Updated: Aug 15
"You just gotta stay motivated!" says the adorable influencer on Instagram.
Yeah thanks for that.
Here's the problem, though, bro:
MOTIVATION WANES. Even if you can find it, it doesn't stick around.
WILLPOWER DOESN’T WORK. It's there one day, and gone the next.
YOU KNOW THIS.
I’LL TRY TO STOP YELLING IN ALL CAPS NOW.
Motivation is emotional and fleeting, so even if you feel jazzed about setting and meeting goals now, it won't last. Things happen that will discourage you, and one of those things is triggers.
A trigger is something like this: you take a road trip and immediately want junk food snacks.
Or, it's Friday night so that means happy hour with lots of booze and bar food.
Or, you get bad news so you reach for the ice cream and head to the couch for some TV to dull the feelings.
These triggers will never go away, so how do you beat them? Finding ways to stay motivated is a lot harder than it sounds, and what you need is a plan to disrupt current patterns and a bit of discipline to make that happen.
Let’s talk nutrition, because this is a sticky widget for so many of us.
This is not your first rodeo. You know you could eat healthier, but those old habits run deep. You have cravings. You’re busy. Packaged foods and eating out are so EASY. And who wants to eat boring old salads?
Here’s the good news: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
In fact, let me tell you a few things to demonstrate just how stacked against you the cards actually are….
Did You Know……
...The reason the produce is the first thing you see in a grocery store, is because data crunchers discovered that if you add fruits and vegetables to your cart first, you’re more likely to feel virtuous and will, therefore, justify adding chips or cookies or ice cream to your cart too?
...The coupon ads you receive are not the same ones your next door neighbor receives from the very same store? You’ve been targeted based on your shopping history, which websites you visit, what you do when on those sites, and more?
...The deals and coupons and offers that seem like they’re speaking directly to you (“Yay, I buy that and here’s a 2-for-1 coupon!”) are very strategically placed among other items that you normally wouldn’t buy so as to mask how much they know about your buying habits?
...The reason items on a store shelf seem to be organized randomly (as opposed to by price or by alphabetical order) is because the data shows that disorganization makes you linger longer and therefore often buy things you didn’t plan to buy?
...That softer food is more palatable and easier to chew, and therefore you’ll eat more of it and that’s why restaurant food and fast food especially is so soft?
...Everything from the lighting to the colors chosen to the layout to the scents to the music and so much more is designed to lure you toward what “they” want you to do, and what your past behavior has *told* them you’ll do.
I could go on, but if you’re like me, you’re disturbed enough.
Wait, one more shocking thing
...Target, the store, can predict with ~80% accuracy when a woman is pregnant and even when her approximate due date, simply by tracking her shopping habits. Even if she hasn’t bought obvious baby-related items.
Don’t believe me? Type into your internet search bar: “Can Target predict pregnancy?”
The system is stacked against you.
You don’t stand a chance.
So it’s not your fault.
It’s not that you’re weak.
It’s not that you’re stupid.
It’s not that you lack willpower.
Every single marketing tactic is designed to get you to do what they want you to do.
When I learned all this, I was first astonished, and then, quite frankly, I was embarrassed. How could I be so easily duped?
Now, I’m feisty. I’m a fighter. So this information alone makes me want to flip the bird to every now-obvious marketing tactic at every store and stage a protest.
But at the end of the day, those tactics are still there and it will remain a challenge to fight them.
WHAT TO DO
So, if we'll never stay excited and motivated, what do we do?
Yeah, that’s the million dollar question, folks.
Motivation wanes. It’s fickle. It’s emotional.
You know this when you’re all hyped up and you make a vow and you fill your fridge with veggies and the very next day you look into your fridge and think, “Ugh, there’s nothing to eat.”
So your desire to change is going to require some deep introspection.
HERE’S WHERE TO BEGIN
Every habit you have follows this pattern:
CUE: Something triggers the desire or craving.
PATTERN: This is what you do when the craving hits.
REWARD: This is what you get out of it.
And that pattern is what interferes with your goals.
GOAL: I’m going to stop eating McDonald’s!
CUE: I drive past McDonald’s on my way home from work. I WANT FRENCH FRIES, DAMMIT.
PATTERN: I hit the drive-thru. Again.
REWARD: YUM, FRENCH FRIES.
GOAL: I’m going to stop drinking too much and over-eating greasy food every Friday night.
CUE: It’s Friday night. Friends always hit happy hour. They press me to come.
PATTERN: I go.
REWARD: I love my friends! We have so much funnnnnnnn.
GOAL: I’m going to start making lunches to take to work so I don’t eat out every day.
CUE: I look into the fridge, feel overwhelmed and uninspired, close it, forget about it.
PATTERN: I *have* to eat out again. I’ll try again tomorrow.
REWARD: Eating out is easier (and tastier) than making my own food.
In those 3 examples, the rewards are different.
One is taste and flavor.
One is social acceptance.
And one is convenience.
So the trick is this:
Whatever pattern you’re trying to disrupt, the REWARD has to be either the same or equally satisfying!
THAT’S THE ANSWER!
But I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not.
In Example #1, the new pattern - in this case the replacement food - must be enjoyable.
You can’t munch on celery sticks and expect it to be a long-term replacement for french fries.
In Example #2, the new pattern - in this case something with friends - must be equally fun but healthier, like meeting up for a walk or a movie or hosting a board game night or going out dancing.
In Example #3, the new pattern - in this case a healthier lunch - must be equally convenient. Instead of going to a restaurant, go to the salad bar at the grocery store.
AND YES, DISCIPLINE IS REQUIRED
You do have to commit to disrupting the pattern with new choices for long enough that the new pattern becomes habit.
This might take 2 weeks.
It might take a month.
It will likely take longer.
You’ll never ever remove the original cue, so disregard the idea of that happening.
This is why recovered alcoholics are *always* recovering alcoholics.
Instead, focus on DISRUPTING the PATTERN with new, fun, tasty, convenient behaviors and turn THOSE into your new “can’t stop” HABITS!