Do you really know what motivation is?
Have you ever looked at someone who seems highly motivated and said “My friend gets up at 5.30 every morning to go to the gym, she’s so motivated – she loves it! Says she couldn’t get by without this daily ritual!” But take a moment, does it really require motivation if you love what you are doing?
Motivation is not about doing something you love over and over again, it’s about being able to get yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. Your friend probably needed motivation the first few times she got up early and made the trip to the gym, but as she got used to it and started to get the benefits, maybe more energy or vitality, maybe some weight loss, people started to tell her she looked better than she had for ages, she built more and more positive anchors until it became an essential part of her natural timetable.
This is good news because if you are told “you must make exercise part of your life for ever!” and you hate the thought of exercise, you might think that you will have to motivate yourself for the rest of your life!!! Not so – once you start to enjoy the habit, it requires almost no motivation at all.
So if that takes the pressure off, and you know that you will only have to motivate yourself for a short while, what might you change or do that you haven’t done yet because it felt a bit overwhelming? If you could introduce just one new habit that you know will (over time) make a difference and move you towards your goal, what will it be?
People can stay motivated to give up chocolate/drink/sugar etc. for a set period of time as they can see an end to it. But – if you consider you want to create lifelong habits and rituals, it’s vital that you learn to love what you do.
Motivation gets you started – but habits are what keep you going
The chemical formula for motivation is based on producing Dopamine. We also need to activate the pleasure centres in our brain. Every emotion we have has a chemical signature or prescription, and this determines how we think and behave. I prefer to think of feelings as verbs – something we “do” rather than something we have. In order to feel de-motivated you have to focus on the negative aspects of (for example) going to the gym, or not eating that piece of cake you really want. When we do that, we activate the pain centres in our brain, and as we are neurologically programmed to avoid pain, there’s no way we do it.
One of the easiest ways to activate the pleasure centres and increase Dopamine production, is to use your imagination and visualise the end result: if you want to lose weight that means not just seeing yourself slimmer; maybe you have been slimmer before through grit, determination and deprivation, which will have created some pretty powerful negative associations with “dieting”. This is the main reason why you have to imagine how you will feel when you have lost the weight.
You have to add a compelling emotion to the image to activate your neurology. I had a client recently who wanted to lose enough weight to run a half marathon to raise some money for a charity that was close to her heart. She was much too big to even consider it when we first met, and kept talking about what dress size she wanted to be. Once we got to the real “why” it was much easier to motivate her. She imagined crossing that finishing line, and then looking at her Just Giving page and seeing how much money she had raised. It had to be about more than just dress size, for most people that on its own is not a strong enough “why” to generate the motivation required.
So my challenge for you this week, is to write a list of 5 reasons why you want to lose weight, and if they are all things you have said before, tear the list up. You need to find what really motivates you, what is the thing that makes your heart sing when you think about it?