Do you ever feel like the job is just too big?
Say you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape … or pay off your debts or repair a relationship. Maybe you want to start a new business, build a house, or overthrow the government (I kid!).
But sometimes it seems like the task is too much.
It will take too long. There are too many hassles and roadblocks. And you’re not sure exactly how to do it.
You worry that you don’t have the energy, willpower, tenacity, or drive.
Or maybe you think there is something intrinsically “off” with you, that makes the whole thing impossible anyway.
Yes, other people might have achieved the same goal, but down deep you think they’re somehow different than you in a way you can’t describe.
I have a motivation trick for you that isn’t really a trick, but a smart tool that actually began in the car industry.
First, though, here’s the truth: tackling big goals is hard work. It will be hard. But my firm, 100-percent belief is that if you’ve got a big goal in your head, it’s there for a reason.
And with some smart strategies, you can make it happen. You just have to figure it out why you want it.
How to Stay Motivated
It’s easy to get pumped up for a day or a week when it comes to tackling a big job or goal. We all do that from time to time.
In fact, one of the biggest “tells” for me when it comes to client success is the level of enthusiasm people throw at me during our first meeting.
If new clients come at me with a plan to work out several days a week, embrace a spartan ketogenic diet, and hit their goals at a rapid pace, I’m always cautious about a big crash-and-burn within a week or two (heck, even after a day or two).
Because you can’t push through on staying pumped or “getting tough.”
In fact, while an element of discipline and toughness is necessary, I actually think too much toughness is counterproductive.
Real change – the kind it takes to get big jobs done – requires going deep.
Making big things happen in your life – changing the very shape of your body, or your bank account, or your interpersonal relationships, or the way you live – starts from the inside.
And if you’re covered in a shell of armor or toughness, you can’t penetrate it to make those deep changes.
True change requires reflection, thought, open-mindedness. It requires evaluation and course correction.
Plus, it’s scary.
And while, yes, making change does involve actually DOING things, it starts with some deep inquiry.
You Must Ask Why
I’m not talking about asking, “Whyyyyyy??!!!!” in a rending-of-the-clothes, beseeching God way. (Although sometimes …)
You have to ask yourself why in a curious, investigatory way. Usually asking the question “why?” five times is the magic number, because it lets you see your true motivation, rather than the shallow, “pumped-up” reason.
Now, this is not an original idea. If you google “5 whys” you will come up with lots of templates for how to do this. This method of inquiry was actually developed for the Toyota corporation to help with its manufacturing process. (1)
But it works incredibly well for pinpointing the root of nearly every problem.
Here’s a Sample ‘Why?’ Inquiry
- Why do I want to lose weight? So I feel better.
- Why do I want to feel better? My knees ache, and I just don’t have any energy when I get home from work.
- Why do I want more energy? I feel like I’m missing out on things. When I come home, all I want to do is sit on the couch.
- Why don’t I want to sit on the couch? I’m starting to feel disconnected from everyone, like life is passing me by.
- Why don’t I want to feel disconnected? Because I’m lonely and I’m starting to feel depressed. I am not having any fun lately because things seem like such a chore.
So, the reason for losing weight isn’t necessarily just to lose weight to feel better, it’s about not feeling so lonely.
Get a Little Uncomfortable
It’s hard to let yourself feel lonely – but letting yourself feel that way (at least temporarily) might be just the kick in the pants you need to take action so you don’t feel that way any longer.
While it’s tempting to want to numb out that lonely/depressed feeling by sitting on the couch and bingeing on Netflix or playing video games, you’ve pointed out to yourself that ultimately, it’s just making you feel worse.
So every time you feel the lure of the couch, you can tell yourself: “Hey wait, this isn’t serving my goals. I need to do something else.”
But it’s kind of important to do that with some gentleness. Because ….
You Can’t Hate Your Way To Success
Let’s use education as an analogy here.
Say you decide to go to college to earn a bachelor’s degree because you need one to advance in your career.
