It’s pretty tough to talk yourself into doing anything if you aren’t motivated. I know. I’ve been there.
For most of my life I desperately wanted to lose weight, I hated my body, had no energy and was tired of trying and failing but it seemed like I wasn’t motivated enough to do the work.
I know I’m not alone. I get emails every single day like this one:
I look up recipes, buy groceries, fail at making them (usually turns out bland and nothing like the recipe) and don’t meal prep so I end up eating out for every meal. I still hate the way I look and feel and constantly feel defeated. How do I change or overcome apathy? No idea.
I’ll be honest, though: I love getting emails like that. I love it because they’re asking for help, they want to make a change and I know I can help. I’m thrilled that they’ve opened the door for me to nudge them in the right direction.
Before we dive into the 8 ways to get motivated, I need to establish the fact that most people really don’t understand what motivation is or how to create it.
It’s a bit of a paradox. Most people think, “I’m not taking action because I’m not motivated.”
The reality of motivation is close, but opposite: you aren’t motivated because you aren’t taking action.
Seriously. That slight but significant tweak is a game changer. You don’t have to take massive action to create motivation, but you’ll never get motivated if you’re waiting for it to strike you like a lightening bolt.
Motivation is like a fire. Most people see it as lighting a match. I’d like to argue that most people are wrong (but it’s an easy fix).
What happens when you light a match? Sure, you have fire, but for how long? Maybe 30 seconds if you’re lucky! It looks like fire, smells like fire but if you blink, it’s gone. If a draft comes through, it’s gone. If you so much as sneeze, your 30 second flame turns into a 3 second one.
That is a pretty good example of most people’s experience with motivation. It ignites. They see it. They feel it. It’s real. And then….cookies. Wine. Saturday night. Poof! What flame?
Motivation is more like a fire. Someone has to act upon the fire to keep it going. It does not happen by accident & it does not keep burning without intentionality. It doesn’t take massive effort to keep that fire burning but if you just watch it & hope it stays alive…well…you’ll soon have a pile of ashes.
In his (fantastic) book, The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard outlines the 3 phases of motivation, each equally required to get it & maintain it.
Of course these phases beg the question, “Yeah, okay, I’m with you but how do I sustain or amplify motivation?”
Let’s get into the 8 ways to get motivated now. Once we dive into these, I think you’ll have a great launching off point to spark your motivation, sustain it and amplify when needed.
ONE: Get Clear On What You Want
Motivation comes from the word “motive” or “reason for action”. I think we all know & understand that simply having a reason to act often isn’t enough to get us up & taking action, but, it’s a critical starting point.
To get clear on what you want, I’d like you to take a few minutes to write down the answers to these questions. Don’t do it in your head. It needs to be on paper, on purpose.
What single goal do I want to achieve? Be as specific as possible. If your goal is weight loss, get really clear on how much weight you want to lose & in what time frame.
Why is this goal important to me? I want you to focus here on what you stand to gain if you achieve your goal. Saying you want to lose weight because you hate your body is a terrible motivator, and anyone who has failed on a diet understands that this is not an effective strategy. How will life be different when you achieve this goal?
What do I need to know (that I don’t know already) to achieve this goal? Are there information gaps you can fill? Are there resources you need to find or coaches you need to work with? Or do you have all the information you need? Get clear on what answers you absolutely require before you can achieve your goal. If you have unanswered questions, also establish who you can reach out to to get the answers.
Who has achieved this goal before? I don’t suggest following someone else’s steps (though sometimes that can work), but I want you to be clear on this so that you believe & reinforce that achieving your goal is possible. If someone else has done it, it is possible for you to do it. Now we just need to start taking small steps in that direction.
TWO: Name Your Obstacles
We don’t need to pretend that life is all sunshine & rainbows. If you’re feeling unmotivated, you need to get really clear on the forces that hold you back. You can’t overcome them if you aren’t sure what they are or how they impact you.
The most common obstacle I see is negativity. You cannot continue to tell yourself, “I can’t….” or “I never…” and expect to make progress.
You will not exceed your own expectations. You cannot exceed your own belief so don’t expect to change until your current level of belief does.
