Has it been awhile? I know I’m not the only one. I played sports in high school and intramurals in college. But after that?
In High School and College I was accustomed to showing up for practice and games, working with a team and working hard at the drills and skills given to me. Once I didn’t have a coach or team, I was a little lost. And if you’re anything like I was, you have to find your way again. It’s no cake walk, but it's definitely possible.
Some background first:
About 5 years ago, I was really feeling this frustration. I wanted to be fit again. I always preferred playing sports as a way to be fit, but that wasn’t always a good option because it required other people - sometimes a lot of other people. I wanted to do something that would not only help me create good habits and get me fit again, but help me feel that sense of accomplishment again. I wanted to be excited. And for some reason, I had heard that the habits you have when you’re 30 are basically the habits you’ll have for the rest of your life. I had no idea if that was true or not, but it was motivation enough for me. (I'm sure it might make things easier, but it's not like you're incapable of making changes after 30 - your habits, good or bad, have just had a more time to settle in.)
My habits at the time - rarely working out, eating poorly and just plain not putting a focus on my health - those were NOT the habits I wanted for the rest of my life. That I knew. I figured if 30 was coming up, I better get a move on things and find a way to be healthy and happy again. I don’t mean that as some cliché. I wanted to be invigorated. I wanted to be healthy and I wanted to have the energy I need to be adventurous - for the rest of my life. Well, the rest of your life has to start somewhere. And if you really want it to, the rest of your life can start today. I figured if I went through this little dilemma, there had to be other people facing the same tough turning points. So, I’ve gone back (in my head) to really break down what has made me successful and what the individual steps are to getting you started on your life-time journey back to the healthy, fit life that works for you.
1. Find motivation.
Nobody can truly succeed without proper motivation and it’s my opinion that motivation can’t be forced; however, it can be learned. You see this all the time in sports. Talent, form, skills all have a specific set of parameters that work for everyone - the same skills and form will be taught to all players. The same is not true of motivation. Motivation is something you have to find on your own. Something you have to find within yourself. Someone might be able to help walk you through the process of finding your motivation, but they can't do it for you. You have to decide that you're ready to take steps and you're the only one who can make that decision. So do it.
Wait, it isn’t that simple?
For some of us it might be. You might be the person sitting there like “duh, why do you think I’m reading your post - I’m motivated. Ready. Let’s do this!”
But it’s very likely that instead, you’re the person who’s saying “I know I want to be healthy, but nothing is working. I’ve tried time and time again and keep failing, so ya, I want to change, but I don’t have much hope that it’ll actually work.”
For those of you who are easily motivated - more power to you! I mean that sincerely. Motivation can be tough. For those of you who are struggling a little more with how to find that, let’s walk through it together.
Here are a few things to think about:
- What is your purpose?
- What is your end goal?
- Why do you want it?
- Do you lack energy throughout the day?
- Do you want to be able to keep up with your kids?
- Do you simply want to look and feel like you used to?
- How will making healthy changes help your life?
- What will happen if you don’t make any changes?
Ready to dig deeper and find your motivation? I've made a free Motivation Checklist to help you get started.
You can do this, I promise. But you have to want it. And you have to want it bad. You need to have the type of motivation that will encourage you to get to the gym when you’re tired or skip that piece of chocolate cake when you’re really craving it. Discipline has a lot to do with motivation. If you’re properly motivated, you can remember that every time you feel like making an exception, what you want most is more important than what you want in that moment. Did you read that? Too often we make exceptions based on what we want NOW, not what we want MOST. With the proper motivation, you can look to that in your moments of weakness and remember that what you’re doing has a greater purpose.
Don’t get me wrong, exceptions can always be made.
Too often, people end up turning their exceptions into rules and their rules into exceptions.
Success doesn’t work that way. So ask yourself honestly, what do you really care about? If you don’t yet care about making changes, you probably won’t be successful. Not because you’re not capable of making healthy changes -- because you are. But because you can only be successful if you want it. You’re in charge of your own life. We all have different circumstances and though we can’t control those, we all have control over our choices and what we’re doing with our lives.
So if I'm seriously struggling to get motivated, is all hope lost!?
Of course not. If you’re seriously lacking in the motivation arena, the first order of business is to realize that you can be successful. You already have all the components necessary to be successful - YOU. You have far more control than you realize. Take a moment to sit down and go through all of the things in life you feel like are preventing you from being successful. Take an honest look at which things you have control over. You may not have all of the knowledge yet, but that can be learned. If you are determined to be successful, you will be. I created a free Motivation Checklist specifically to help you walk through this process and get your mojo back.
2. Hone in on what you like.
Your journey to a healthier, more fit life DOES NOT have to be something you hate. In fact, I think it should be quite the opposite of that. When you decide that you really want to be healthy, that’s a lifetime decision. You can make that happen by doing what you love, but first, you have to figure out what that is.
You were successful once in life, and you can do it again. You may not have teammates and a coach encouraging you anymore, but they’re not the reason you competed. They may have helped motivate you – we all love encouragement. But, you’re the reason you were successful. We all have help along the way, but please don’t for once second discredit yourself. You have what it takes. If you’ve done it before, you can do it again. And you know what? Even if you haven’t done it before, you’re still capable of success. So again, it’s ok to have help, but without your willingness and hard work, you never would’ve actually succeeded. Let’s figure out how to get you back to that place (or how to get you there for the first time).
Knowing what you like is really two-part. There’s a mental component and a physical component. Let’s talk about these one at a time so we can dig a little deeper with each of them.
What do you want mentally/emotionally?
