How many times have you been thinking you need to start dieting, or you need to get to the gym… but get stuck waiting for yourself to feel motivated to actually do it?
Or maybe you’ve been doing all these things on a somewhat regular basis and you all of a sudden hit a wall and lose all your motivation?
The thing about motivation is that this happens to everyone.
The people you look at and think…
“They must be motivated all the time in order to accomplish what they’ve done.”
…they have those days or weeks too.
See, motivation is like an emotion. Emotions come and go, and we know that so we don’t rely on them to take action.
Motivation is like happiness. If you felt like something was wrong with you because you weren’t happy every moment of every day, you’d start to feel pretty defeated.
Motivation comes from action. If you’re like most people you wait for motivation to come before you take action, but the action itself is what creates motivation.
Action > Accomplishment > Motivation
So the more important question is…
How can you set yourself up to take action?
Having an outside source of accountability that you’re paying for (skin in the game) is a huge step toward reaching your goals because it creates a big dose of motivation, and outsources the decision-making process for things you may not know how to do, like design your training program and diet.
Just signing up with a coach is one big “action” step you can take that will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to reaching your goals.
A good coach will not only be a great source of accountability, but will be someone to rely on when you do hit that lull in motivation (it’s bound to happen), plus set up the right processes that will get you seeing that transformation is possible. From there, all that’s left for you to do is to follow through.
If you don’t have the means for a coach right now, there are still options that can help.
OPTION 1: Consume content from a trusted source on things that will get you closer to your goals. If you can listen to a podcast or read a blog about how to design your training plan or how to periodize your diet, you’ll feel more confident in your plan, be more likely to follow through, and start making progress. All of that leads to motivation.
(Check out the Living Lean Podcast, or the other blogs here on our site and scan through the topics. Whatever you need to learn about, there’s a post or episode that’s covered it.)
OPTION 2: Choose a friend as an accountability partner, and in some way get some skin in the game. =Whether that’s making a bet, having a reward at the end, or whatever you choose to get just a little bit of a pain point involved in not giving it your full effort.
One particularly motivating strategy is writing a check for a relatively large sum of money to a cause you’re very much against. If you reach your goal within the time frame, you rip up the check. If you don’t, you send the check.
There are a lot of potential issues that fall under setting the right goals.
→ TRYING FAD DIETS/OVERLY-RESTRICTIVE DIETS
These can over-promise and under-deliver pretty badly. They might promise big results in a very short time, and when that doesn’t happen, or you don’t know how to work it into your lifestyle, it can be pretty demotivating.
Instead you need a diet structure that can accommodate the way you prefer to eat, with some guidance on how to tailor that to your goals, likes/dislikes, preferred meal timing, and a realistic timeline.
This is one place a coach can be very helpful.
Regardless of the type of diet structure you choose, whether it’s monitoring quality, quantity, tracking macros, or just cutting out a few things here and there, situations and occasions will pop up that challenge you. Having someone to consult is really valuable.
If you don’t have someone to consult, at least make sure to have a plan for what to do in various situations so you don’t default to an all-or-nothing mindset.
→ ONLY SETTING OUTCOME GOALS, WITH NO PROCESS GOALS
If you want to lose 100 pounds and that is the only goal you set, you’re going to be working with short bursts of motivation here and there.
It’s more helpful to break those huge goals up into some weekly outcome goals (like 2 pounds per week), plus some process goals that will get you there.
There are things you’ll have to focus on on a daily basis in order to get to that outcome goal.
Examples of process goals could be things like…
Setting these up to check off on a daily basis will get and keep you more motivated than just having a big outcome goal you occasionally think about.
Process goals will get your eyes off of something you’ve failed at over and over, and start building up some wins.
Hear me out on this part because I know there are tons of inspirational stories where someone failed at something again and again, then finally did the thing they were trying for so long.
Those cases are awesome and I’m not suggesting giving up on any of them. I just recommend looking at things on a smaller scale that you know you can accomplish, then building on that…then repeating that process until you’ve reached the big scary goal that kept tripping you up.
When you fail at something again and again, your brain starts to decide for you that you’re not able to do it. Instead of continuing to rack up points for the argument that you can’t do it, chunk it down and start getting some wins.
