My title is somewhat tongue in cheek, but there is a lot of truth there.
I learned the phrase, “Motivation is garbage” from author Mel Robbins on a podcast this week. I find that this phrase is particularly true when we’re talking lifestyle and health and wellness. Here’s what I mean by that…
When we say that you should have motivation or be motivated, it’s an oversimplified version of telling someone they should always have a burning desire to do the right thing for their health, or to make the right choices. If or when they don’t feel like following a plan exactly, that they should just reach into that motivation bin or read some motivational Instagram quote and then they’ll fill up on the desire to make good choices.
Unfortunately, motivation doesn’t always work like that. Humans are tricky. Our gut tells us that we should be making healthy choices, but at times we’re tired, we have a lot of distractions and stress, we overthink things, and quite frankly unhealthy choices are sometimes temporarily satisfying (and don’t even get me started on the marketing and engineering of food – we’ll save that for another day).
When we tell people that they should work on their motivation, it can even lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment, exhaustion, or self-hate. Even if you are a rockstar and really focused on your goals, there’s still a percentage of time where you just don’t feel like it, and that usually comes during times of stress.
So what do we do instead of motivation? We can build healthy habits.
Habits are small daily choices that become so routine that our body and mind expect them. Every time you make a small choice (and you make thousands each day), your body and mind remember the feeling and the outcome of that choice. Make that same choice 50 days in a row, and it becomes really normal and you stop thinking about it. Your resistance to that choice lowers and it becomes much easier. After those 50 times, you still have to put effort into it, but it doesn’t take nearly as much work. Habits form, you don’t worry about them, and it isn’t as hard as it first was.
Let me give you an example of a habit can be better than motivation to help you meet your health goals. Every night before I go to bed, I pack a gym bag and protein shake for the next day. When I leave for work in the morning, I bring it with me so I can go straight from work to the gym. If I left work and went home to change and THEN tried to go to the gym, it would be much harder. I would get distracted, get a phone call, or something would be more appealing. Instead, my gym gear is with me, so I go directly to the gym and get it done because it’s now a mandatory part of my day.
I’ll give you another example of where healthy habits can beat motivation. I do a lot of bulk cooking on Sundays (those of you who follow me on Instagram see it most weeks on my stories). I fix large quantities of protein, veggies, and a starchy carbohydrate, and then I portion out meals for at least 3 days. It’s part of my Sunday routine, so I have zero excuse to eat anything but my healthy meals during the week. Trust me… there are so many days where I would rather eat a bag of tortilla chips and buckets or salsa or whatever strange stuff I’m craving. Instead, I have my healthy meals all prepared and with me, so I eat those instead. Your habits will win if you create them and stick with them.
My point is… stop relying on motivation to get you to your goals and start building habits.
Take one or two habits that you know you struggle with and do them every day for 45 days. By about day seven, it gets easier. By day fifteen, you aren’t really thinking about it as much. By day fourty-five? Your body and mind expect it and it becomes a part of who you are and what you do.
You can build habits of all types; good eating habits, portion control habits, exercise habits, positive thinking habits…. Get creative. Or, you can download my Healthy Habit guide below for a list of 19 healthy habits that I recommend.
So let’s all stop pretending motivation is the key and let’s start developing habits that will be in place no matter what we “feel” like.
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