March 19, 2012

Motivation: How to Get it and How to Keep It.

How many times have you made a plan in a whirlwind of excitement ––  for example, let’s say on a Friday you saw something that inspired you, got totally stoked to start a new regimen on Monday, and by the time Monday rolled around, you completely lost all your motivation to begin this new regimen?

Has this been a common and ongoing theme in your life? You get really excited by the prospect of starting something new, only to find that you have absolutely no follow through?

So how is it that some people can decide to lose 20 pounds over the course of 4 months and they just go out and do it? And you on the other hand, in spite of  your best intentions, can’t seem to get your act together?

Well, fear not. I have good news for you. You are not alone. As a former yoga studio owner, there was an interesting phenomenon that I just could not help but notice. Often times I would run a membership special, like maybe a 1/2 price sale and many people would purchase this low priced membership package, and then they would never end up showing up at the studio to utilize the membership. In other words, in a flurry of initial excitement, people are eager to pay with a credit card for something they never end up using.

Similarly, every year at New Years the studio would be flooded with new memberships during the first week of January. By Feb. 15 most of those new members started dropping out in droves. By the end of February, many had quit altogether, simply allowing their memberships to expire.

What this tells me is that many people have trouble staying motivated, with anything that involves maintaining consistent effort over time, to overcome an obstacle. Does this sound like you? If so, read on.

Part of the problem here is that we live in a throwaway society (think about the popularity of disposable cameras) where instant gratification is the norm. People have become accustomed to getting results with little or no effort and perhaps there is a culture of laziness happening right now.

But let’s put that aside for a moment. Blaming the culture or the society is not going to solve our problem.

So what is “motivation”? Where does it come from? How do we get it and how do we keep it?
That last one –– how do we get it and how do we keep it is the million dollar question.

Motivation can be defined as a feeling that gives you the impetus or propels you to move forward towards the achievement of a goal. Or that which propels you to take action. Motivation is like a catalyst. Without this feeling of motivation, we often find ourselves in a state of inertia.

We can break motivation down into 2 distinct categories: External and Internal.

External is like money or a reward. It could be less tangible such as notoriety, or gaining the respect of your peers, family or friends.

Internal motivation could be a sense of satisfaction, self acceptance and a marked improvement in self esteem. Many people look to God or religion and spirituality for motivation.

What is the difference between motivation and inspiration? My understanding is that inspiration is the initial spark that gets us motivated to take action.

Here are some ideas that may help you gain and maintain the necessary motivation that you are seeking:

  • Let go of black and white thinking. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout, skip yoga or cheat on your diet. Acknowledge the mistake, forgive yourself and then get right back on the horse.
  • Find a mentor. Having a mentor or idol (someone you look up to) is probably the single best thing you can do for inspiration. Always keep this person in the forefront of your mind. In those moments when you find your motivation waning and you feel you are about to jump ship – – ask yourself how this person would deal with these same thoughts you are having? What is it that separates the “winners” from the “quitters?”  Often the main difference is mindset. Embody the same winning mindset that you see modeled by your mentor.
  • Dedicate your practice or your discipline to your mentor. If you jump ship, let it feel like you are letting that person down. This mentality of wanting to shine in someone’s eyes will go a long way towards keeping you on track. If this mentor has encouraged you in the past, know that you will be letting them down if you quit.
  • Remind yourself why you are practicing your discipline –– create a mantra and repeat the mantra silently in your head every chance you get. This will program your mind for success.
  • Write the mantra on an index card and hang it on your bathroom mirror, on your refrigerator and on your computer monitor.
  • Find inspirational photos of your mentor. You can also use any objects or symbols that will remind you of your mission and keep you inspired. In yoga there are many statues and symbolic artwork that serve this purpose.  Keep such objects close at hand at all times
  • Do some creative problem solving and create some personal tools that will keep you inspired and motivated on your path.
  • If you are trying to create a new habit –– cut yourself some slack. Remember the goal is progress not perfection

I sincerely hope that you will take some time to try out these time tested tools I have shared with you. Please keep me posted on your progress by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below this post. And remember at all times, the best mantra of all: You can do it!


Editor: Lindsay Friedman


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