The things in life that are best for us, typically don’t come naturally.
It’s easy to bingewatch Netflix. Coming home and crashing on the couch is effortless. The hardest thing about eating chips, is putting away the bag before all of them are gone.
In contrast, it’s really hard to go get some exercise after a long, tiring day at the office.
It isn’t fun or easy to ask for a salad on the side, when what you really want is a big pile of fries.
It can take an almost impossible amount of willpower to get caught up on your finances on a Saturday afternoon, instead of taking a nap.
Through my years working as a coach (and in my work as a physician), I’ve discovered that it’s really helpful to acknowledge this up front. It’s totally normal to not want to do the smart, proactive, productive things that you say you want to do. In fact, until you fully accept that you will probably not want to do those things when the time comes, you probably won’t have much success doing them.
If you wait until you feel motivated in order to start a new habit, it will never happen.
It’s critical to your success, to anticipate the resistance.
For example, if you really want to start working out (because you want to look and feel better), you need to anticipate that by the time you get home after work, you won’t feel like going. There are several ways to deal with this:
1) Don’t wait until after work to work out. Maybe you could do it in the morning, or over lunch.
(You probably won’t feel like doing it then either, so figure out how to make it as convenient, easy and pleasant as possible)
2) Don’t go home. Go straight to the gym from work.
(You likely won’t feel like doing it then either, so make it easier by having everything you need – clothes, water bottle, etc.- ready to go. Bring a snack in case you usually feel draggy by end afternoon. Plan to exercise with a co-worker or friend for accountability)
3) If you still plan to work out in the evening, tell yourself that even though you won’t feel like going when the time comes, you will make yourself go anyway.
When you inevitably want to rebel against going, remind yourself of this: you’ll always be glad that pushed yourself to go.
Other strategies that can help: Be accountable to someone. Have a clear plan of what you’re going to do for exercise: when, where, how, how long and with who. Start simple, set the bar low. Make it as easy as you can.
Can you see how important it is to anticipate your lack of motivation, and plan and troubleshoot around it?
We all have good intentions at the beginning of a day, week or year. “Today I’m going to (eat healthier, go to the gym, go to bed early, fill in the blank).” Thinking or voicing the intentions is easy. What matters most is what happens at the moment of truth…it’s much harder to actually do what you say you want to do when the time comes.
Knowing this will also help you give yourself the best shot at actually doing it.
Planning will help you keep your promises to yourself.
From the examples above, you can see that it’s important to plan well. Many of my clients have wanted to start doing quick workouts first thing in the morning. Most of them find that, at least at first, it helps to have your workout clothing laid out where you’ll be forced to see it and put it on (right next to the bed is good). If you’re going to exercise to a video downstairs, have your exercise area ready to go the night before, with a full water bottle at hand.
Minimize or eliminate every possible obstacle or excuse. Because when your alarm goes off, you probably won’t want to get up. Or if you do get up, you’ll decide to do something easier, like sit and read the news over a coffee. If your gym clothes are blocking your path out the bedroom door (be careful not to fall over them at night!), you’ll be way more likely to put them on.
Important: Observe how you feel afterward.
How do you feel after binging Netflix, eating an entire bag of chips, or couch surfing all night, yet again? I’m guessing that unless it’s a rare treat, it doesn’t feel good when all is said and done.
You should anticipate that the more difficult, proactive choices will have the opposite effect. This can really help you to motivate yourself when resistance or sloth rears its head.
After a workout, you feel refreshed and clear, with improved mood and a sense of accomplishment and pride.
After having a healthier lunch, you avoid the “carb coma” or feeling overstuffed, and face your afternoon with better focus, energy and clarity.
When you take time to review your finances, that vague sense of dread about money disappears (or if there’s a problem, you understand it more clearly), and you feel more confident about your ability to plan a better future for yourself and your family.
Again, know that you will have to push past resistance and obstacles to implement good habits and choices. And again, do not wait until you feel sufficiently “motivated”. You will wait forever, and things will probably just get worse in the meantime.
The rewards for good choices are great! Not to mention it feels great to know that you have become disciplined in various areas of your life.
Where would you like to start implementing some life-giving discipline and planning, in your life?