If you’re like me, creating a detailed new plan for how you’ll overhaul your diet, organization, workflow, relationships or your workouts is addicting. You journal all of the changes you can’t wait to make and pour over articles, books and blog posts fleshing things out. Then, you’re gung-ho for a few days … and then, inevitably, you get totally sidetracked by a shiny new something to overhaul.
But you don’t have to find yourself constantly starting and quitting, or changing and petering out – there’s a better way. Recently I realized my overhauls all failed for the same reason: my motivation was all wrong. Let me give a few examples:
What do all these statements have in common?
- I really should be running. Runners have great bodies. I hate running, but skinny people run. I should do it.
- I probably eat way too much meat … and carbs. I should be eating more vegetables. Right now I eat nowhere near enough.
- My home should be clean and organized – nothing out of place. That’s the goal now.
And now, these statements?
- A 20 minute, all-out solo dance party sounds SO fun. After I dance, I always feel brighter and more relaxed.
- Every time I eat a meal with a generous portion of veggies, I feel light and energized! And proud of myself! My skin even looks clearer and more hydrated after I’ve been eating well.
- Having a home that’s peaceful and constantly ready to be used is one more way I can show my family my love.
In the first batch of statements, the motivation was guilt-based, should-laden and chokingly full of pressures from the outside. In the second batch of statements, each potential positive change sprang from a positive emotion. The very same behaviors (moving, eating well, cleaning) transformed from drudgery to joys.
Here’s three simple keys to using the “internal motivation” technique to transform your own life:
1. DE-SEXIFY BAD BEHAVIOR
We’re not dummies. We keep our bad habits because they give us something. Often we get comfort, pleasure, escape or connection from our bad habits. But the key to ditching them (and I’m stealing from Tony Robbins here) is to associate those bad habits with their actual, bad outcomes. Instead of thinking sunshine and rainbows when you think of sugar-coated-non-food-junk-food, start to associating fake-food with the low energy, bad skin, unwanted pounds and the icky feeling that come after.
2. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
If you’re not a runner and don’t even want to be, that’s okay! Be honest with yourself that no matter how long you beat your head against the wall, you won’t find running exciting. Instead, recognize that there’s more than one way to move your body, and then experiment until you find the one (like dancing) that sounds like a blast to you.
3. THINK INSTANT GRATIFICATION
The key to sticking to your life change is to get instant pleasure from your new behaviors. This is how you can trick your brain into wanting to do the good thing again and again. One trick that I love is to pull up articles on the nutritional benefits of the healthy food I’m folding into my diet, and read them while I’m eating the yummy, healthy stuff. I’m always so blown away by the healing properties of food. I get a built-in happy feeling from knowing that I’m caring for my body so well.
Or how about this one: I only watch YouTube videos while working out. When I come across a video I’d love to watch, I save it for later and watch it while doing squats, burpees or circuit training. Working out while YouTube-ing is the perfect excuse to let yourself indulge in a YouTube spiral. Once you’re too tired to work out anymore, press pause on the videos until next time!
Hope these tips help. Here’s to finding the happy in the stuff that’s good for us!
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