CROSSROADS: Simple Strategies to Improve Motivation

“I’m not sure this is worth it.”

“I just don’t have the time to devote to this anymore.”

“Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.”

“Who was I kidding? I can’t do this.”

If any of these thoughts are running around in circles in your mind then don’t go anywhere - even the most determined people struggle with motivation from time to time, and it is when these type of thoughts creep in that you’ll be most tempted to give up.

According to US News & World Report 80% of the New Years Resolutions that we make will fail by February. We are at a critical point right now, and I expect things are starting to become frustrating and difficult for some of you. Even if your newfound excitement has worn off and your motivation is beginning to waver, it is not too late to be one of the 20% of people that keep going.

In the last two blog posts and podcasts I have discussed resolutions involving improving your health and fitness as well as your relationships. No matter the nature of the goals you have set for yourself, I’m here to remind you that accomplishing anything is a process of ups, downs, forwards, and backwards. Don’t give up - even if you don’t feel like you are making as much progress as you would like. Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Prior to the New Year in the blog entitled Change Your Mind, Change Your Body , I shared some goal setting techniques as well as some tips for successfully implementing change into your life. However, just because New Years is a popular time for many of us to try to change our behavior, it doesn’t mean that you can’t develop new habits any day of the year. I am relieved that New Years has come and gone because now we can forget about the date on the calendar and focus on now. If you are ready to make some changes in your life then check out the Change Your Mind, Change Your Body Blog and Podcast before you get started.

For those of you that have already established your goals we’re going to venture a little further down this path today. If you are beginning to feel the frustration and difficulty that I spoke of, then remember it is very common to feel that way right now. Today I’m going to give you some tools to get over this week and continue forward.

First, let’s start with two things that I want to remind you of:

1. Periods of frustration, disappointment, and failure come with growth. They occur when you are trying to accomplish something you’ve not done before. Exasperation, being let down, or feeling like you don’t have what it takes, is natural.

2. When you find yourself at a plateau, it is also common to become frustrated and think, “Why am I bothering with all this effort? It’s not getting me anywhere!”

However, if you can find the motivation to push through your plateaus and and frustrations then you’ll break through your impasse and continue to improve!

Next I’d like to break down the three most common reasons that resolutions fail:

1. Your goals may not be specific enough.

Ex - Resolving to exercise more or to lose weight are easy ways to set yourself up for failure, as they lack ways to mark your progress and are unlikely to keep you motivated throughout the year. Instead, try making your goals more specific, like strength train three times a week or lose 10 ten pounds by a certain date.

2. You aren’t framing your goals in a positive way. Don’t use negative language because what you focus on expands. If you focus on what you lack or what you don’t want then that is what you will get more of. Your thoughts create your reality. Ex - rather than setting a goal of eliminating carbs, set a goal to eat a specific amount of fruit and vegetables each day.

3. Your resolution isn’t really about you. Do your goals really reflect what you want or is it about what is “expected of you?” Ex - The biggest culprits are dieting and exercise trends, but this can apply to any number of goals. Don’t be influenced by your friends, family, or what you see in society.

Some additional reasons that resolutions fail:

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Don’t try to do too much, too quickly. It takes time to develop new habits.

2. You lack self-efficacy - do you believe you will accomplish your goals?

Fear of failure can cripple you.

3. You’re focusing too much on thinking and not enough on doing.

The most well thought out plan will fail in the absence of action.

4. You are too busy for the work that it takes to accomplish the goals that you have set. This is where you have to consider the time -bound and attainable elements of the SMART goal setting method. If you have set your expectations of yourself too high then your goals may need modification. Make sure your goals are realistic.

5. You don’t enjoy the process. There are so many ways to fit exercise into your life, so if you don’t enjoy what you are doing then change it up and find something that you enjoy! It shouldn’t feel like a punishment.

6. You are depriving yourself. Accomplishing a goal 80% - 90% of the time is a good benchmark. If you feel that you are depriving yourself completely of the things that you enjoy then it will become a punishment and your enjoyment and excitement will fade. This also contributes to the “all or nothing” mentality which will make you feel that all hope is lost when you slip up one time. Don’t let one slip up derail you!

7. You don’t have a written tracking system. It is very beneficial to record your goals and actions! I refer to my tracking system often and use it regularly to monitor my progress. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize how far you have come until you look back to remember where you were when you started. Not to mention that simply looking at a record of how long you have been working will add to your motivation, without even considering the progress that you have made in that time. You are doing the work, and that is a good feeling!

8. You haven’t surrounded yourself with a support network. As I discussed in Change Your Mind, Change Your Body, communication is so important. Talk to your loved ones about the changes you are making and let them know how important it is to you. Their encouragement will be invaluable in the moments that you find your motivation wavering. It can also be very beneficial to join some kind of group exercise class - there are so many to chose from! Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help keep you focused, motivated, and having fun.