Do you accept the fact that it’s going to take four years (or maybe slightly less if you go year-round) to attain your goal? Or do you immediately start hating on yourself because you’re not already there yet? Or maybe even because you weren’t somehow born already possession the degree?
Many years ago when I was in college, I couldn’t wait to get graduate. I have quite a history when it comes to school (another story for another day), but sitting through boring lectures was like a slow death to me. Seriously, I’d have actual anxiety in class, just waiting for it to be done.
I worked hard to go to (almost all) my classes till I reached the finish line because I wanted to get started on what I called my “real life.” That was my personal why – proving that I could actually see it through, and then being free to pursue “real life.”
And years later, when I decided to compete in a figure show, it wasn’t because I wanted to walk across the stage wearing a tiny bikini or felt that I was somehow lacking and needed to “get shredded” in order to shore up my self-worth.
In fact, I really wasn’t so pumped about wearing that tiny bikini, to be honest.
It was about wanting to feel strong and to prove to myself after surviving a few punishing years of losses, I could do hard (and scary) things on my own.
Honestly, if it had just been about having my physique judged, I wouldn’t have seen it through to the end because that doesn’t interest me so much.
What are YOUR Whys?
Once you have your “Whys” in place, then you can start with the actual nuts-and-bolts how-tos, and employ some of the get-tough philosophy to help keep you going when your willpower is flagging.
Watch motivational YouTube videos, read positive self-development literature, surround yourself with people who will make you feel better, so you can keep marching toward your goal.
But be sure you have your own strong underpinnings in place first – and that you revisit your “whys” often. Because otherwise, all that motivation can end up feeling a bit like an indictment if you’re not clear about why you’re doing all the work in the first place.
The other day I was listening to a podcast, in which a fitness coach and business guru was outlining his morning routine.
Now, I love this kind of advice, especially when it comes from people who seem to have their lives pretty squared away. Or at least who appear to have their lives squared away (because honestly, he could have been broadcasting from a rusty old camper parked in someone’s side yard, on “borrowed” WiFi, right?).
Anyway, I’m always on the lookout for new things that work for other people, on the chance I can use it for myself. Plus, it’s fun to hear about, in a slightly voyeuristic way.
As I was listening to this guy talk about his routine, I did some calculations, and I was like, “WHAT?”
He couldn’t actually be doing the routine he was outlining, could he? Because as far as I could figure, getting through his entire morning routine would take at least an hour, maybe two.
An Hour-Long Morning Routine?
Who has that kind of time? I mean seriously, how did he manage to get all this stuff done before he started his day? Here are some of the items he was outlining:
- Cold water plunges
- A yoga/stretching routine
- Drinking some specially brewed tea
- Setting intentions
- Performing affirmations
I mean, really. How did he do it all?
And then it hit me. Sorry. I don’t mean to be sexist, but just bear with me for a sec.
He is a dude.
And then I got a double-whammy hit. Nearly every one of the morning routines I had failed at trying to replicate over the years had come from a dude.
Dudes who don’t have to worry about the state of their hair, or their makeup, before leaving the house.
Dudes whose jobs don’t entail getting to work before 7 a.m.
And not only that, but dudes who have a support staff (or a wife) to handle the little nagging details of life. (You know, like keeping the bathroom and kitchen clean.)
Women, Can You Relate?
The guy on this podcast has three kids. I’m sure he’s wonderful, caring, giving, kind, and more. But do you think his wife has an hour-long personal-care morning routine? (Rhetorical.)
I mean, I don’t have any kids and can barely get out the door within 90 minutes of my wakeup. I do have a dog that needs walking, and (TMI) I take medication first thing that requires me to wait an hour till I eat breakfast, so there’s that.
But still, I always feel slightly rushed, like I barely have time to brush my teeth, much less my hair.
And that’s usually because I make a daily swipe at only ONE of the recurring items on all those morning routines I’d failed at over the years: writing morning pages (a post about them is coming up soon, because they’re kind of magical).
