In today’s article, we’re going to explore some tools for boosting our motivation; taking a desire to change and transforming it into the need to take action, and not just any action, but consistent, positive measures that create habits and get results.
As I said in the previous article introducing motivation as the fourth component of behaviour change, the reasons we take action (or not) can be complicated, camouflaged with emotion or memory and even competing with each other. My drive to be a reliable provider, working long hours and focusing on my career may interfere with my need to be fit, strong and healthy. Or maybe it’s the drive to be the greatest mom ever, chauffeuring, cooking cleaning and caring for kids competes with (and overrides) the desire for self-care and some healthy physical activity. Whatever the reasons for struggling to start or to stick with a plan to transform your health or even to lose weight and change your appearance, understanding that it’s complicated doesn’t make it impossible. Self-analysis and self-exploration are worthy endeavours, and I encourage all my clients to investigate their “why,” but it is possible to take that intent for self-improvement and boost it without too much time on the therapist’s couch 😉
Tools for change
In the BRAVO Formula, I strongly encourage using a journal or a diary to set your intentions (using an implementation intention statement), to make notes for feedback, and to record your daily actions and acknowledge the small victories on the road to realizing the big goal. Now in that one sentence, there are four big ideas:
- Journaling: I do it, many of my most successful clients do it; one of my clients is a behavioural change psychologist, and she uses a journal. The physical act of writing is itself a psychological reinforcer, strengthening our motivation.
- Setting intentions: An implementation intention statement, if-then-when type of statement is an excellent way to boost your motivation.
- Feedback: I talked about Monitoring as one of the core components of behaviour change, and using a journal to take notes and provide immediate feedback is a powerful way to ensure that we stay motivated long enough to see the changes we seek.
- Small victories: In The Progress Principle, industrial and organizational psychologists, Theresa Amabile and Steven Kramer illustrate the power of acknowledging every success no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. They studied thousands of employees and corporate business teams and showed the power of recognizing and celebrating every win; progress is a powerful motivator. Who doesn’t feel some satisfaction, a motivating sense of accomplishment when crossing an item of a to-do list, a tick mark, or X-ing through it? By combining the progress principle with the psychological reinforcement of putting pen to paper, we solidify our plans for change.
Putting It All Together
Let’s look at an example of my experience with journaling, hidden motivations, the struggle to act on a goal, implementation intention statements and small victories. I’m a firm believer in the power of steady-state cardio. The health benefits, both physical and mental, are well-documented, and steady-state cardio increases the metabolic burn necessary for weight loss and body fat reduction. Still, after logging thousands of miles of on an incline treadmill while preparing for physique competitions, it’s the emotional/psychological component that keeps me coming back for more. I find moderate to intense cardio meditative and comforting, especially during this crazy time. I walk on an incline of 15% and a speed of 3.5-4.0 miles per hour, varying the speed with energy level and general mood. The only time, until recently, I had available to do this was upon rising before my workday starts, which was at 5:30 am, so if I’m not on the treadmill by 4:30 am it’s not going to happen.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, getting up early and doing the work because I like it. It didn’t start this way, but it’s evolved with repetition and effort, and no longer driven by body image issues or the deadlines of physique competition, the habit has become much more positive. Unfortunately, life is uncertain, and about ten years ago, I snapped my tibia and tore the medial ligaments off my ankle, had emergency surgery and was on crutches for nearly 12 weeks. It took a long time to heal and an even longer time to get back on the treadmill.
With all that time off, my fitness and my body composition suffered, and I wasn’t happy with either my lung power or the way my clothes fit. So, after a stern talk with myself, I grabbed a new journal and set a goal to get up and get my sweat on. That night I excitedly set my alarm for 4:15 am; I was back! Until the next morning, when I hit the snooze button and missed my window to workout. For nearly two months, I set goals, writing out my intentions, but failed to take action. I had the desire, the knowledge, the resources, and the experience, but something was up emotionally, and I couldn’t turn my wants into the need to act.
Frustrated with the hamster wheel that I found myself on; it was time to try something different, to stop worrying about solving the underlying issues and reframe the goal. In every chain of events, every process, there’ll be vital elements, key actions that have to occur to realize the desired outcome. My cardio workouts were no different, and by focusing on an essential component (giving myself enough time) that held no emotional weight, I felt that I might succeed where I was continually failing. So, instead of concentrating on re-establishing the routine of early morning cardiovascular exercise, my goal was simple, for thirty days – no snooze button. When my alarm goes off, then I will get up immediately and go to work, not an auspicious sounding goal, but a crucial step in getting my fitness back.
Day one, the alarm goes off, my feet hit the floor, I gather my things and off to work. Well, it’s winter, still dark at that time of the morning, and I sat outside my gym in my truck with the heat on and had a little nap, but I didn’t care because I finally did what I said I was going to do. I put a small tick mark beside my intention statement in my journal and acknowledged the win. Day 2 was no different, and neither was day 3, but by day 4, I realized how silly sitting in the parking lot at 4:30 am was, and I unlocked the door, changed my shoes and got back on the treadmill. It was an easy start, progressing moderately over the next month. Still, with a little creative goal setting, and acknowledging each victory, I was back on my routine.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at social motivation and how you can make the power of your peers work for you.
ABOUT SEAN HAWTHORNE:
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Rehabilitation is icky. (That’s not a technical term 😉) It’s hard on your psyche, I went from casually curling 70 pound dumbbells to failing with 5 lbs. It hurts, holding that little green band in a supinated position is extremely uncomfortable. And it’s slow (might be my maturity level), it’s taken several months to be able to externally rotate that little green band as poorly as it looks. . . But, what else am I going to do? Quit lifting weights? Never throw a football to my son again? Switch to button up shirts? No. As an existentialist I’m all about quality and not quantity. It’s worth the effort. Netflix and chill is not a sport. If you’re injured or have chronic pain, don’t settle, find some professional advice and get to work. . . If you read this far and you’re curious, I crashed on my dirt bike and tore my shoulder to shit. External rotation and humeral stability are severely compromised. I started with strength and stability (static) and have progressed to eccentric with very limited ranges of motion through the concentric contraction, it’s been 13 months since the accident. . . #kelowna #onelife #change #weightloss #fitness #change #exercise #practice #rehabilitation #coach #coaching #diet #nutrition #motivation #influence #performance #success #awesome #captainawesome #mentalfitness #deliberatepractice #kaizen #happy
Sean Hawthorne is the owner and operator of OneLife Health and Wellness, Kelowna’s first and longest running private, personal training facility. While working in Dubai, UAE as a Contracts and Project Manager, Sean decided to leave his successful career in Civil Engineering Technology and pursue his passion for health, fitness and helping others achieve their goals. He returned to Canada in 2001, taking formal education in Exercise Science and starting his career in the field of health and fitness. Working in collaboration with their clients, Sean and his team of health and fitness professionals strive to continually improve their skills and to help everyone reach their goals.