Question: I need motivational help. It has always been my biggest fight. No matter what I do, I can’t stay motivated to lose weight or exercise, go to the gym, or eat right. That prevents me from being consistent, which prevents me from making progress. What can I do to finally change that?
Reply: This is one of the most common questions I am asked, and the answer is the exact opposite of what you think.
If you are having trouble getting or staying motivated, please pay close attention.
The problem: motivation is temporary
Most people approach goals like weight loss or building muscle with motivation as the only (or at least primary) factor driving them to consistently do what needs to be done.
That’s great, except for one thing: Motivation is temporary.
It goes up and down over the course of a day, comes and goes over the course of weeks, and disappears completely and eventually (if you are lucky) reappears over a period of months, years and decades.
It’s something that could be there at full strength on Monday but then might not be there at all on Tuesday.
But is that the thing you (and everyone else) relied on to get yourself to consistently do what needs to be done on a daily basis?
It will never work.
It is impossible.
With this approach, you are doomed to fail from the start.
Ultimately, motivation is a wonderful thing to get people to do BEGIN to do something, but it absolutely sucks to get people to keep doing this thing consistently.
Forget about getting or staying motivated
So the real problem here has nothing to do with your lack of motivation or your inability to “stay motivated”.
There is no such thing as “staying motivated”, so permanently remove this concept from your brain and stop wasting your time looking for it.
You will never find it.
Instead, the real problem is your belief that motivation is something you must have in order to exercise consistently, eat right, and do anything else that needs to be done to successfully lose weight, gain muscle, or whatever goal you want to reach.
But it is not.
Take me for example.
Do you think I’m always motivated to exercise? 3-5 days a week? Every week? In the last 15 years?
But I still don’t miss any training sessions.
And do you think I’m always motivated to eat right? And stick to my diet? And eat the right amount of calories / macros every day while keeping the junkie to a minimum?
But I do it anyway.
My big “secret”
How do I do that, you ask?
Do I have extraordinary willpower? Amazing Genetics? A personal chef who cooks all of my meals for me?
Do I have the perfect Instagram feed with the right combination of inspirational quotes? It has to be !!
What I have are habits that I have acquired over time that ensure that I do what needs to be done regardless of whether I feel motivated to do so.
It’s like brushing my teeth every night.
This is not something I am ever motivated to do, but still it is done every night with no mistakes. It’s completely on autopilot and my feelings don’t matter whether I do it or not.
It doesn’t matter if I’m tired. Or busy. Or not in the mood.
It just gets done.
Exercising and eating right are exactly the same thing.
Granted, it will take more time and effort to build these habits than brushing your teeth. We’re comparing one little habit (brushing your teeth) to two really big habits (eating right and exercise) that include dozens of smaller sub-habits.
But the underlying concept is still the same.
So if you manage to brush your teeth every night then you know what? You have what it takes to be consistent with your diet and exercise.
You just have to start approaching them in the same way.
Here’s how …
Step 1: stop relying on motivation
The first step that you have to do is to Stop relying on motivation.
No matter how hard you look to find new and better ways to “get motivated” and “feel motivated” and “stay motivated”, you will always fail.
Regardless of how many motivational quotes, videos, photos, memes, and social media accounts you find, the best you can ever expect is a tiny amount of passing motivation that makes you feel good for a few seconds and then one Feeling leaves you just as unmotivated as you felt before.
And what happens then?
Then you’re back to blaming your inability to stay motivated for not doing what needs to be done. At this point you are looking for the next useless source of temporary motivation that is also failing you.
And then what?
Then this cycle repeats itself over and over again. Over months, years or decades.
If this sounds familiar to you, I recommend the following.
Do you know how much time and effort you put into this cycle of being motivated and then not motivated?
I want you to invest this time and effort into building habits that will allow you to do the important things, even if you don’t feel motivated to do them.
That will be the key to your success (or its lack thereof).
Step 2: start building habits
So … how do you build these habits?
Start by approaching each new habit one at a time, rather than trying to do 100 new things at once. That rarely works.
Instead, pick one thing You can start achieving your goals tomorrow.
- Maybe this only works once or twice a week?
- Maybe this is eating more protein?
- Maybe replace the soda with water?
- Maybe this is tracking your calories?
- Maybe you weigh yourself daily and keep track of the weekly averages?
- Maybe that’s something else entirely.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be perfect or even close. That’ll come later.
For now, pick just one thing and then spend a few weeks focusing on doing that one thing consistently.
Once you’ve done this successfully, repeat this process with a second thing while maintaining the first habit.
Add a third thing a few weeks later.
This approach allows you to gradually build a series of smaller habits that will eventually form the bigger habits you need to be successful.
This is the opposite of what most people do, which is to do EVERYTHING on the first day when they feel a sudden surge of motivation, but inevitably not keep it up when that motivation disappears shortly afterwards.
This approach prevents you from being one of those people.
Step 3: Make sure your habits are “PECS”
PECS is the cute little acronym I came up with a few years ago that stands for Prefers, Enjoyable, Practically, and Sustainable.
And one of the most important things you can do when choosing your diet and exercise habits is Make sure you choose habits that are as PECS for you as possible.
Here is an example of what that means.
Let’s say you know you can manage to hit the gym 3 days a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is your ideal training plan because it is practical and fits best into your daily routine.
So for you this training plan is PECS.
However, you choose to hit the gym 5 times a week instead because you assume “more is better” or you’ve seen an advanced 5-day workout routine that looked cool, or whatever the reason may be.
Do you know what’s gonna happen
You won’t be able to build this exercise habit.
Why? Because it’s not a PECS.
Here is another example.
Let’s say you love carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, bread, etc.) but you have chosen to lose weight on a low-carb diet.
Again, this won’t work well because you are doing things that are not PECS to you. A low-carb diet will only make it much harder for you than it needs to be (and unnecessarily, since a low-carb diet is not remotely necessary to lose weight).
These are just two examples out of many, but the point here is simple.
Don’t just try to build habits.
Try to build the right habits. #PECS
Step 4: watch your habits take off
Do you know what’s great about this approach to building smaller habits one at a time?
It builds momentum.
You have one thing, over another, over another, over another … all of these bring you closer and closer to your goal.
And once you build momentum towards your goal, five wonderful things happen:
- Everything will be easier and easier for you to move on.
- It is much less likely that you will ever stop, stop, or get lost.
- You achieve your goal successfully.
- You care for it successfully afterwards.
- You realize that motivation wasn’t what you needed.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it out and see for yourself.
If you enjoyed this article, you should know that my Superior Fat Loss Program has an entire second book (free) that I call the Mental Aspect of Fat Loss.
It goes deeper into this topic and shows you exactly how to build the habits and the momentum you need to finally get to your goal, instead of letting a “lack of motivation” prevent it from happening.
Try It: Superior Fat Loss