As I was fretting over this morning routine problem, I had an a-ha moment.
What if I flipped the script on these morning routines, and focused on the routine that was actually the most important?
And one that was actually doable?
The Evening Routine
Yes, the key to an awesome start to your day actually originates the day before, with what you do before you go to bed.
Every time I’ve made serious progress on my goals, I’ve always paid special attention to my routine before I go to bed. Here are just a few examples of times my evening routine powered me through:
- When I went from rookie newspaper reporter to sweeping the awards at a journalism event, I spent some time each night organizing for the next day.
- When I prepared for my figure competitions, my nighttime routine was a must-do in my pre-show process.
- When I wrote my book, I woke up each day with a clear plan that I’d charted the night before.
There are loads more examples, but you get the gist, right?
Hit the Ground Running (or Sip the Coffee Productively)
Basically, when I followed my evening routine, I woke up each morning with all the bothersome little details of getting my day started taken care of. My marching orders were in place.
And that stopped me from wasting time trying to figure out what to focus on. Because God knows when I don’t have a plan, I’m kind of all over the place in the morning. I flit from one activity to the next.
The fact I am all about this routine is beyond weird, because I actually hate routines. Like a lot of creative people, I naturally shy away from them.
Are Routines Creativity Crushers?
The truth is, a lot of good comes from the calm of having a basic structure (yes, a routine) in place. Because once the structure is there, you can free-range around it.
This is actually a pretty big debate among creative people – does routine promote or kill creativity? (1)
As much as I hate to admit it, Aristotle was right. A routine helps.
My Bare-Bones Evening Routine
This is my current (and very unglamorous) routine:
- Make a prioritized to-do list for the next day – appointments, projects, errands, etc. (NOTE: Because I hover toward the characteristics of a “Type A” personality, my list is always too long, so it never gets done. I have accepted that. But beware the too-long to-do list … in fact, limiting it to 3 to 5 things is awesome.)
- Quick-clean my home (Kitchen sink empty!).
- Get tomorrow’s meals ready to roll, or at least have a plan.
- What am I going to wear?
- Take dog for a final outing.
- Set alarm for the morning and program coffeemaker.
- Skin-care regimen, etc.
- Take vitamins.
- Unplug and relax.
Now obviously this isn’t rocket science. But that’s what makes it so great: it’s common sense, and it’s designed to make your life easier.
The Importance of Nighttime Routines
Having a routine in place is really calming for me, personally. Right now I have a lot of balls in the air with various projects I’m working on. And when I get going on my day, it can be very hard to know what to focus on. It gets overwhelming, due to a phenomenon known as “decision fatigue.” (2) (3)
Basically, your brain can only handle making finite number of decisions each day before it gets tired out, a situation that studies show wears down your willpower. (4)
Think that sounds like a stretch? Well, that can happen to me when I don’t follow my evening routine.
That’s because the next morning I end up rushing around trying to find something wear, taking the dog for a quick walk while fretting over what to make for breakfast that will hold me till I’m done with my morning round of training clients. Inevitably, by the time I finish up at the studio for the morning I’m thinking about grabbing a muffin and coffee from Dunkin’. And I don’t even really like their muffins all that much.
What’s Your Routine?
So now, I make sure I go to bed with my kitchen clean, my early-morning to-dos handled, and my day-long checklist in place. (Bonus: I can fall asleep without worrying that I’ll forget something I’m supposed to do).
Want to know the evening routines of some successful women? Check them out here.
Do you have an evening routine? Or maybe morning routines actually work better for you. I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.
I was supposed to do deadlifts today but I woke up with a cold.
I’m pretty bummed out about this, because deadlifts are on my radar for this year. In fact, I gave myself a pep talk the other day about it. The pep talk was actually the annual birthday “come-to-Jesus” evaluation that I treat myself to each year, when I examine what’s working and what isn’t in my life, and I refocus and commit to a couple specific goals.
