Motivation starts in the mind. Unfortunately, so do cycles of self-sabotage.
The good news is that with a little effort, you can shift from an approach that may be keeping you stuck or struggling to one that automatically feeds your motivation.
The worst thing you can do for your motivation is to focus on all the stuff you didn’t do.
We do this all the time – especially when it comes to making changes with stress, overwhelm, and overeating.
“I fell off track.”
“I went back to all my old habits.”
“I am disappointed in myself.”
“I blew it.”
Being honest with yourself is important and denial never helps. But cataloging all your weak moments and places you didn’t measure up won’t motivate you. It will do a number on your confidence, drain your energy and enthusiasm, and keep you focused on struggle.
We notice the things we are focusing on and we focus on the things we are interested in noticing.
It can be a cycle that’s negative, or you can use this truth to build a cycle of motivation.
How to build a self-perpetuating cycle of motivation
1. Ask yourself what you are doing that’s moving you in the right direction.
When clients start listing all the things they fell off track with during the week, I immediately ask them about the positive routines, thoughts, and actions that they are continuing to do. Usually, there is a sudden silence. But then, the truth starts to emerge.
I’ve been drinking more water.
I’m getting more sleep and really noticing the difference it makes.
I’m not multitasking at dinner anymore – that was so hard for me and I thought it would be awful, but I am really starting to enjoy it.
I’m checking in with myself and noticing a lot more of the time when I am really hungry and when I am not.
Focusing on your positive choices creates confidence and energy and motivation. Even better, it’s so much easier to wrap your mind around how to do more of what’s working than it is to take a positive action when you’ve convinced yourself you aren’t doing anything at all.
2. Ask yourself what is working.
A new client told me that she felt helpless with her overeating. As she told it, she was bingeing nonstop. She told me she had no control with food at all and she felt helpless to break the cycle. She was frustrated and disgusted with herself and figuring out how to put an end to the pattern felt overwhelming and almost hopeless.
Then we moved the focus from what wasn’t working to what was.
When you are used to seeing the negative, it can be like refocusing a camera lens. It may take a bit of time to see anything clearly with this new perspective. Stick with it.
In this case, when we did some digging and got really specific, it turned out that while my client was overeating in the afternoon and evening, mornings were actually fine. She felt on track in the mornings and actually had a routine and a nutritious breakfast that happened easily. Late morning and lunch were pretty successful experiences too. She never binged in the afternoons when she was at work, which was very different from the unstructured time on the weekends.
When you start to see what’s working, you can begin to build on it.
3. Ask yourself when the best, most successful times are.
In the example above, when we figured out what was working and when it was working, we could start to see why these times were more successful than others. What made morning different than the evening? Why was it easier to stay on track earlier in the day?
You can shift your energy and build motivation by asking yourself why and when you are most successful instead of focusing exclusively on the failures.
4. Ask yourself what you do to stretch and extend all of the above.
Make this a daily practice. Ask yourself every evening what went well. What worked?
Make an effort to notice the little things that are becoming so ingrained and automatic that they might slip by unnoticed. This is what you’re probably craving – automatic habits that don’t take effort. Ironically, it’s so easy not to see them, but not underlining them, taking credit, and rewarding yourself for these things is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your path to ongoing success.
Call them out. Own them. And then ask yourself, how you can keep growing the good stuff you are already doing.