Our society is very good at telling us what we should do – eat healthy, exercise regularly, sleep, don’t drink too much etc etc. Most of us a pretty clued up on what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Often when I’m working with people my job becomes about helping them find the motivation to do, and keep doing, healthy behaviours. I’d like to share some of my thoughts and expertise in increasing motivation.
Take a moment. Stop and think about the last time you felt really motivated to do something. Notice how it felt in your body. Notice the emotions that went with it. And finally, importantly, notice the things you were telling yourself.
For me, the best-ever example of this was the 18 months I spent trying to get myself to run around the block. I noticed lots of things about how motivation works for me over this time.
On any given morning it would look like this:
6:00:00 am My alarm would go off and I would immediately think: “No!” I then got into a dialogue with myself about whether I was going to go for a run or not:
6:00:01 am “I should!”
6:00:02 am “I can’t be bothered”
6:00:03 am “I said I was going to!”
6:00:04 am “I’m too tired. “
6:00:05 am “It’s my goal to run 4 times this week”!
6:00:06 am “Tomorrow!”
In split seconds my head was full of all the reasons I should and should not go for my run.
With time and practice I figured out if I got up and put my running gear on, went to the loo, had a drink of water, these thoughts about going or not going were often still present.
I could be out the door, walking down my drive way and walking onto the street and still the thoughts were present.
But by this stage it’s obvious I’m going for run and the thoughts about whether I was going to or not starting to leave me alone.
About 10 – 15 mins into running, I was feeling good, strong. My breathing was steady and controlled (and faster!). I was feeling powerful and in control. AND THEN!!! I THINK
6:21:27 am WHEN ELSE CAN I SQUEEZE IN A RUN THIS WEEK?
My motivation to go for a run appeared about 10 – 15 minutes into running.
There are lots of different definitions of motivation and psychology sees it in quite a precise manner – that motivation is the internal stimulus to a behaviour. But my experiences running around the block is typical of how motivation works for us. There is this urban myth that we need the motivation to do stuff before we do it. The reality is our motivation for a behaviour often shows up once we’re doing it, once we can see the benefits and recognise that the perceived costs aren’t that bad.
Over the next couple of posts I’m going to explore some of the techniques you can use to overcome that initial lack of motivation and get moving to give your motivation a chance to show up.
PS: I did eventually get myself up to a 5 k run around the block in the mornings and it felt fantastic!