfully.
Motivation Top 10
1. Why Now? In order to identify your own powerful motivators, take out a piece of paper and answer these two questions:
• Why is it important to me to make a change (for example, stop yoyo dieting)?
• Why do I want to make this change now, at this point in my life?
Now, think about what you’ve written and challenge yourself to dig deeper to uncover even more meaningful answers. Ask yourself the two questions again: So why is that important to me? And why now? You may need to ask the “why” questions a few times to peel back the layers and get to the personal inspiration that’s the fuel for meaningful change. You’ll know you’ve hit on something important when you experience a strong emotion.
2. Set Goals. You wouldn’t start out on a trip without knowing where you’re going, would you? Visualizing your endpoint will help you determine the path for getting there so your brain has a detailed map to follow. See http://amihungry.com/pdf/newsletter-12-07.pdf to learn how to set Meaningful Magnetic New Years Resolutions.
3. Start Small. One of your greatest sources of motivation is seeing progress. If you’re having a hard time getting started, ask yourself, “What is the smallest goal I could set that I’d be likely to achieve?” and start there. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t perfection, it’s direction.
4. Be Consistent. Consistency is one of the keys to creating a habit. For example, if your goal is to walk five days a week or to start meditating daily, write it down on your calendar or on your “to do” list then treat it like any other important commitment.
5. Be Flexible. Too often, people wait for the perfect time to make a change, like getting more exercise. It’s unlikely the perfect time will ever come—and it won't last anyway—so make fitness fit into your life just the way it is today. When life gets in the way (and it will), adjust your routine so you can still fit it in.
6. Use Reminders. Your motivation can fade simply because you’ve lost touch with what inspired you in the first place. Create reminders to keep your source of inspiration top of mind. Some examples: If you’re motivated to eat healthier because you want to inspire your children, have them draw a picture of all of you at the dinner table or cooking together. If your goal is to be more active, set an alarm on your computer that reminds you to get up and walk around the office once every hour. If you want to eat more mindfully, wear an Am I Hungry? bracelet (see below) or download a sign from http://www.amihungry.com/pdf/am-i-hungry...if-not-sign.pdf to put on your refrigerator that says:
Am I hungry?
If not, then what I need ISN’T IN HERE!
7. Anticipate Challenges. Set yourself up for success by thinking through possible challenges and come up with coping strategies ahead of time. When you make a mistake or get off track, consider it a learning opportunity. Use the feedback to create a plan for what you’ll do differently when that challenge comes up again. For example, if you find you can’t get yourself to the gym after you get home at night, take your exercise clothes to work with you.
8. Team Up. When you’re feeling low in motivation, you can borrow some from others around you. Find an accountability partner, exercise buddy, coach, personal trainer or support group. (I’d love to be part of your team to get your New Year off to a great start. See my 10th Anniversary Bonus below!)
9. Be Patient. One of the things I hear most frequently from people I work with is that although it takes time, they eventually reach a point where eating mindfully or being more active becomes natural. You may not feel that way initially so you’ll have to operate on faith that that it will get easier (unless you quit).
10. Reward Yourself. Since it takes time to see results, come up with both small and large incentives to motivate yourself to reach your short and long term goals. For example, you could give yourself points for the minutes you spend exercising then trade them in for the time to do other things you enjoy too. And be sure to celebrate your success as you achieve the goals you’ve set.
Of course the greatest inspiration is seeing the fruits of your labor – and the greatest reward is in knowing that you’ve done your best.
Eat Mindfully. Live Vibrantly!
Michelle May, M.D.
For the last ten years, YOU have been my greatest source of inspiration. The opportunity to help so many of you finally discover a way to break free from yoyo dieting and overeating has been an incredible gift - Thank you!