Generally, for me, discussions with myself turn into multi-point lectures complete with lists. The list this time around wasn’t awfully long, in fact it has to do with simplicity and taking care of myself. Which is ironic (or not), what with this sudden cold and all.
There are some other fitness-y things on the list, along with other less-workout-y things (rest, food, education, etc.). All of this was scheduled to start happening on a fairly regular basis starting TODAY, but nothing too strict or scheduled because of simplicity.
Why did I choose today? Because it’s mostly a day off. I’d been putting off starting because my schedule has been whack and I need to get a handle on it, but to get a handle on my schedule, a number of things have to happen and … well, I’m not that good at setting boundaries for myself because I’m caught in the personal-trainer conundrum of time and energy management (look it up, it’s a real thing). I feel a deep responsibility for my clients and helping them get/stay fit and vital, but sometimes I’m running ragged at both ends of the day.
So anyway, that’s how the multi-point lectures with lists come about: things have a tendency to snowball, from wanting to do deadlifts to having to completely revamp my schedule, because there’s always a reason …. or an excuse.
But then I woke up with this cold today. Which might actually be more than a cold, it’s too soon to tell, but it’s one of those yucky-gross-wake-you-up-coughing/carrying-around-tissues kind of bugs. (That’s why self-care was discussed, too, because getting run down due to the whack schedule isn’t cool.) I mean, I *could* hit the gym and get in some obligatory work, I suppose. However, I’m writing myself an excuse. Or maybe better, I’m letting myself off the hook entirely, no excuses necessary.
So the fitness part of my plan isn’t happening today. Instead, maybe I’ll just hover over the couch, or maybe I will go for a very easy treadmill walk just to shake out the cobwebs. But I can eat healthy foods, get some rest, and read some interesting stuff and work on that “simplicity” thing, right?
The truth is, keeping things simple isn’t easy. But in the long run, it sure does make things easier.
The deadlifts (and clearer-minded blog posts) will be there another day.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom and grandfather had a big debate about me and my brother.
My grandfather didn’t like it when we kids asked, “Why?” But my mom was proud of that fact. She actually encouraged it. “I want my children to have questioning minds,” she told him. “I want them to grow up to be adults who ask questions.” (How awesome was that? Answer: very!)
And now I’m going to channel a little of our mom for you, and encourage you to ask yourself, “Why?”
When you’re stuck when it comes to accomplishing a goal, solving a particular life issue, or even just coming to the gym, ask yourself, “Why?” And then keep asking that question, and I’m guessing that 5 or 6 “whys” later, you’ll find the real answer.
I was reminded of this trick last week when I was listening to a podcast. I’ve been stuck on something for a while and when the “Five Whys” technique was mentioned on The Fitcast, I had to immediately try it on myself. And it worked. Five times I asked myself the question, “Why?” and eventually drilled down to the underlying issue and had a deeper understanding of what was holding me back.
Why does this work? Because answering that “why” question from a really deep or knowing place can make all the difference when it comes to attaining your goals. The actual “why” underlying your reasons for setting that goal in the first place or what is stopping you from achieving it might surprise you.
This is not a technique for the meek because the more “whys” you ask yourself, the scarier it can become because you might tread into uncomfortable territory. Go with that, I say! Be brave!
I’m going to be brave here and do an illustration for you.
Let’s say I want to lose 5-7 pounds. Let’s also say I’ve been stalled on this process for a few months — hypothetically, let’s say I make a few stabs at refining my diet and then decide, “donuts.” (Or, maybe more precisely, “donut holes.”)
I’d ask myself 5 “whys” to uncover the root reason(s) that is stopping me.
1) Why do I want to lose 5-7 pounds? I have gained a few pounds and I want to be able to fit into my pants comfortably again.
2) Why do I want to fit into my pants comfortably? Because when my pants don’t fit properly, I don’t feel good about myself and I feel kind of like a fraud.