9. You know what you want, but you don’t know your “why.” Why do you want to be healthy? What is your driving motivation behind it? For example, do you want to be a healthy role model for your children? Do you desire increased clarity, energy, and focus? (Which also happen to be important measures of progress that aren’t related to a number on the scale!) Do you want to live longer or improve your confidence? It is common for your motivations to shift as you progress with a new exercise regimen. For example, your initial reasons may begin more extrinsic - our outside of yourself. You may begin because you want to look better or lose weight, but your motivation will become more intrinsic as you begin to feel better, sleep better, or have more energy. Know your own personal “why” - it will help you stay motivated!

If any of these resonate with you, then now is a perfect time to re-evaluate your goals. When you start any new regimen you should consider it a work in progress. Be flexible with your goals. Things should change as you grow… isn’t that the whole point? You may realize that something that you thought you wanted is not at all what you truly desire. Or you may realize that you have set your expectations for yourself too high. Try not to beat yourself up too much if this is the way that you are feeling. Simply readjust your goals and make whatever modifications are necessary to continue to move forward!

It was Albert Einstein that said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” That is the truth. There is no such thing as failure as long as you keep moving forward. Remember your motivations should shift, your goals should change, because you are growing and improving yourself - so be flexible.

I encourage you to ask yourself the same two questions that I often ask my one-on-one clients. The first - “Have you only been able to meet this couple a few times in the last two weeks?” If your answer is yes then your expectations might be set too high and you might need to adjust your goal. The second - “Have you been able to easily meet this goal every day without too much additional effort?” If the answer to this one is yes, then there is a good chance that you aren’t challenging yourself. If my clients have set goals for themselves that are not challenging enough for them, then the number of “met” goals that I collect from them each week might look great on paper, but their progress will be minimal. I don’t often run across this scenario, but it has happened before. If you’d like to hear a little bit about what I did in this situation then check out this week’s podcast.

A few years ago I ran across another circumstance with a one-on-one client that I had spent two years working with. He was struggling to maintain his motivation. We had initially set five daily goals for him to accomplish, but he was feeling overwhelmed by the goals that we had set. It was clear that his daily goals needed modification. We made the decision to drop his goals down to only the most basic three that he felt were the most important. We gave it a few weeks, and once he felt that he had a good handle on those and was accomplishing them regularly, then we added the the two additional goals back in. By focusing only on the three goals that were most important to him, he was able to refocus and begin to make forward progress again - no matter how slow. You will get more benefit from achieving three goals consistently than you will by having five goals that you meet only sporadically. Consistency is the number one factor that will determine your success!

When I began implementing my own program in 2013 I started small. The first thing I did was to ask myself what happiness meant to me. What did I believe that I needed in my life to be happy - not what was “expected of me” not what I “should” want, but what I really needed to be happy despite what anyone else would think of me.

The next step was to make myself accountable - I was the only one responsible for my actions. I was the only one responsible for the outcomes that resulted. I was the only one capable of initiating change.

I was the only one that could lift the weight of the unhappiness that had settled on my chest.

I began to make little changes and shifts in my daily routine. I wondered if they’d be enough to make a difference, but I knew I had to start somewhere. I promised myself that I would commit for at least the next six weeks and then I would re-evaluate.

After those first six weeks, and beginning to implement change into my life I knew it was time to go back and re-evaluate. I found myself extremely resistant to do this. I already asked myself, “What does happiness mean to me?” Why did I need to take the time to do it again?

I finally stopped resisting and realized that if I didn’t look at this question again then I was missing the whole point! Wasn’t I doing all of this work because I wanted to see change and growth?

I am going to share an excerpt from The Evaluation, taken from The Seasons of Change section in CROSSROADS. This is where I sat down and took a look at the progress that I had made in the first six weeks.

The Evaluation

November 22, 2013 (Journal Entry)

6 Week Self-Analysis

A month and a half ago I made a list of what I thought I needed in my life to find happiness. At first I didn’t think it was necessary to redo that exercise, but how stupid to think I wouldn’t continue to grow and my goals wouldn’t change! Actually, isn’t that the whole point?

I had been at my project for about six weeks. I decided to make a list of my accomplishments. Was it worth continuing?

1. I have a much more focused and concise list of what I need to be happy.

2. My list was less self-centered than the first time around and concentrated on my family instead of just myself. (This was the most upsetting realization I came to the first time I did this exercise).

3. Journaling daily has been good for me and helped me to get honest with myself. Writing openly has begun to help me let out the feelings I have been burying inside.

