Progress is the most effective form of motivation. So, if you want to stay motivated you must set yourself up for progress. Long-term this is setting yourself up for success.
So, how do we ensure progress is made?
Firstly, make a goal. (Read more about effective goal setting in this article.)
Your BIG goal is an outcome/performance goal. Once you’ve established the outcome or performance goal you should then work out the processes which will inch you towards the BIG goal. These are your process goals.
Process goals are small actions which you need to repeatedly do to reach the BIG goal. So you need a strategy to ensure you do them over and over until you reach the end goal. The best way to this is to make the process goals a habit. For example, if you want to lose 10lbs of fat at a rate of 1lb per week you need to be in a calorie deficit (link to article) of about 500kclas a day for 10 weeks. So, you need to track your nutritional intake and your weight. Two progress goals which support this BIG goal are using a foo diary and weighing yourself. Your process goals might be to track your food in MyFitnessPal every day and to weigh yourself every Monday, Thursday and Saturday morning. Another good idea would be to buy a calendar, stick it somewhere clearly visible as home and tick off each day you hit your 500kcal deficit.
That little example, gives you some ideas of tactics to use to reach a goal. Apply the same approach to any goal and you will greatly increase your chances of success. To achieve something BIG then you need to make the little steps which contribute towards it a habit.
Habits get done every day, without fail and without you even thinking about them. They keep you doing the basic actions day in day out. If you consistently do the basics, exceptionally well, then you will make progress. Make progress and you are likely to stay motivated. Being motivated means you are more likely to stick to the habits AND add to them. This becomes a positive cycle of progress and motivation pushing each other onwards and upwards as you get closer and closer to your goal.
In time, you will have layer upon layer of positive habits. More positive habits, layered on top of others add up. This creates a snowball effect where you end up hurtling towards your goals at top speed.
Creating habits and routines:
To support your habits try and fit them into your routine. Make them a fixture in your every day life.
Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles. If something is part of your routine, then it happens almost without thinking. You don’t waste energy on planning the task.
In fact, you shouldn’t waste your precious energy prioritising what to do each day. Instead invest a short amount of time now identifying the key elements which will have the biggest impact. These are your essentials. Create a routine that incorporates them and then follow it. Have the essentials on autopilot. They just happen day, after day, after day. Having a routine enables the difficult to become easy.
Do not procrastinate
Having to make a plan can often be a big hurdle for people. They overthink the issue and try to create the perfect plan. No such thing exists. Perfection is a myth.
Those who search for the perfect plan just end up suffering with a severe case of paralysis by analysis. All of their good intentions go to waste and they end up getting in their own way. Remember that snowball I mentioned earlier? Rather than waiting for the perfect conditions to build a gigantic snowball. Just grab some snow make a little ball and give it a nudge. Get the thing moving. Keep nudging and shoving it until it gathers pace.
Remember…Done is better than perfect!
Now some of you may be thinking about the key elements required for building muscle and losing fat. Perhaps these seem daunting or unrealistic. Tracking your calories on MyFitnessPal…who has time for that? Scheduling 3 hours per week to hit the gym…I’m too busy and tired to fit that in! Pushing hard on the last few reps of a set…that doesn’t sound like fun!
For many of you, I’m sure these kinds of thoughts cross your mind when you start thinking about losing a few pounds or trying to add some size to your arms. You create barriers and excuses in your head and file the “getting in shape goal” under the “too hard category”.
But, it is possible to make the boring and mundane a routine. Something you do every day. Twice a day, even. In fact, everyone reading this will do the same healthy habit each day, twice a day (some of you might even do it three times a day – anyone doing it more often than that probably needs to admit some OCD tendencies ;))
What am I talking about?
Brushing your teeth, of course. It isn’t fun. None of us relish the idea of brushing our teeth but, we know it is good for us. We have done it for as long as we remember and now, we do it every day without thinking.
So, you see, brushing your teeth isn’t fun but, you have made this task a twice daily habit.
You can achieve this with many other small tasks or actions. Think of those process goals which will have the biggest impact upon your success. Now aim to make them as fundamental a part of your life as brushing your teeth.
Make Your Bed – Small wins:
To keep progress coming and to stay motivated set relatively easy mini goals to begin with. Something you have an 8/10 confidence you can achieve. It is not guaranteed but you’d back yourself to do it. This will give you a small sense of achievement. A sign of progress. This will keep you motivated and encourage you to take on a more challenging task. A fantastic example of this comes from Admiral William H. McRaven in his commencement speech to University of Texas 2014. Give it a watch it is well worth it. The exact point i’m talking about is his first lesson from Navy Seal training on why making your bed every morning is such an excellent decision and sets you on your way to success. (It is about 5mins into the video if you want to skip the intro.)
What to do if you are a bad habit creating machine:
Do you find yourself forming bad habits?
Instead of moving towards your goals do you drift further and further away from them as you accumulate more bad habits?
If this is you then you must focus on stopping these bad habits. Otherwise you will just be sabotaging your efforts on a day to day basis.
Is there a certain stimulus or cue that leads to the habit?
For example, a stressful meeting at work means you stop off at the vending machine and grab a chocolate bar on the way back to your desk. If this is the case use that cue to remind you to do something healthy and in-line with your goals instead. Something essential to your success. Use the cue to your advantage by making a concerted effort to use it as a reminder to do something positive.
Perhaps you simply replace the chocolate bar by using the cue to remind you to head to the canteen and get a tuna Niçoise salad. This won’t be easy at first. Of course, the temptation of a chocolate bar is strong. However, each time you perform the new, positive behaviour you strengthen the association in your brain with that cue. In time, you’ll automatically head to the salad bar after that meeting. If you can create a few powerful actions in response to regular cues, then you will be building multiple small wins every day. In time this leads to big results.
So, we have discussed the needs to identify some goals. Create a plan to achieve it. Work out the actions that will help you stick to the plan and achieve the goal. The need to make these actions habits and some strategies to achieve this. We have also covered some ways to turn bad habits into good habits. Now it is time to get to work putting these principles into action. If you do you will see progress. Progress will boost motivation. Motivation being high means you will keep chipping away until the goal is achieved.
I would wish you good luck in reaching your goals but, it isn’t about luck. It is about consistently doing the basics exceptionally well. The basics are in the above article. Now go and strive for excellence!