It’s 6:30a.m. and my phone’s alarm is gently sing-songing me awake. I have a client at 8o’clock and, with a 30-minute commute and a dog to walk beforehand, I don’t have the most wiggle room to dilly-dally.
Except at that moment, I really don’t care. I couldn’t care less.
My mind is doing hoops, trying to justify hitting the snooze button. I’ll just shower faster, I tell myself as I face-plant back into my pillow.
6:39a.m. I know I’ll feel more alert and refreshed if I give myself ample time to get ready right now. But at the same time, Who gives a crap – I hate everything. Snooze*.
6:48a.m. Snooze. No question.
6:57a.m. Now I really have to get up or else I’ll be late. I reluctantly drag myself out of bed and stumble over to the shower. I hate everything. Everything sucks. While I wait for the water to warm up, I feed my pup and pull together my attire for the day. Yoga pants (a bright green hue, of course) with a long-sleeve top. I like to keep things simple, and I put as little thought into my outfit as I can get away with.
Once it hits noon, I’m done training clients for the day, and now it’s my turn to get my lift on.
But that’s the last thing I want to be doing.
So I mill around instead. I watch as others foam roll, sprint on the treadmill, and Olympic lift away. I peer on as they bust PRs and sweat bullets, as they shout encouragement at each other and discuss the latest hip mobility drill they learned from the weekend seminar.
I sip on coffee at the juice bar.
I piddle around on my laptop.
I flip through newspapers.
My desire to lift weights or do anything even remotely resembling exercise has all but disappeared. I’d rather be back in high school, taking the SATs again, juggling more AP courses than I know I can handle.
My motivation is gone.
But this is perfectly normal, you see. I’m not all that different from you. Motivation ebbs and flows, and it certainly doesn’t last forever. Having strength trained for a number of years now, I definitely go through periods when the excitement is gone and I dread going to the gym. Even the thought of changing into my training clothes seems like a daunting task.
Yes, I know it’s good for my health. Yes, I know I’ll be in a better mood after a smashing workout. Yes, yes, I know all of that.
But you see, I’ve lost my mojo. Which means that none of the above reasons are enough to get me moving again.
One month later, and I’ve finally had enough of my dwindling drive, so I decide that I need to hire a trainer myself. And not an online trainer because I know that even then, I’ll find a dozen reasons to miss my workouts. I need someone to be accountable to in-person, someone who expects me to show up physically, someone who will push me for an hour at a time and make sure I don’t skip over my dynamic warmup (as I am always itching to do).
There’s a gym near where I live, Precision Athlete, that a friend recommended that I check out some time ago. Having met the trainers there previously, I decide they’d be a good fit for me, and I promptly purchase a 12-session package.
I arrange a time to train with them as a semi-private client and each time, I show up, not having any clue what to expect. All I know is that every session will kick my ass (in the best of ways) and deliver a level of intensity that I don’t have in me to reach on my own.
I’m taking advantage of the cognitive dissonance theory**, which makes me incredibly averse to break my commitment and let someone else down.
And it works.
Knowing that I have to be at the gym at 10a.m. on a Saturday is enough for me to get to bed at a reasonable hour on Friday night, to get a full night’s rest, and to not piddle around at home in the morning.
What I fully understand, you see, is this:
[Tweet “You simply can’t rely on motivation to get the job done.”]
Yet that’s what so many people still try to do today. There are half-finished projects, abandoned fat loss attempts, and unrealized dreams everywhere you look.
Why? Because they sit around and wait for motivation to hit them with a surge of power to blast them through to the top.
When you’re motivated, it feels easy.
When you feel like doing something, of course you’re going to feel no resistance to it.
The ones who repeatedly reach their goals time and time again are the ones who get that true success requires doing what you need to do, regardless of whether or not you want to do it. And they put that into action.
Can I share a secret with you? I don’t even feel like writing this piece right now. Every minute, I’m feeling a tug to go lie on the couch and turn on Netflix for the rest of the evening, to go play with my dog, to check my email.
Yet I continue to fight that urge because I know that ultimately, I have a deep commitment to what I’m doing – namely, helping to make your life better.
Are you committed or temporarily interested?
Whatever you’re doing right now – is it a fling, a one-night stand, or are you married to your cause?
Are you willing to weather the storms, to keep pushing forward even when it gets monotonous, knowing that all the sacrifices you’re making will be worth it in the end?
Motivation is incredibly deceiving.
Motivation is the reason why we embark on a new journey feeling on top of the world. We’re optimistic and hopeful, and we overestimate our abilities (a psychological phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect***). We’re confident that the ride to the top will be smooth sailing and that this incredible sensation of ambition will stay with us to the end.
But not long afterward – be it a few months, a few weeks, or even just a few days – the glamour of it all wears off. We realize it’s not all rainbows and ponies, and when we don’t see the kind of progress we expect, we throw in the towel and call it quits.
Why did you start this journey in the first place? What inspired you to make a change?
I always try to remind myself of why I do what I do. For me, I know that I have something to offer to the world that can help people’s lives. But more importantly:
If I don’t put my stuff out there for people to read and learn from, I am doing them a disservice.
A pretty eye-opening way to look at it, huh? (Props to Jill Coleman, who got it from Alwyn Cosgrove.)
In the same way, if you’re on a fat loss journey and you’re thinking about giving up, who will you be doing a disservice to by quitting? Maybe it’s your kids, who count you to not only be around while they grow up but who want you to be able to participate in outdoor activities and have the energy to go on adventures with them. Maybe it’s you – because you owe it to yourself to make you a priority for once and take care of your own health.
With that said, there are many ways to get around the motivation issue and still get the job done.
An obvious one is to make yourself accountable to someone else. In the same way that I pull myself out of bed because I know my clients are counting on me to show up and I haul my ass to the gym because I’ve already paid the sessions, there’s a lot you’ll probably be willing to do just to do not let others down.
It’s also a good idea to start small. Meaning, take baby steps and change as little as possible. I really like referencing BJ Fogg’s model of behavior change.
As you can see, the bigger the change you’re making, the more motivation and willpower you’ll need. Conversely, the smaller the change, the less you rely on motivation.
The last one brings you a good dose of tough love: just suck it up and do it. I know it doesn’t always sound fun and you can probably think of a hundred other things you can be doing that’ll be much more interesting. At some point, you’re just going to have to pull on your Superman panties and just get the job done.
[Tweet “”Day by day, nothing changes, but one day you’ll look back & realize everything is different.”]
*Yes, I’m well aware that hitting snooze actually makes me more tired. Stay with me, here.
**More specifically, cognitive dissonance theory describes people’s desire to seek consistency between their beliefs (or professed beliefs) and behaviors. So for me, my belief is that I value my health and therefore I have scheduled an appointment to train. The consistent behavior, then, would be to actually show up to the session.
***Not necessarily always related to motivation levels. I write more about this psychological phenomenon here. Isn’t psychology incredible?!