So, here’s the situation: You’ve made a determined and powerful decision to change your unhealthy habits, you’ve worked really hard, you’ve done well but then you find yourself struggling and slipping back into old eating habits and sedentary behaviors. Somehow, you’ve just lost your motivation. Has this ever happened to you? If so, this tells me something really important about you… YOU’RE NORMAL!!!
The journey to long-lasting lifestyle change typically passes through a series of temporary attempts, some more successful than others, each representing an opportunity to learn more about what works and what gets in the way on your journey. Research has shown that only 5% of people, followed over a two year period, made it through the process of change without at least one setback. This means that 95% of people will have some kind of relapse to old, unhealthy habits and behaviors!
So, what can we do to get our mojo back? How can we get back on track and start having success again? Well, here are 5 tips for motivating yourself:
1. Link the Goal to Your Values – Our values are our hearts deepest desires for how we want to spend our brief time on this earth. So ask yourself “What do I want to stand for in this life? How do I want to behave? What sort of person do I want to be?” And then ask yourself “How does eating healthy link to these values?” If we can link our new behavior to something personally meaningful, we’re far more likely to do it!
2. Take Small Steps – If your end goal seems too big, make it smaller. Ask yourself “On a scale of zero to ten, where ten is ‘I’ll definitely do this no matter what’ and zero is ‘There is absolutely no chance I’ll ever do this’ – then how likely are you to actually do this?” If you score less than seven, change the goal to something smaller and easier.
3. Cultivate Willingness – Healthy, new behaviors often pull us out of our comfort zone which almost always creates fears, worries and anxiety. So, if we are unwilling to make room for that discomfort, we won’t take action. Ask yourself “Am I willing to feel some discomfort, in order to do what matters? Am I willing to make room for all my fears and worries and that voice in my head that tells me scary and hurtful things in order to do the things that really matter?” If you are unwilling to make room for inevitable discomfort then you may need to enhance the link to your values or set an easier goal that elicits less discomfort.
4. Detach from Reason-Giving – The mind is a reason-giving machine and as soon as we even think about doing something that pulls us out of our comfort zone, it cranks out all these reasons why we can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, or shouldn’t even have to do it: I’m too tired, I’m too busy, it’s not important, it’s too hard, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I’ll fail, and so on. And if we wait until the day our mind stops reason-giving before we do the things that really matter in life… we’ll never get started! So if reason-giving is a major barrier to action then we can detach from it by simply being aware of the reason-giving machine: e.g. “Aha! Here’s that reason-giving machine again. Thanks, mind!” If you detach from all the reasons your mind gives on why you can’t do it then you can focus on all the reasons why your goals are important to you.
5. Enlist Support – Can you find a partner, friend, relative, co-worker, or neighbor with whom you can share his/her aspirations and achievements? Someone who will encourage and support you? Acknowledge your successes and cheer you on? Can you find an “exercise buddy” to go running with? Is there a group you could join that might serve this purpose? If you can enlist social support this is often hugely motivating.
Motivation is not a trait, but rather a dynamic state that can be influenced by the choices we make and the actions we take. So, let’s go get motivated!
Adapted from Getting Unstuck with ACT by Dr. Russ Harris