One of the most powerful exercises I take people through in my Breaking Barriers course is identifying any & all self-limiting beliefs. You might not realize that when you argue for your limitations you get to keep them.
Your performance improves when your image of yourself does.
As these negative thoughts & limiting beliefs pop up, you’ve got to replace them. I’m not suggesting you replace them with puffy-clouds-and-marshmellow thoughts you don’t believe in but simple empowering statements make a world of difference.
For example, one of my clients recently told me, “Work nights are awful. I don’t know why but I always overeat at work. That’s a big issue for me”.
I told her, “you’ll be right every single time you say that”.
She doesn’t need to say, “I eat clean every night at work!” if that’s not true but there’s power in saying, “Work nights are a challenge & I’m practicing self-control because it’s really important to me and I don’t like how I feel when I overeat at work.”
Maybe you have other obstacles like lack of preparation, lack of impulse control or not getting enough sleep. Whatever your obstacles are, be clear on them.
The best offense is a good defense. You can’t have a good defense if you don’t know what you’re defending against!
THREE: Build Trust In Yourself
After years of yo-yo dieting, making commitments to “start on Monday” and caving to temptation, I didn’t trust myself at all. My own word meant nothing to me.
When I’d silently declare, “I can do this!” there was a not-so-quiet voice in my head calling horse poo.
I felt defeated before I even began. I didn’t trust myself.
If you’re wondering, “how do I even start to trust myself again?”, you’re asking the right question.
One of the problems with weight loss attempts & self-trust is that you set yourself up for failure. When you take on too much (like trying to dramatically change your eating habits overnight by sheer force of will), you set yourself up for failure.
Even if the promise you made to yourself wasn’t realistic, you’ve broken the promise & your word loses it’s meaning.
I want you to make one small commitment to yourself today. You must keep it.
This is not a hostage crisis and there’s no negotiating with yourself. After you’ve made the commitment, case closed. You will follow through.
When I say “small” I really mean it. When I say “no negotiating” I really mean it.
There is no room for being too tired, justifying why it can wait until tomorrow or forgetting.
Make a small promise & keep it.
Here are some promises you can consider:
- I will clean the kitchen as soon as I’m finished dinner
- I will be in bed by 10pm tonight
- I will prepare tomorrow’s lunch before bed
- I will do 10 body weight squats before I get in the shower
- I will make my bed
The whole goal here is to slowly rebuild trust. Begin to be very careful about the commitments you make to yourself and decide ahead of time that you’re rebuilding trust within the most important relationship in your life: the one you have with yourself.
FOUR: Give Attention To Your Goal
Have you ever taken a “set it & forget it” approach to your goals? I know I have! In a moment of that motivation spark, I scribbled down some goals in a notebook and never returned to that page. Years later, when cleaning out a junk drawer, I’d find the goals and think, “Huh. I totally forgot about those.”
Motivation requires attention.
I get it. Life happens. You get distracted by life, work, family, kids, Scandal. That will happen. But it doesn’t mean you forget about that goal.
Let me be super clear: you must mentally revisit your goal every single day, multiple times a day.
Where your attention goes, your energy flows.
When you’re just wishing for change, you don’t have to be intentional about your attention. But, if you want to get motivated, if you want to move from wishing for it to working for it, you must bring constant attention to your goal.
Here’s how I do this: I have my goals on an index card. I have about 5 copies of that index card and I can’t miss them even if I wanted to. I know that it would be way too easy for me to be swept up in the chaos of my day that many days could go by without bringing attention & intention to my goals so I don’t let that happen.
One copy sits on my bedside table. I see it every time I walk into my room or my bathroom. One copy sits on my desk. I see it all day long while I work. One copy sits on the dash of my car. One copy is in my purse and I have an electronic copy in the notes app of my phone.
Motivation requires attention. Attention requires intention.
Do not hope that you’ll stay focused. Be intentional about redirecting your attention to your goals multiple times each day.
FIVE: Respect Your Space
You do not need to be a neat freak but your immediate environment has a huge impact on your goals.