3) Why do I feel like a fraud? Because I’m a fitness professional whose pants don’t fit. 😉 Seriously, though, I don’t feel as fit or light on my feet as I like to feel, and I think maybe my stamina and strength is suffering a little bit because I’m not feeling uber fit right now.
4) Why is my stamina decreased? Because I haven’t been following my usual routine due to the fact my sleep/eating/working patterns have been somewhat disrupted.
5) Why haven’t I been following my usual routine? Because I’ve been feeling a lot of stress lately, on several fronts, and have been feeling hamstrung when it comes to solving the issues.
Obviously, this could keep going, but see how this works? By asking the questions, what at first seemed to be an aesthetic goal turned into something else. It’s really about the stress. By working on THAT, which is the “real” issue/problem/sticking point, the weight loss issue will be much easier to address.
You could even do the process a couple different times, following slightly different tracks with your questions, to see if there might be a couple of issues at play.
This technique works not only for fitness, but for almost any goal you want to set or problem you need to solve. It was originally created for Toyota when company officials were trying to work out kinks in their manufacturing process, but it’s really great for personal use. Say you want to go after a big new job, or start a business or go back to school but you’re having a hard time making it happen.
Just ask why. And then, just do it! 🙂
A while ago someone asked me where their motivation to get/stay fit was hiding.
I know exactly where it is.
It’s in the gym.
I’m not being funny here. It’s true. Clients tell me all the time that they had considered canceling their training sessions but then they forced themselves to come anyway — and then they are so glad they did.
I do it too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to skip out on my own workout because I’ve been too busy with other things, or I’ve felt a little beat up by the day.
But I know for sure that once I start working out, I’ll be glad I did it. And that one workout will make the next one easier to tackle, and then the one after that, and then the one after that, too.
Motivation builds. It’s like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
You know what? It’s snowing like crazy as I write this and I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Earlier today I planned on taking a day off from my workouts, but I’m changing my mind.
I think I’m gonna go get my sweat on.
Wanna join me? 🙂
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Before we officially begin the holiday season — k, maybe I’m a day or two late on that 🙂 — I have a suggestion.
Today you should give yourself a gift. Don’t you love gifts? The good news is this one is FREE and will keep on giving as you enter the new year.
It’s the gift of keeping things simple when it comes to your fitness.
For many of us, the holidays are a season of burning the candle at both ends. On top of our regular obligations we are busy planning/attending parties and celebrations, making trips to see loved ones or getting ready for them to visit us, and stressing out over gift giving and putting up the decorations and then taking them down and oh-by-the-way surprise snowfalls, snow days, and generally being winter-ready.
Or maybe we are feeling stressed/sad because this year will be the first (or second, or third) season when things are “different” than we want them to be because of life changes.
No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, give yourself the gift of keeping things simple.
How do you do that? By sticking with the basics that keep you feeling vibrant, well and full of energy.
Don’t expect to follow a big crash diet this season. Likewise, don’t expect to feel great on a diet of cocktails, cookies, burgers and chips.
Instead, aim for covering the basics. Here are ways I cover the basics, and I think they will work for you, too, not just for your holiday season fitness but year-round:
- Take a few minutes for yourself each day — when I had a busy household with little alone time, I used to find the longest line at the grocery store and let myself b r e a t h e while standing there.
- Intentionally sweat a little every day.
- Drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water daily.
- If the weather allows it, go outside.
- Eat at least TWO servings of veggies a day (I know for some of you that is a stretch! Normally I suggest 6 servings, LOL!).
- Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour. That’s easier to control than your get-up time.
When in doubt, always come back to the basics. Being true to the basics 80 percent of the time will give you 95 percent of the results you’re after.
Your body will be happy when you treat it to a regular sweat/eat/drink/sleep cycle.
All of the above is why I’m declaring December the month of moderation! No #beastmode. Let’s get the basics nailed and then we’ll go crazy #beastmode with the new year.
Sound like a plan? Are you going to join me? Let me know! Accountability is KEY!