Don’t Stop Now: How to Keep Your Motivation Going
7/30/2012 11:02:00 AM
Okay, so we just had a snow storm in October... a blunt reminder that winter is now here (and early). This is not great news to most people (except the skiers among us) because winter is the toughest time to exercise, eat right and be motivated to work toward our goals. So if you’ve been feeling your motivation slip, you’re not alone.
It's time for a motivation check. Chances are, you had some great goals set for yourself going into the fall. Did you start out towards your fitness or weight loss goal all fired up, to find that now it’s barely a spark? Did you make progress early on, but then get distracted with a new project, a new pet, the new season on TV? It happens, and before long we find ourselves back to our "old ways" without really understanding where our motivation went.
If this sounds familiar, join the club: it's much easier to race off with new inspiration than it is to maintain that motivation through to your goal. That's why many people never finish what they start. In fact, 92% of Americans who start each new year with resolutions fail to follow through to achieve those goals.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
- Jim Rohn, American author
So why is that? Some of it has to do with basic human nature, which tends to prefer instant gratification over long-term progress. And part of it is that it’s simply easier to push something into motion than it is to maintain that momentum over an extended period of time. Here are three common patterns that can kill your motivation and what to do about them:
Motivation Killer #1: Unrealistic Expectations
The most common cause of disappearing motivation is unrealistic expectations. When you have your hopes set on one thing (like seeing the number on the scale go down), but something else happens instead (the number doesn't change or it goes up), of course it's difficult to keep on doing something that doesn't seem to be working for you. These feelings end up causing you to avoid doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to get different results.
But results take time, and again we tend to want instant gratification. If we resisted that piece of pie or bowl of ice cream, we want immediate credit for our efforts to show up on the scale, and that's not likely to happen. If we went to the gym three times last week as planned and the muscles aren't popping out this week, we may not feel that the reward is matching up with the effort. So eventually we get frustrated with the time it takes to see progress and we revert to our old ways. If your motivation is lagging because you're not getting the results you expect, check to make sure your expectations are realistic. Then give yourself a bit more time of doing the right thing and you'll soon see the progress you're looking for. Once you do, the progress will motivate you to keep on doing the right thing for yourself.
Motivation Killer #2: Perfectionism
The second most common cause of a motivational slump is expecting yourself to be perfect. The idea that anyone can never overeat or never skip a workout is a form of false pride. There's a reason "two steps forward, one step back" is the most common form of progress, even for the most disciplined among us. The emotional upset of failed perfectionism can make it virtually impossible to stay motivated.
If you're holding yourself to a standard of perfection, or verbally abusing yourself for those bad days, give yourself a break. You must accept the fact that, along with the rest of us, sometimes your human appetites or feelings are going to win out over your good intentions--and it's not that big of a deal when it happens. Allow those occasions to teach you more about yourself, so that you can learn to do things differently. And cutting yourself a little slack is a good practice in itself.
Motivation Killer #3: Giving Up
So while it's perfectly normal and absolutely okay for your motivation to slip here and there and for you to occasionally take "one step back," it isn't okay to give up altogether. That's the worst thing you can do because not only does it kill any remaining motivation you have, but it also puts a huge dent in your self-confidence. If you decide you can't do something, then you're right: it's a self-fulfilling prophecy every time. But holding on to the hope that you can do something will make sure that you do, one step at a time, and you will always reach your goal if you're determined to take small steps toward it.
So instead of getting down on yourself for slacking off on training or gaining back some pounds, it's absolutely critical to get back on the horse and restart your movement in the direction you were going. It doesn't matter how small the steps or how slow the progress feels. If you are going in the right direction, you will eventually get to where you want to be.
Motivation is habit-forming and feeds on its own progress, but at times needs to be kick-started when the momentum slows. When you start seeing your progress wane, keep an eye out for the danger spots of unrealistic expectations, perfectionism and the urge to give up. Resist those motivation killers and keep going, one foot in front of the other, and when you reach your goal (which you will), don't forget to give yourself credit for your hard work and remember back to when you weren't sure you could do it. You already have--you just need to pick it back up and push it through the slow times. Just don’t give up on yourself, or the process!