Many promises are made and broken in the name of motivation.
- You hear a great piece of music and promise yourself you’ll start working out again
- You watch an inspiring film and promise that this is the year you’ll get the body you’ve always wanted
- You listen to a moving speech or read a fantastic book and promise you’ll sort out your nutrition and diet
- These things are great, but if we are being honest they only ever live in the moment
In the cold light of day, it usually goes a bit more like this:
- “I know I need to sort out my training programme but I’m waiting for motivation to strike.”
- “I’m just not motivated to go to the gym, I don’t feel like it.”
- “I can’t be bothered to cook in advance, I’d rather just eat whatever is around when I’m hungry.
I’m sorry to break it to you but motivation just doesn’t last.
In fact, truth be told motivation is a bit of a dick.
It comes crashing into your life like a shot of adrenaline or jolt of electricity, inspiring the crap out of you before vanishing into thin air.
Yes, it’s truly awesome when it hits but it fades fast.
You end up scrambling to do as much as possible in the short period you’re motivated, trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the feeling.
I’m sure you’ll agree that it always ends the same way…goals and dreams left by the wayside as motivation fizzles out.
Sadly, until we find a way to bottle and reproduce human emotion allowing us to have motivation on tap it’ll stay this way.
We need an alternative, you need an alternative and this is where systems come in.
You see the length of time that motivation lasts for is not enough to complete everything you would typically want to. Most endeavours inspired by motivation, whether its source is music, movies, books or speeches are long-term goals;
- Learning a new skill
- Losing weight
- Building muscle
- Gaining strength
- Running faster
- Eating better
You just can’t do these things in the short period of time motivation typically lasts for.
The heart of the problem is this; when motivation strikes you are working on borrowed time.
You need to act, but what do you do?
It would seem you are willing to do almost anything in pursuit of your goal, except, ensure its survival. So like most people you will probably end up doing one of the following:
Be unsure of how to harness the power of motivation and end up doing nothing
Make a start on your goals but lose steam as motivation fades and stop short of completion
Neither of these are good outcomes, I know it and you know it.
How do you harness the power of motivation?
The secret is to use the time in which you are motivated to set up systems to ensure you continue striving for your goal long after motivation has left you again.
Notice how I haven’t told you to start trying to complete your goal but instead you want to plan how you will reach your goals and set up systems to ensure you get there.
It’s helpful to view motivation as a starting point, a platform you can use to give yourself a head start.
It’s perfect, you’re mega motivated and ready to go and this is where the planning comes in.
How to crush any goal even after motivation has faded
I can’t stress enough just how important goal setting is.
It’s the road map for your journey and will keep you on course long after motivation has faded. It lets you focus on the here and now whilst keeping you safe in the knowledge that everything you do is taking you closer to your overall goal.
It shows you what you need to do, when to do it and how to do it.
Your goals should be broken down into 3 sections:
Let’s have a look at how this might work.
Your long-term goal could be something like building the body you’ve always wanted.
You would then break this down further and give yourself actual targets. For example;
- Build 10lbs of muscle
- Lose 15lbs of fat
- Do it in 1 year
A good way to think of this goal is as the platform on which you base all your other goals.
It has to be as detailed as you can possibly make it at this point. Sure, it may change or evolve as you progress, but at this stage it serves as the foundation for everything else and helps to provide a structured and well thought out set of goals for you to follow.
Once you’ve decided on your long-term goal you would then decide what needs to be done to get you there. For example, depending on your current physique this may require a combination of muscle building and fat loss cycles.
These muscle building and fat loss cycles would be your mid-term goals and would dictate the focus of your short-term goals. You may decide to;
- Spend 5 months building muscle with an aim to gain 2 lbs a month for a total of 10 lbs with the view 4 - 6 lbs will be muscle
- Spend the next month losing fat with the aim to lose 1-2 lbs a week for a total of 8 lbs with the view that most of it will be fat
- Then repeat this cycle once more to complete the year aiming to be as close as possible to your long-term goal of 10 lbs of muscle built and 15 lbs of fat lost
Based on the above goals your short-term goals would be the training and nutrition plan you follow for each cycle. Your goals may be something like;
- Strength training 3x a week on non-consecutive days
- Eating a small calorie surplus to allow for slow and steady weight gain
Then after 5 months
- Continued strength training perhaps with a bit less intensity
- Eat a moderate calorie deficit to encourage fat loss and preservation of muscle mass
It is at this stage you would go in much more detail and plan your exact workouts, which days you would perform them and where. You would also create a food plan to meet your calorie and macronutrient needs and prep food in advance to help with adherence.
The idea is that by planning what needs to be done and setting goals you don’t give yourself an excuse not to follow through as you know what needs to be done and how to do it.
Accountability is powerful tool to keep you on track when motivation disappears.
It plays on the emotion of not wanting to let yourself or someone down.
There are 3 different ways accountability will come into play:
- Being accountable to yourself
- Being accountable to someone else
- Being accountable to a group
Any desire to change your body through training and nutrition must come from within. You have to want it for yourself otherwise it will never truly happen.
There are hundreds of reasons why you may choose to make a change:
- You are overweight and want to lose weight for health reasons
- You’re skinny and want to gain some muscle and strength for confidence
- You want to look good naked
- Maybe you have kids or are starting a family soon and want to be able to keep up
- Perhaps you want to be able to protect yourself and the ones you love
- Or one of many more reasons
Ultimately, the reason almost doesn’t matter, it’s the commitment you make to yourself to follow through that does.
When you make a decision to be responsible for your future you become accountable to yourself.