How motivated are you to cook a clean, delicious meal when you walk into a messy kitchen with a sink full of dishes? You’re not! You want to avoid the kitchen! You want to order in so you don’t have to deal with the mess.
How focused are you when you sit at a cluttered desk?
How could you notice your goals sitting on your bedside table if it’s buried under a pile of mugs, books and random papers?
It’s easier to keep up than it is to catch up.
Take 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each night to care for the space around you.
One of the challenges I gave to my winter fat loss fast track group was to clean the kitchen each night before bed. You might wonder what that has to do with fat loss. I’d say: a lot.
The folks who made that switch and woke up to a clean kitchen felt more calm, more focused and were far more likely to make choices in their best interest.
The space around you is a reflection of how you care for yourself.
I end each work day by tidying my desk.
I begin each morning by making my bed.
I end every meal by cleaning my kitchen.
When your environment brings peace, your mind is more at peace and you’re more likely to make choices that are in your best interests.
SIX: Seek Solutions, Not Problems
You get what you look for. Since you’re reading this post I’m going to make the assumption that you’re not the kind of person who has a problem for every solution.
You know what I mean. I’ll get emails from people asking for help & for every solution I provide, they’ve got a problem.
“I don’t have time.” “My job is stressful.” “I’m an emotional eater.” “I’m hormonal.”
I’ll say it again: you get what you look for.
If you’re looking for reasons you can’t or reasons it’s hard, you’ll always find them. They’re all around you.
If, on the other hand, you look for solutions, you’ll find those too.
Begin to pay attention to your thoughts and words. How often are you searching for problems?
How often is the internal dialogue in your head about how you’re tired, it’s been a bad day, the kids are stressing you out or the fact that your cravings are out of control?
Switch your thinking and practice being solution-focused.
Oftentimes when I get to the gym in the morning, I’m tired. Many times I’ve caught myself focusing on the problem & complaining about lack of sleep or not enough coffee.
I’m not denying the fact that I’m tired, but being problem focused is complaining and arguing for my limitations.
My solution-focused approach is to tell myself, “Yup. Energy is a little lower than I’d like it to be so I’m in the right place! What better way to generate the energy I need than by working out! I’m exactly where I need to be!”
There will always be a problem for every solution. Don’t be that guy.
While everyone else is delivering excuses, you deliver results. You focus on the solutions.
Let’s think about the type of person you would be if you achieved your goal.
What kinds of habits would you need to have if you achieved and maintained that goal?
Now, pick one of those habits. Practice it every single day.
One of the habits I work with my clients on is a fat loss breakfast. Do I expect them to be perfect? No. Do I think they can master it without committing to practice? Nope.
We can be freed by our conscious thoughts & our disciplined habits.
We aren’t freed by our dreams or our willpower.
We are freed by our conscious thoughts AND our disciplined habits.
I really do not think you can create 7 new habits at once. That’s why I want you to pick ONE habit you’d need to master to achieve your goal & practice it every single day.
If you drop the ball, try again. That’s the thing about practice. By definition, practice isn’t perfect.
Repetition generates confidence and opportunities for learning.
Absolutely anything in this world can be made easy through practice.
This practice generates momentum & fuels motivation.
Commit to daily practice. Bring your conscious attention to that one thing you are practicing and do not quit. Do not skip practice.
The only way to get better & build a habit is through consistent practice.
EIGHT: Expose Yourself
One of the most powerful ways to get motivated is to expose yourself to things that spark motivation, that inspire you or that remind you of what you’re doing & why.
These sparks will be different for each person & that’s ok.
Some of the things I expose myself to each day are quotes & images that inspire me. I talk to people who encourage me. I share my goals. I read. I review my own progress.
A lot of my clients expose themselves by listening to podcasts or daily motivations.
Others expose themselves through prayer & meditation.
The key here is to know what sparks that desire or inspiration in you & expose yourself daily.
One of the things I did to help with that is create this motivational mixtape. It’s kind of a sneak peak at what the Primal Potential daily motivations are, but this is free and totally available for you to download & listen to them when you need them.
They’re short, daily motivational messages to help you re-focus and engage with your goals. All you have to do is click the banner below & the downloads are ready & waiting for you!