Have you ever committed to a healthy eating plan, only to fall off the wagon the first time you walked pass a cake shop? Or found that there are more excuses than there are reasons to exercise?
There are times when we all lack motivation, now more than ever, and the desire to do the right thing can often be dwarfed by a stronger desire to skip the workout and reach for the big bag of crisps. However, there are some things you can do to keep you on track and below are some of the things that I do to stay motivated.
Set a Realistic Goal
One of the main reasons you cannot stay motivated is that you do not have a tangible goal. I’m not a fan of targets that are specifically weight orientated, but a goal of ‘lose some weight’ can be vague, and with no specific goal in mind it can be hard to decide if and when you have achieved the goal. The lack of reward can in itself be demotivating. On the other hand, setting an unrealistic goal can be equally demotivating. Setting the goal of a weight lower than you have ever been, or that you last were as a teenager, is likely to be unachievable in adulthood, and this can ultimately lead to you giving up as you see yourself repeatedly failing.
One you have set a goal I find it valuable to plan how to achieve the goal. Planning can ensure that you have the time and resources to carry our what you want to do, meaning you are more likely to actually do it. On a simple level, if you go to the pool for a swim when the pool is shut you will be demotivated and probably won’t go back to the pool when it is open. If you plan to swim at a time when you know there is a session you want to go to, you will go.
In a similar vein to planning, if you don’t prepare for your goal you won’t start it. If you decide to eat less meat, and have only a freezer full of steak, you’ll go hungry or you’ll give up. Fill the freezer with vegetarian food and you are more likely to carry on.
For me this is a huge one. I find that a great way to stay motivated is if I am raising money for charity, or if I have booked for something in advance and have told the instructor I am attending. If I know that I have made a commitment, be it financial, charitable, or personal, I am far more likely to stick to this and carry it through.
This ties in to accountability. A friend and I used to go swimming every week. Most times one or other of us lacked motivation, however knowing that the other person was waiting to go kept us going, and we usually both felt better afterwards. At the moment I tend to book for things where I know someone in the class, or I know the person teaching.
As much as you can plan, sometimes life gets in the way and you are not able to do everything you set out to do. Maybe you decided to walk and it rained. Maybe your class got cancelled, or you had to suddenly look after your Grandchildren. Be flexible enough to adapt your exercise plan, or skip a day, without giving up on everything.
In the same vein, some days you are going to fall off the wagon, and all the motivation in the world is not going to change that. Learn to forgive yourself, and instead of using it as an excuse to give up completely, learn to forgive the bad day and start again tomorrow.
Without a doubt, habit is the most motivational tool at your disposal. Habit forming requires discipline to start with, but in the long term it is the easiest way to maintain a healthy regime. I am certainly not an expert on habit forming in the sense that I do not know why sometimes I am able to generate habits that last forever, and other times they don’t stick. What I would say is that if I employ some of the other motivational tactics I have previously mentioned, I am more likely to start doing something on a regular basis. Once I have started, it becomes routine. Through the first lockdown Simon and I got in the habit of walking every day. The combination of planning, accountability and peer support meant that this became something that stuck, and nearly a year later we still walk most days.
This is a few of my ideas and thoughts. I am by no means an expert. If you have your own motivational hints and tips I would love to hear them so please comment below!