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How to Succeed in Life When Motivation Lets You Down
Can you believe it is May already?!!? It is amazing how fast time goes by! The other day I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions and wondering how people are doing with theirs. I stopped making resolutions years ago because I found them disappointing. Since I was not good at keeping them, a resolution never helped me make significant changes. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them? Does making a resolution help you make changes in your life?
Usually making a New Year’s resolution is prompted by a desire to change something. The fact that it is a brand new year can be motivating. January 1st is like having a clean slate, a fresh start. You find yourself dissatisfied with your weight so you resolve to go to the gym. Maybe you resolve to change your eating habits and eat a more healthy diet. Perhaps you resolve to work fewer hours so you can spend more time with your family. Or you decide you drink too much and want to cut back. Maybe you make a New Year’s resolution simply because the people you hang out with are doing it and you don’t want to be left out.
The truth is most New Year’s resolutions don’t last
The truth is most New Year’s resolutions do not cause a person to make the changes they desire. If you are a regular gym-goer, you know what I mean. When you are at your gym at the beginning of January, it might be difficult to find an empty treadmill or you may have to wait in line to use a weight machine. It’s kind of a joke actually that if you just wait a couple of weeks, the crowd will dissipate. Of course, there are exceptions to this but the majority of people who make resolutions, do not fulfill them. Most people have forgotten about them by the time February rolls around.
Why don’t we keep resolutions? If it comes from a desire to change, why do we give up before changing? I think it has to do with motivation. Motivation can be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. Extrinsic motivation may be inspired by others or events. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual.
Let’s take an example from a common New Year’s resolution — losing weight. Perhaps this is something you have struggled with. I know I have. We become dissatisfied with our current weight and want to make changes. This may cause us to join a gym or start walking to get more active and kick start our weight loss journey. We all know that if we really want to lose weight, we have to modify what we are eating, whether it is cutting portion sizes or junk food, even eliminating sugar (gasp).
Many years ago, I would make a resolution, because it just seems like the right thing to do on January 1st. Feeling motivated to lose weight as I was tired of continuing to carry around extra pounds year after year, I would make some changes and start eating better. I would start exercising knowing it was good for me and I would even lose a few pounds and begin to get some momentum.
However, over time, little by little, I would make bad choices that would sabotage my diet. My exercise routine would become less of a priority. I would choose chocolate over salad or pizza instead of veggies. Suddenly, or so it seemed, I would be back to my old way of eating and not exercising. And usually, I would gain back the few pounds I had lost.
Motivation is based on feelings and feelings come and go
Motivation is fleeting and doesn’t last. It will not carry you through when you are faced with challenges. Motivation is based on feelings and feelings wax and wane, they come and go. Can you imagine if we only went to work on the days we “felt” like it? Or what if we only made dinner for our families in those times we “felt” like doing it? It is the nature of motivation to be short-lived. Motivation is designed to get us started but it is not what keeps us going. Motivation can get us moving in the right direction but it will not sustain that motion.
That’s where discipline comes in. Discipline is what helps us continue the forward movement toward our goal. Success is built on discipline and habits. Self-discipline is the cornerstone habit we need to succeed. Self-discipline is defined as the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. Now, had I had self-discipline in the weight loss example above, I would have achieved far different results.
Self-discipline is a newly acquired skill in my life and I am definitely a work in progress. I have worked hard to become a more disciplined person over the last couple of years and am realizing some of my dreams and goals because of it. One of the keys to self-discipline is implementing good habits into your life. A habit is just a tool to regulate your behavior. Habit upon habit can build consistency. Consistency is simply living out the good habits on a regular schedule. The best tool I have found to help me with this is Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Planner. It has really helped me stay consistently disciplined.
As I mentioned, I have struggled with losing weight. This has been an ongoing battle throughout my adult life. I have had times when I have lost significant pounds but slowly gained it back over time. Recently, I was motivated to lose weight for health reasons. I wanted to get rid of a couple of medications and avoid diabetes. I knew that if I did not do something drastic, I was headed down a pathway I did not want to trod.
I finally decided to try a plant-based diet so I purchased Dr. John McDougall’s book The Healthiest Diet on the Planet as well as The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. I highly recommend these resources. They both contain easy to understand concepts and lots of recipes. I read both of these books and completely changed my eating plan just before Christmas 2018.
We have joked in our family about being carnivores so to switch to plant-based eating and eliminate meat from my diet was pretty significant. Learning a completely new way of eating includes new shopping methods and food preparation as well, which I have enjoyed. But I have been a bit discouraged because I have not lost weight at the rate I was hoping for. I am impatient to see the results of the changes I’ve made. However, since I made a commitment and have applied discipline to my lifestyle, I am determined to persevere and not give up, in spite of discouragement.
The area I know I need to work on is the consistency of my habits. Not only eating right but exercising regularly is very important for my weight loss success. Gone are the days when I could just cut out dessert for a few weeks and drop a few pounds. It just doesn’t work that way for me anymore. So, self-discipline and the consistency of good habits become necessities.
Here’s a simple illustration that shows the formula I’m talking about.
What about you? Have you found motivation lacking? Have you discovered self-discipline? What are some of the good habits that help you move forward on a goal? Please share in the comments or drop me a line using the contact me form. I’d love to hear from you!