This means every time you waver in dedication to your goal you have to remind yourself why you are doing it, look past the current moment to the bigger picture and push yourself stay on track.
Take a moment and remember the power you felt when you decided to take control of your future, then suck it up and get on with it. Starting is always the hardest part, take the first step towards doing the workout or cooking that meal and the rest will come easy.
If you find that being accountable to yourself just isn’t enough.
Then find yourself a training buddy, someone to pick you up when you are down and push you forward when your will power reserves are running low.
Now you have dual accountability; to yourself and to your training buddy.
This has a compounding effect and means even if you are struggle to get motivated you will have someone else to encourage you and keep you on track.
If you still find yourself struggling to stay on task, then the next step would be to join a community or group of like-minded people to help you.
It can be anything social;
- A workout class
- A cooking class
- A martial arts club
- A running club
- An online forum
- A Facebook community
It helps if the group is related your goal but as long as it’s members are engaged and willing to help, you can find accountability there. Not only will multiple people now be relying on you but there may be an element of healthy competition to spur you on and push you forwards during the tough times.
Give it a go, become accountable for your actions, to yourself and others and watch your willpower and adherence skyrocket.
Getting into the right mindset is vital for long-term success and will drastically increase your chances of reaching your goals.
In particular there a handful of key mindsets that will help keep you on track when motivation fades.
1. Learn as much as you can
I honestly the think the best thing you can do is invest in yourself. I like to tell people to get used to the idea that you can never know enough.
I really do and I’ll tell you why.
If you take the time to learn as much as you can about training and nutrition you will soon discover what works for you. You’ll learn what training programme you enjoy, what nutrition plan is easy for you to follow and how to get the results you want.
So I urge you not to get complacent, not even once you’ve found what works for you. Always continue to learn and keep up-to-date with the latest information.
You can do this a number of ways:
- Read blogs
- Listen to podcasts
- Watch videos
- Do research
- And many more
The idea is to know why you are training or eating in a certain why and to know how it will bring you closer to your goals. If you really understand the methodology, you will trust it and if you can do both these things then you’ll find it infinitely easier to stay the course when the going gets tough or you just don’t feel like it.
2. Form habits
This is a great one, partly because it’s so easy to do and partly because it feels like you are automating aspects of your life which means you stick your goals effortlessly.
There are number of useful habits to ensure you eat well, go to the gym and keep the right mindset.
Here a few examples:
Want to get up early?
Ok let’s be realistic, no one really wants to get up early but maybe you need to get up early to go to the gym before work.
Now I’m not a morning person. In fact, I positively hate getting up and will attempt to stay in bed by any means possible. I’ll forego showering (don’t judge me I know I’m not alone with this), skip breakfast or anything else that will get me an extra 5 – 10mins of glorious sleep.
So trust me when I say I know how difficult this can be.
Maybe you’re the same and if you are then I have a great way to get yourself up and out of bed.
What you want to do is to set your alarm and then leave your phone (because who actually has an alarm clock anymore) on the other side of the room. This way your force yourself up and out of bed to turn the alarm off and let’s be honest actually getting out of bed is the hardest part.
Once you’re up and moving then it gets easier, you know it must be true if even for an anti-morning person like myself is saying it.
However, another option for those you who like a gentler awakening is to download one of the sleep apps from the app store.
These great little apps will track your sleeping pattern and wake you when you are in a light sleep, within 30 mins of your alarm time. This means you wake up feeling refreshed and energised instead of dazed and sluggish which is what happens when you get woken from a deep sleep.
Want to make sure you go to the gym?
Leave your gym kit on the floor by your bed so when you get up you practically step on it. Not only is this a blatant reminder that says “hey, time to go to the gym” but it also saves you from having to look for your kit, leaving you with no excuse but to get ready and go.
Alternatively, you could pack your gym kit into your bag the night before and leave it by the front door with your shoes. Now when you get up you can throw some clothes on, grab your bag and go.
There is no messing about or fussing over what to take and where to find it, you just get up and leave.
Want to hit your calories and macronutrients for the week?
- Plan what you are going to eat for the week (include the weekend)
- Write a shopping list of everything you need
- Set aside an hour on Sunday to prepare food in advance
- Account for any social occasions or meals out
The physical act of planning what you are going to eat has a strong knock on effect for the rest of your food planning.
If you plan in advance you know it works with your calories and macros, you also know what you need to buy.
You can then prepare food in advance for the week so you are not scrambling for food ideas when it comes to lunchtime at work. You not only know what you are having, you’ve already made it in advance and are safe in the knowledge it fits into your calories and macros.
Another perk of planning in advance means you can work your food around any social occasions or meals out, this is particularly useful in helping to make sure you don’t overeat or go off course.
3. Embrace the journey
The definition of a journey is the act of travelling from one place to another and this is exactly what you are doing when you make the decision to start or change the way you eat and train.
You want to take the current you and take in on a journey to a new fitter, healthier, stronger you.
Now this takes time, you will need to be patient and you will need to pace yourself.
Don’t rush into it expecting phenomenal results overnight, the changes in your body will be slow and incremental day to day but the end result will months or even years later will be outstanding.
Keep this in mind and embrace your journey, understand that weight loss and weight gain isn’t linear. It’s not neat and pretty, it can be messy and frustrating but it’s also a simple process so stick with it and the results will come.
This journey is a unique and completely personal experience take your time and love every step on the road to a new you.
Motivation doesn’t last but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to give up on your goals.
Use the systems and strategies laid out in this post to help you stay on track no matter what is going on.
Thanks for reading!
I'd love to know how you keep yourself on track, do you currently use any of these strategies? Let me know in the comments below.