Motivation Vs. Habit

A few phrases I hear all too often:

  1. “I wish I had your motivation”
  2. “ Where do you get your motivation?”
  3. “How can I become more motivated to get healthy?”
  4. “How can I become more motivated to build muscles?”

The answer to any of these questions has nothing to do with motivation, it is about building habit. It is about doing the things you need to do, even on the days you don’t want to do it.

Motivation is defined as “the desire or willingness of someone to do something”. Habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”.

I want you to take a minute and think about those two definitions. Now how many people do you think just have a natural desire to eat clean and workout everyday? Like seriously. Not many! Motivation comes from building habits that revolve around your goals. You want to achieve a goal, so you develop habits that will support you in getting there. Goals are what motivate us. Motivation is great, but sometimes it’s not what is going to get the job done.

Now there is a whole bunch of different information out there regarding how long it takes to build a habit. I have read everything from 21 days to 66 days to 50 repetitions, to 254 days (I included references for these figures below). I think it is probably somewhat dependent on the person. No two of us are alike, and just like how our bodies adapt to diets, stress, exercise, etc. differently, we most likely also all learn somewhat differently and build habits at different rates.

Just like anyone else, I have days I don’t want to workout, or eat clean, or do much of anything but relax. But the difference between me and someone who is just starting on their health and fitness goals, is that I have already built a habit out of working out, eating healthy and getting a good nights rest. So most of the time, even on the days I just am worn out from a stressful day at work, or a crappy night’s sleep, I can muster up the courage to get in a workout.

I still fall off track sometimes. Just like any human, I have set backs. But because I have already built a habit of living a healthier lifestyle, it is usually easier for me to jump back into the swing of things if I fall off track for a few days.

So if you find yourself asking questions similar to the ones I listed above, my advice to you is to stop focusing on the motivation, and start focusing on the goal, and making a habit out of eating healthier, or exercising more, or going to bed on time, or drinking more water, etc.

It doesn’t just have to be health and fitness related. This also goes for developing new skills, or achieving a goal to advance in a career, or have better communication skills, make more friends, etc.

A perfect example:

Now bare with me for a second on this because I am going to bounce around a bit, but it will all make sense in the end…

I hate stretching. I haven’t stretched really in probably 7 or 8 years…. SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS PEOPLE!!! That’s ridiculous. Lol. Stretching is so important and so good for our bodies! But I just never liked setting aside the time honestly. And the worst part is I sit at a desk for 7-9 hours a day, which can cause all kinds of aches and pains and slouching and leaning to one side, etc.


Recently, a friend of mine decided he was going to start drawing. And every day he draws a picture. And everyday he sends me a picture of the picture he drew, and the image he is using as a reference for his artwork. And everyday he is getting a little better at it! Well this “habit” that he is building, has motivated me to want to build some better habits of my own.

So I decided I was going to start stretching everyday. I set my goal at 30 days of consistent stretching every morning. 30 days, that’s it. Because I know, 30 days isn’t much. 30 days is enough though, that I know I will feel the results and want to continue to stretch. It is a realistic and attainable goal, that will allow me to work towards building a habit out of stretching regularly. When I hit the 30 days, I will set another goal of maybe another 30 days, or maybe 45. Maybe I will try some different stretches for the second 30 day goal.

Now where these tie together, is every day when he sends me a photo, he asks me how the stretching is going. Now we are holding each other accountable for our goals!!! This is an important and helpful tactic to help you build habits! ACCOUNTABILITY! So if you struggle to achieve your goals on your own, have an accountability partner! You don’t have to see them everyday, or even talk everyday. It can be daily, or every few days, or once a week; but don’t be afraid to talk to a friend and ask them to partner up with you on accountability.

So again… To recap…

  1. Don’t focus on motivation or lack thereof, focus on the goals and create steps to achieving those goals (that will become habits)
  2. Set small, attainable goals that will help you build habits to help you get to bigger goals. (Like my 30 days of stretching example)
  3. Make yourself a daily checklist for your habits/tasks that need to happen and follow through with them. Check them off or cross them off as you complete them each day.
  4. Get an accountability partner. Whether you have the same goals and are working together, or different goals and are just checking in with each other, get a friend to help you stay on track.

References:

https://medium.com/swlh/21-day-habit-timeline-how-to-form-a-habit-in-21-days-day-by-day-92298446bf6b

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