Any healthier living endeavor requires motivation to become a success. Unfortunately, too many endeavors start out with excitement, only to be left abandoned a few weeks later. Today’s article will make any endeavor a success…by explaining you how to use the harnessing motivation technique that guarantees healthier living success…if only you apply it properly.
Even though many people think they understand motivation, they really don’t.
When they feel pumped up about something they momentarily live under the illusion that their high energy will last forever.
It won’t. And it’s only natural that it works this way.
E.g., you may feel highly motivated to start a diet. You just read a book about dieting that you made you feel it’s gonna be easy and fun. You are excited with the possibilities of a slimmer you, fitting in your old pants. You decide to start a diet.
Then, after one, two, three days, or even after a few weeks, you become tired. You are no longer pumped up or excited. You need to push yourself to keep that diet! And you push…You are trying really hard!
Most people in the diet case above would think that trying to motivate themselves when their motivation is low is what they need to do. Sure. This way works…kinda. Bear in mind that the results are limited. It’s extremely hard to feel as motivated as when you were just starting out, and even the slightest increase in motivation will fade away very soon. Plus, relying on pumping up your motivation will not give you results consistently…Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t, but this method is definitely unreliable.
So yes, try to keep your motivation up, but don’t depend on motivation to save the day.
Here is what will save the day though…The harnessing motivation technique!
When your motivation is high, it’s easy for you to do difficult tasks. However, when your motivation is low, then difficult tasks seem extremely or way too difficult for you. However, even during motivational lows, you are still able to do easy tasks.
Example #1: Getting fitter.
Finding and enrolling at a gym is difficult: You have to actually make the decision to do it, research nearby gym options, go to their locations, decide on a payment plan, pay, etc.
The follow-up task of getting fitter is creating a workout plan and fitting gym-time in your schedule. These are part of your setting up process.
However, once you do that, actually going to the gym to exercise on any given day is easier: You have already decided to exercise, you already know when to go, and what to do. In this case, you only need to pack your clothes and go.
When you feel pumped up and very motivated about exercise, then it’s a good time to enroll at a gym, and create your workout plan and schedule. As your motivation lowers with time your tasks get easier, as going to the gym becomes a routine.
Note: Creating a workout plan, and a schedule that fits exercise are part of the setting up process. If you skip those steps, then you will find it harder to follow through with going to the gym: You won’t know what to do when you get there, you will feel lost, and won’t know what to aspire to. Plus, you won’t know when to go, and you will always find it hard to find the time to get to the gym (it’s hard to make the time even if it’s already in your schedule..Imagine not having a schedule in the first place!).
Example #2: Healthier Eating
Going grocery-shopping and buying healthy foods is somewhat difficult: What will you buy? How do you plan to eat it? Plus, you need to get up from the couch and actually go to the super-market.
Another difficult task is of course eating the vegetables or the other healthy foods you bought. However, if you think strategically, you can make this task easy by tackling another hidden but difficult task:
Once you come back home from the super-market and still feel highly motivated about your new healthier eating lifestyle, you wash your vegetables, and then pack them in lunch boxes for the week ahead, and place them at the front of your fridge.
Now the task of actually eating vegetables has become tremendously easier. You just need to grab your box and take it with you.
When your healthy eating motivation is high you shop, wash, and pack. When it’s low you just eat!
Note: The “hidden” task of washing, packing, and placing the vegetables in the front of the fridge is crucial for your success. If you skip it, you may as well see your vegetables rotten at the back of your fridge one week later.
Bottom-line: The setting-up costs of starting any health endeavor are always higher than the costs of actually following through. The more effort your devote to creating a great set-up, the less effort you will need to follow through, and the higher your chances of success!
How to use the harnessing motivation technique to take 20 small steps to create a fit environment
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits recently talked about “20 small actions to create a fit environment“.
Even though those actions may seem “small”, they do not bear the same difficulty level, and they are rarely as easy as they seem. However, if you use the harnessing motivation technique you will find it much easier to follow through and take the steps to a healthier life!
In bold are Leo’s steps, with my instructions below. Again, difficult tasks are to be tackled when your motivation is high, so that when your motivation is low you are left with the easy stuff.
Note that most of those steps include hidden tasks. If you want to be successful you have to do those hidden tasks. I am including just some of those hidden steps in my comments…
1. Get rid of the snacks. Don’t keep them in your house or you’ll be more likely to eat them.
The task of NOT buying junk food and snacks is easy. The -hidden- task of finding foods to replace your unhealthy snack cravings is difficult.
