Millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking or save money. But as April rolls around, the resolutions you were so excited about have withered into empty promises. Do not give up. Self-improvement is essential to your physical, mental and spiritual growth. You just need the one tool that will allow you to make lasting changes: motivation.
Motivation is a need or desire that causes a person to act. Countless self-help books are devoted to the subject, yet we still have trouble finding and maintaining our motivation. For example, if your jeans are tight, you might be motivated to lose five pounds. But that is probably not enough to keep the weight off long term. Our drive to lose weight, even if it’s as simple as saying no to French fries, wanes because we aren’t passionate about why we want to achieve this goal. The truth is that motivation is not enough. Our goals must inspire and shock us into change. If we have tried and failed in the past, we must look at our goal from a different perspective.
Let me share a personal story. I used to love barbeque pork sandwiches. One day, I ate about six sandwiches in a few hours. I started to feel sick and dizzy – the same symptoms my father had when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. He also loved those sandwiches but he ultimately passed away due to, among other things, heart problems. I knew that I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. I needed to change. My urge to eat my favorite sandwich was strong, so I needed an equally powerful motivation. Instead of connecting my sickness to high blood pressure, I connected it to death. That was the last time I ate pork. Your motivation must be strong enough to call you to action.
If not acted upon, a goal is merely a glorified wish. You must be intellectually stimulated by your goal, which can be done by reframing your thinking. Stimulation is information or knowledge that penetrate your core values. Your mind should not be able to get away from it. It must make you want to stand up and say, “I have to do something about this,” because the consequences are so dire. That is how to get motivated.
Maintaining your motivation is another story. Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves by changing too much at once. Start by changing your environment. If your kitchen cabinets are stocked with cookies and refrigerator is full of beer, you are going to have a hard time avoiding those items. Throw them all out if you can’t resist temptation but others prefer moderation as opposed to an all-or-nothing outlook. Try having two beers instead of four, and then work your way down to having none if that is your ultimate goal. The key is to change your routine, even if you start with baby steps. These small changes add up and can last a lifetime.
It is very common to see a loved one lacking motivation but in desperate need of change. I encourage you to challenge their status quo. Let them know that they are treasured and add value to your life. They will be honored to see a positive and hopeful side of themselves in your eyes. When people are in a dark place, they need to see themselves in a new light. They seek new perspective on their situation. In most circumstances, it is not as bad as they think. Energize their souls with the prospect of lasting change.
Most people lose motivation because they are either bored with the self-improvement process or disappointed with the results. Eating carrot sticks is certainly not as fun as eating a burger. Even if you did forgo your favorite food, maybe you are sad to see the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as you’d hoped. Alternatively, you’ve lost a lot of weight and the newfound attention you are getting makes you uncomfortable. Be patient with yourself. Remember that achieving your goals will make you happier in the long run but it takes work. Motivation helps to fuel the fire but it is your day-to-day efforts that will get you to your goal.
Enjoy the ride.