This is really important to consider. A big part of being healthy is about how it makes you feel. Plus, if you’re able to feel the way you want because of your healthy habits, it will only add to your motivation. Success begets success. It’s one of the most positive cycles. You’re motivated by what you want so you work hard. As you work hard, you feel great about yourself, so you continue to work hard because you want to continue to feel great. (Hopefully that wasn't too confusing.) This is so important.
Your big-picture motivation is important because you obviously have to have a goal you’re working toward, but your daily, small-picture motivation can easily come as a result of those small accomplishments you feel on a regular basis. These two will end up working to your advantage. Some days, you might not feel that little success – maybe your workout makes you tired one day instead of invigorating you. When that happens, you have to pull out the big guns and remember the whole reason you started on this journey in the first place – your final goal. Your ideal. Why are you doing what you’re doing?
But admittedly, if that big-picture goal is the only motivation you have, it might not be enough. We’re human. We love to feel successful and important and have a sense of accomplishment. Honing in on the emotional reasons you want to accomplish your health and fitness goals will help you with that every day motivation.
How do you want to feel? Not just in 20 years, or 5 years, but today. How do you want to feel today? Tomorrow?
We need small successes every step of the way and understanding what makes you tick is key. When you know what makes you tick, you can then take a step back to figure out how to make that tick happen. It’s like trying to get a clock to work without realizing it needs a battery. Once you know that the battery is what will make the clock literally tick, all you have to do is find a battery. You, me, we’re the same way. We need to know what makes us go – what excites us – and then we can start putting the pieces together.
What do you want physically?
Obviously the physical component is likewise important. There are a whole host of physical reasons we want to be healthy. The most obvious is of course being healthy (too obvious?). But what does that mean to you? Your physical motivations really have two parts as well: aesthetic and medical.
Do you like the way you look?
Do you look the way you want to look? Do clothes fit the way you want them to? The aesthetic part is important. I’m not trying to promote superficial thinking – it’s actually quite opposite. I want you to be confident. If you look the way you want to look – especially because you worked for it, you’re more likely to be confident. I want you to be confident, and I think you want that too.
Do you care about the scale, the way your clothes fit, how strong you are, the way you look? These are important items to consider. And they’re really all part of the aesthetic.
The second component is directly related to health. Regardless of how “skinny” you are, are you healthy? Do your vitals check out? Did you know you can be skinny without being healthy? I could literally lose weight by only eating ice cream every day. You think I’m crazy? It’s all about caloric input vs. output (but that’s a whole conversation for another day). I think it’s obvious that if I only ate ice cream every day, that wouldn’t make me healthy. Your body needs certain nutrients and vitamins. You want your body to function properly.
Illnesses and a lack of full physical capabilities can be seriously debilitating in life. You have to be able to move around. I’m not saying that to be facetious. If you’re too big, it’s literally hard to move around – harder at times to enjoy life. You may not be able to participate in all the activities you want to. If you have a bad back, it can be hard to sleep, hard to climb stairs or even hard to walk.
If you are physically healthy, you can decrease the limitations in your life. This goes back to the emotional side of things – when you’re healthy, you can feel physically free to do the things you want, which in turn will make you happier. You won’t have to face the frustrations of thinking you’re more capable than you are. You will be capable. You can reach your goals. You can be healthy.
Once you understand what you want physically and what’s important to you physically, you can start to bring that together to form a workout plan that works for you. What do you enjoy? Why do you enjoy it and what kind of results do you want? By breaking this down, you can take a good look what’s important to you – which will be what ends up making you successful. Because honestly, who wants to do something they hate?
3. Make a plan
Ok, so you’ve honed in on what you like. Now what? You need to make a plan. As important as it is to understand the under-lying factors that will contribute to your success, putting that into action is what will really make you successful. But it’s pretty hard to just say “I want to accomplish X, and go out and do it.” Planning helps you figure out how to actually accomplish your goal. It helps bring reality and accountability to your goals so you can actually make them happen. Time to make a plan.
Choose the goal you want to work on first. Sometimes, we get so motivated that we want to do everything at once, but that’s really not practical. We might have enough motivation to start 126 things at once, but I don’t know anyone who can sustain that. Pick one goal that is most important to you and start there. Once you’ve mastered it, you can move onto the next.
Create your REALISTIC plan and make sure to set time-frames. If you don’t have time-frames, you’re not likely to accomplish your goal. Knowing your time-frame creates urgency and a sense of reality.
Not sure where to start? My checklist actually includes planning too - I got you covered.
4. Now, Get Started!
With whatever it is, get started. You can day-dream all you want, about the past or the future, but nothing is going to get done until you decide to make it happen, so get up off the couch and start making something happen.
When you’re first starting again, doing anything more than what you’re currently doing is going to get you started in the right direction, but getting started with a clear and concise plan is even better.
So if you want to eat better, start by cooking 1-2 days more than you do right now. Or limit the number of days you eat out. Or decide that you’ll only eat half a bag of chips instead of a whole one. Are you starting to get the idea? The same goes for exercise. Anything more than you’re doing now is going to get you in a better spot. Go on a walk a couple times a week, get to the gym even if for only 30 minutes. Go to a class at the gym, run up and down your stairs a few times a day.
Whatever it is, if you get yourself going, it will be that much easier to keep yourself going. So get started. If you’ve already honed in on what you like - even better! That means you’re much more likely to actually enjoy and stick with what you’re doing. And that’s the whole point.
But don’t worry. If you haven’t honed in on what you like yet - still get started. As you get yourself moving, you can figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Then, once you’ve figured it out, you start doing more of what you like and less of what you don’t. As you work on your goals every day - no matter what your starting point is, you’ll be more likely to get up and do it a second, third and fourth time in a row. Before you know it, you will have established good habits again. But don’t worry - I know things don’t happen overnight. Don't forget to download your free Motivation and Planning Checklist.