2. Don’t buy convenience food. You’re likely to eat this when you’re too tired to cook.
Not buying convenience food (e.g., frozen meals) is easy. Finding a way to replace those meals is difficult (I am struggling with this!)
3. Instead, cook big batches of healthy food once a week. Have it in the fridge, ready to be heated up.
Cooking big batches of healthy food is difficult. Having it in the fridge for later consumption is easy.
4. Take healthy snacks to work.
Deciding what healthy snacks to take with you is difficult. Actually taking them with you is easy.
5. Create a healthy eating challenge with your coworkers.
Coming up with a challenge and getting your coworkers involved is difficult. Participating in a healthy challenge of your company’s Wellness program is easier.
6. Join Fitocracy (invite code: zenhabits) and make friends there. Log your activities.
Joining Fitocracy is difficul: You need to visit their website, set up your account, learn how to use the program… Once you do all that, logging your activities is easier.
7. Join a running club.
Joining a running club is difficult. Making time in your schedule for running is also difficult. Actually running is easier.
8. Find a workout partner.
It may seem simple, but it’s actually difficult. Just imagine how many people you may need to call to see if they are interested. On top of that your schedules need to match. Good luck!
9. Set up an appointment with your best friend to go walking or running every day.
Talking to your best friend is easy. Finding a time that works may be trickier!
10. Get a coach.
Difficult: you need to ask your friends for referrals, research online for trainers, then call them, agree on price and time, etc.
11. Set fitness challenges with your friends. Log them online, on Facebook or some other social site.
Creating a fitness challenge, and deciding on the technology to use (e.g., I am using Google Docs with my friends) is difficult. Logging your activities is easy.
12. Have a chinup bar in your doorway, and do a chinup every time you walk by.
Getting the chinup bar and placing it in your doorway is harder. Using it when you walk by is easy.
13. Join a sports team.
Joining is hard – what team? where? how?
Following through is easier.
14. Have nuts and fruit with you when you’re on the go.
Placing the nuts and fruits at the front of your fridge and cabinets – difficult.
Having them with you – easy.
15. Make it hard to turn on the TV (put it in the closet or something).
Even getting rid of your remote control will make TV watching harder and less enjoyable (thus, less attractive for you).
Finding out how to make turning on the TV difficult…is difficult. Actually doing it is easy.
16. Use a program like LeechBlock or Freedom to shut the Internet down at a certain time each day.
Finding and setting up the program is difficult. Actually using it is easy.
17. Have healthy potlucks with friends or family.
Assuming that you are already arranging potlucks, then making them healthy is easy – you just cook healthy rather than unhealthy food.
18. Publicly commit to posting body pics or measurements each week on your blog.
Public commitment is hard. Following though with pictures is easy.
Potential hidden task is finding a way to post pictures easily. E.g., if you have a smartphone then it may be easier with instant upload apps, than if you need to use your camera, then connect your camera to the computer, transfer the pictures, then upload the pics…
19. Make a list of healthy restaurants, or healthy meals at other restaurants, for when you feel like eating out.
Making a list of healthy restaurants is difficult. Picking one restaurant of your list is easy!
20. Park farther away from things so you’ll walk more.
Super easy task that you can start doing today!
Thanks Leo for your list! It gave me wonderful examples to work on.
Here are the four take-aways from this article…about the harnessing motivation technique and making any healthier living endeavor a success!
1. When your motivation is high take advantage of it by tackling the difficult tasks.
2. The more effort you give into good preparation (i.e., the difficult tasks), then the easier it will be for you to follow through. Thus, you won’t depend on extra motivation to do the following-through: even little motivation will be enough!
3. Note that any healthy endeavor is never as easy as it seems at first. There are always hidden tasks that need to be tackled, if you want to succeed (e.g., washing, packing and placing vegetables in the front of your fridge so that taking them with you becomes easy). Any proper preparation requires you to think through those hidden tasks and find solutions. If you don’t do that then following through will be harder…and you may never succeed with your healthier living goals.
4. Actually tackling the hidden tasks is one of the differences between trying smarter rather than harder and the reason behind why so many people fail. You try smart if you prepare well. If you don’t prepare well, you will find it hard to follow through, and then you will start nagging about how you need to “try harder”… No, you don’t need to try harder, you just need to be more strategic!
What healthier living goals do you want to set? What will you do to prepare and set up yourself for success? How will you use the harnessing motivation technique? Contact me and let me know of your answers! Or, tweet it to me, or post it on facebook.