Listening to the news yesterday it struck me as funny hearing about the snow “melters” at the “snow farms” on Boston. I thought back to early December when the local ski areas were furiously making snow. (I am adding photos for those of you who have not had the pleasure of experiencing this winter on the east coast.)
Often it feels like motivation is as out of our control as the weather. One week we have a storm of motivation and it is easy to get moving. The next week it is a drought. We just can’t seem to get ourselves there.
This inconsistency lowers confidence when it comes to setting goals. We wonder “will I have the motivation to keep this up this time? “.
Research tells us that we do have more control over motivation than we realize. We just have to stay aware, activate it and continuously fuel it.
“To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it” Mother Teresa
This blog will just touch on the common motivation makers most people miss out on. I will expand each in future blogs. Simply an increased awareness can be very powerful in stirring up motivation.
Self Criticism or Self Compassion: Check out this TED talk by Kristin Neff on her research about self compassion.
What? Beating myself up, or paying someone to kick me in the butt and make me exercise actually decreases motivation? What about all those reality TV shows? Now those people are really motivated!
Well…in reality… it turns out criticism (internal or external) gradually melts motivation and being kind to yourself actually leads to lasting motivation.
Think about a teacher or boss who put you down, was sarcastic, or put the fear of God in you? Maybe the fear got you going, but how long did that last? How about an apathetic person? One who just did not care – was retired on duty? What happened to your performance.?
“when we submit to doing something solely for the purpose of avoiding punishment, our attention is distracted from the value of the action itself” Marshall B Rosenberg PhD
Now think about someone who encouraged you, was firm yet kind, believed in you and your goals, and continuously encouraged you in caring way. You probably felt energized and very motivated.
So why would this not be true for the way we treat ourselves? Notice your self talk, especially when you fall short. Is it more like the sarcastic shame inducing, indifferent,or kind yet encouraging person?
Self compassion is like a muscle and can be strengthened with practice. I believe it is one of the most important muscles to build for any exercise and wellness plan to work. Kristin Neff’s website has beautiful meditations and programs to help build this muscle in a healthy and well-balanced way.
External or Internally Driven: Like taking a trip without a clear destination, a goal without vision based on what you value leads to unwanted detours. These detours can quickly melt motivation. Too many times we focus on a superficial goal – I want to weigh ___ lbs. I want to be a size ____. I want people to tell me I look great. I want to be able to do ___ push ups or plank for ____ minutes. But what are we REALLY wanting from these goals? I want to feel confident, comfortable, strong, healthy, energized. I want to be able to play with my kids, get back into hiking. Those are true goals. The fuel that creates motivation comes from within. We need this fuel to not only sustain us but make the journey itself exciting and enjoyable.
If you did not get a chance to jot down a vision statement for all the areas of wellness (see last week’s blog), I encourage you to invest the time. Simply ask yourself “what do I really want in this area of my life?” A sentence or two is enough. Just enough to give you a destination to focus on. It is amazing how much a simple yet clear image about what you REALLY want can create motivation.
Creating Sabotage or Support: We can tend to think “I should not need support, I should just be motivated. I know what to do, why can’t I just do it?” Change is hard and motivation does wax and wane despite our best efforts. Support just makes it easier, so why not tap into this resource.
Support comes in many forms. We can support ourselves by putting things in place that we know help us make better choices. Visual reminders of a wellness plan, setting alarms on a phone, setting out exercise clothes at night for the morning, keeping the treadmill clear of clutter, or getting to be early to allow for morning exercise time. We can also tap into the people around us as support. Often loved ones really want to help. Asking a friend to text each day to check in, getting an activity monitor and connecting with friends for accountability, finding a reliable exercise partner. Also identifying the people who sabotage progress is important. We can choose to either avoid or ignore them or be honest with them about what we need.
This winter is certainly a reminder of what we don’t have control over. Let’s remember we do have control over motivation. Simply notice what may be melting motivation. What could boost motivation? Choose one thing this week and take back control. It might make the next storm a bit easier to handle…. catch my drift?
Keep Moving and Activating Your Well Being,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC