You never argue with your significant other, right? And it definitely doesn’t take you years to realize that you could have saved yourselves many misunderstandings if only you had cleared up one tiny point of miscommunication? If so, you’re made of better stuff than I am.
Sometime last year, my husband and I realized that one word was gumming up the works. And that word was should. When my husband said, “Yeah, I should do that,” he was indicating that something was a possibility. I, on the other hand, assumed it meant he had decided he would. It’s an honest mistake. Should isn’t concrete. It’s just potential. And we all have a lot of shoulds in our lives.
What transforms an act from should into doing? What’s the catalyst for change?
The Motivation to Start
You may have given one of several different answers, such as guilt (oy vey), but today we’re going to talk about motivation. Motivation and willpower get mixed up a lot, so I’ll clarify. Motivation is a desire to change that causes you to act.
The problem is that motivation is just a feeling. And like all feelings, you can’t call it up whenever you want to, and you don’t always get to decide when it leaves. The thing you have to remember is that motivation is like that flaky friend who bails regularly on your brunch plans. You can’t rely on it because it will let you down.
If I can’t bring myself to do something, is it because I’m not motivated enough? Maybe. But we can’t dictate how much motivation we get to have when it does decide to show up. So if you want to change, but you don’t feel motivated enough to take action, where does that leave you?
I did a lot of rigorous experimentation to see what method would be best. This included scrolling through motivational quotes on Pinterest all day and telling everyone at work that I was definitely going to start going to the gym soon.
Those didn’t work.
So I tried again and again until I stumbled on something that did.
If you’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to start a new habit, the problem might be that you’re setting the bar too high. Yes, that’s right, I’m telling you to lower your expectations. Like, way, waaay down.
It’s really hard to do a big task, much less a big task on a regular basis. For example, maybe you want to work out more. Are you going straight from being a couch potato to having a full-fledged workout routine? Because that is a big jump, my friend.
First, you have to decide what kind of exercise you want to do, then buy the appropriate clothes, get the right playlist together, then schedule a time to go to the gym, change clothes, exercise, shower, change again, and get home. All on a regular basis. Whew!
This is when I was inspired to create my patented solution, Make It Suck Less™. Make It Suck Less™ works by harnessing the power of momentum.
Apply Make It Suck Less™ to your dream of a gym workout routine, and it transforms into going for a walk in your neighborhood. Or doing a few pushups at home.
Creating a habit is not only the hardest part, it’s the most important. Make it easy to build that habit muscle by starting with a task that’s really easy for you to do on a regular basis. It takes a lot less effort to use momentum to keep a good habit going than it is to start doing something big from scratch. Over time, you’ll be able to grow your small habit into something larger.
The Motivation to Keep Going
What if you’ve already succeeded in starting, but you’re having a hard time finding the motivation to keep going? This one is a little trickier because there are a lot of reasons why it can be hard to continue.
We often reach for the excuse that we don’t have enough motivation, but that’s probably not the real reason. A lack of motivation is more often a symptom than the problem itself. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help diagnose the real problem:
- Am I trying to force myself to do something I don’t like? If so, what can I change to make it more enjoyable? Do I have to do this or can I do something else and get similar results?
- Why do I want to do this? (Tapping into the reason you want to change can help by reminding you what you’re ultimately hoping to achieve.)
- Am I trying to guilt or shame myself into doing this? If so, maybe I should step back and show myself a little grace.
Make Smaller Goals
Remember what I said before about lowering the bar? We can apply the same principle here.
We want to set ourselves up for success, so try breaking up your goals into bite-sized pieces.
I do this, too. Since I work at a desk, I wanted to be more active throughout the day. Vague goals such as “be more active” or “try to eat more vegetables” or “watch fewer puppy videos” are the death of good habits, so I picked something more concrete. I bought a Fitbit and aim to get in 10,000 steps every day. There isn’t anything magical about 10,000 steps, but I get a lot of pleasure out of hitting that goal (almost) every day. To read more about this, check out the Seinfeld method.
And once you hit those goals, don’t forget to do a mini-celebration. You earned it! Smile and give yourself a high-five (where other people can’t see you, unless you enjoy awkward looks). The worst thing you can do is scold yourself for not doing “more.” You did exactly what you were supposed to do, and that is enough.
Let’s Get Emotional
But what about when you really want that extra emotional boost? Is there anything you can do?
Yes. While not a substitute for actual change, feel free to read motivational quotes and get a little pumped up. You can also read articles (like the one on this blog) or make friends through your calorie counting app. I like reading about what other people are going through. Remembering that I’m not alone in my struggles really helps.
And if you don’t have anyone in your circle to contact for that extra boost, feel free to comment on the blog! Someone in our community might be able to help.
What About You?
Do you have any small everyday habits that help you keep going as you reach for your goals?