4. The physical pressure I feel in my shoulders and chest is not gone, but it is loosening up.

5. I don’t feel as though I have uncontrollable urges to reach for things I shouldn’t (shopping, drinking, eating).

6. My skin and hair look healthier as a result of increased water intake.

7. I don’t feel as though I am quite as dependent on the approval of others.

8. I am very encouraged I have stuck with my daily goals for six weeks!! I have never been able to stick with them beyond three weeks, and even that is probably an exaggeration.

9. I am beginning to get a better feel for the person that I really want to be.

10. I feel calmer, more focused, and more ready to take on this challenge and make the changes that are necessary.

11. I am much more patient with Will, and our relationship has improved.

I wasn’t sure if making these small changes would delve deep enough to resolve much, but I did find that it helped me quiet some of the chaos in my mind, and it was a good place to start. It had provided me with daily actions I could take that would make an immediate difference and help me start feeling better.

I also began to accept the idea that my happiness will benefit not only myself, but every other relationship in my life as well.

It was enough to determine that I was making progress and it was worth the effort it took to continue pushing forward.

You can find more of the details surrounding my story of how I implemented change in my own life in my book CROSSROADS: My Search for Truth Through Music and a lot of Red Wine. The complete book is now available on Amazon, which you can find by visiting my website

If you set the right goals you WILL make progress! Don’t forget to acknowledge your accomplishments along the way - no matter how small. It is easy to get frustrated and lose motivation if you don’t think you are making progress.

There is a journal entry that I wrote five years ago that still hangs on my office wall.

March 7, 2015 (Journal Entry)

Each morning I remind myself that discipline is the path to achieving my goals. Whether they involve my fitness, nutrition, relationships, career, finances, health, education, or any area of my life that I intend to improve, it is discipline that will get me there. My success or my failure can be broken down into the actions that I take every day. Even the most well-thought-out plan will fail in the absence of discipline.

Discipline will give me the strength to say no, when I am tempted to say yes.

Discipline will give me the courage to push through when things get tough - because they will!

Discipline will give me the determination to persevere when I want to quit.

Discipline is what gives me the strength to walk away, no matter how difficult, when it is in my best interest.

Discipline will give me the confidence to believe in my own self-worth above all else, and to accept no less than I deserve.

Discipline will give me the ability to turn my weakness into strength.

Discipline will enable me to fight like hell for what I want, no matter how many times I am knocked down.

Discipline is the difference between my failure and my success… and failure is not an option.

(Excerpt taken from Get Your Shit Together in CROSSROADS: My Search for Truth Through Music and a Lot of Red Wine.

I still read this entry often to remind myself that accomplishing my goals is my responsibility, and the actions that I take every single day will determine my success or my failure. It is a good reminder in the moments when I feel as if my motivation is wavering and I wonder if it is worth continuing.

As I have continued down this path of self-improvement I find that my motivation doesn’t waiver as often as it used to… but I am human and it still happens from time to time. Things will get easier as your new habits become engrained in your daily of life.

This week here are the questions that I pose to you:

Do you have something that you can’t go a day without thinking about?

If there is something that is this important to you, then don’t give up!

Are you disappointed in yourself because you haven’t made as much progress towards accomplishing your goals as you would have liked by now?

Remember change is not easy and it is natural to feel frustration and the temptation to quit is natural.

Do you feel that the expectations that you initially set for yourself are unrealistic now that you’ve been at it for a few weeks?

It is a work in progress and you are not going to get everything figured out in one day, or one month. Now that you have some time and effort put in take the time to re-evaluate your goals, modify them where necessary, and continue pushing forward.

Have you acknowledged the progress that you have made, even if it is not as much as you would have liked?

Take the time to acknowledge every accomplishment you have made, no matter how small. Remember that it doesn’t all come down to the number on the scale - it is the least accurate representation of your fitness level. Instead consider things like energy, endurance, and how you feel!

Do you feel like you are never going to be able to accomplish your goals?

It is often the time right before you start to notice change that you are tempted to quit. Remember - it’s always darkest before the dawn. Don’t give up!

If you are interested in a more in depth discussion regarding the topics I discuss in this blog than follow the free link to my podcast where you will hear more details and examples from my own experiences as well as the clients that I have worked with.

There is one last thought I would like to leave you with today. Over the years I have found myself having such thoughts as:

“I’ll be happy when I get a new job.”

“I’ll be happy when I lose ten more pounds.”

“I’ll be happy when I find a fulfilling relationship.”

It is very difficult to embrace and love the person that we are today, with all of our imperfections and faults.

I am not saying that we should set goals and strive to improve ourselves, but learning to accept ourselves exactly as we are and love ourselves today is something that we should always strive to do. Or we will find ourselves chasing something that is far off in the distance… and we will always feel as if there is something missing.

“Never give up, for that is just the time and place that the tide will turn.”

~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

Listen to Simple Strategies to Improve Motivation Podcast

Purchase CROSSROADS: My Search for Truth Through Music and a Lot of Red Wine

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