Maybe you’ve tried losing 100 pounds several times before and each time you’ve started and given up or gained the weight back. The feedback from your brain next time you decide to give it a go is that you’re a failure at this, and this time will be no different.
But let’s say this time you break it up into smaller process goals.
Now your goal is to eat 150g of protein per day, eat 2000 calories, and walk 8000 steps.
You also plan out your meals and your schedule to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success in accomplishing those goals. Now you’re able to rack up a win every single day, so now your brain starts to rewire and automatically think you can set goals and accomplish them because it’s seen the proof.
Then it’s just a matter of letting those small wins add up for long enough to reach that bigger goal of losing the 100 pounds.
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he mentions a study where participants wrote down their intentions to work out.
→ GROUP 1: The control group – simply recorded what exercise they did daily.
→ GROUP 2: Read information about why working out is so beneficial for health before going to work out.
→ GROUP 3: Also read the motivational material, but additionally wrote down…
“During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”
Compliance for the first two groups was 35%, but compliance for group 3 was a whopping 91%.
Since learning about this study, this is something I’ve had a lot of clients write out when they were struggling to follow through on training or meal prep and it works really well.
Giving your intentions a specific day, time, and place makes you think through when a realistic day/time/place would be, plus gives you a plan that you’re much less likely to procrastinate. If you just plan to work out “sometime” this week, you can tell yourself each day that you’ll feel better or have more energy the next day.
If you want to stay motivated you need to be consistently making the right decision and taking the right action.
One thing that can often get in the way of that is our busy lifestyles.
There’s always going to be something that pops up and causes us to be out of the normal routine.
Those are the times when it’s very easy to default to the lowest-resistance option.
Whether that be a protein bar, fast food, or just skipping meals until you plow through everything in the pantry to make up for it later, it’s not usually the most optimal option.
Having your meals prepped and ready to take with you, or ready to just take out of the fridge and eat when you don’t feel like cooking makes doing the thing that is the best option, also the path of least resistance.
The same can be said with training. Find a way to make getting to the gym easy. This could be setting your clothes out the night before, having shoes in your car, choosing a gym that’s on route to work, or even building out a home gym.
Making what you want to do the easiest thing to do will eliminate a lot of excuses and will cover you in situations where you inevitably have a dip in motivation. It makes it easier to just keep checking those boxes which is what will lead to longer-lasting motivation and drive for your goals.
Just like you need to plan ahead to make choosing what you want to do easier, you need to have a plan B.
Things will go sideways, schedules will get shifted, ball games or meetings will run long.
Having a plan b in place for those times can take you from staying on track 60% of the time and saying “screw it” when the plan gets interrupted, to being on track 90% of the time and being confident in what you’ll do when the plan gets interrupted.
Look for patterns where you are normally thrown off course and come up with an alternative solution.
Maybe you do a good job preparing meals and taking your food to lunch but your office has a catered meeting every Friday. Usually you eat your normal meals, plus have all the snacks and desserts at the meeting and it puts you over your macros.
If you prefer to participate in that instead of taking your lunch with you, decide on the amount of each food you want ahead of time, not when it’s staring back at you, plan it in your macros, and take your protein if there is none available.
There is always a way to make something work, even if it’s not what you would consider to be optimal.
Looking for bursts of short-term motivation can help when you just need to get fired up for a lift or a training session, but it’s not going to help long-term… it’s like if you’re chronically sad and you watch a happy movie to try to “fix” your emotions.
Long term motivation only comes from the consistent actions you take to move you toward your goals, and the only way to sustain motivation through periods of loss of motivation is to continue to take those actions when you don’t feel like it.
Eventually pushing through those days you don’t feel like doing it (especially on the days you don’t feel like doing it!) will give you a massive boost in confidence and motivation and re-route those grooves in your brain away from negativity and back toward “I can and will do this.”
If you’re sick of “waiting to get motivated” and ready to finally take action on achieving the physique you’ve always wanted, click here now to apply for online coaching with our team.
You’ll get the structured training & nutrition protocols, expert guidance, and accountability you need to finally get (and keep) your goal physique.
Andrea Rogers is a certified nutrition coach, personal trainer, and coach for BairFit. Follow her on Instagram for more helpful training & nutrition content.