A note from Hannah: As you already saw, there is some slightly disguised adult language in this post. (That makes it fun, right?)
I started running yesterday in preparation for a 15K in 6 weeks. Yes, that’s right, it’s 6 weeks away and I started yesterday.
I pictured started out with an easy couple of miles, light and fluid like a gazelle. I’m fit right?
I’ve been lifting weights but my muscles were not happy with this now unfamiliar way of moving. I was tight, uncomfortable, and grumpy. I want to quit already.
I need some inspiration. Change is uncomfortable.
Changes are hard and maintaining motivation over a long period of time is a classic human difficulty. I can’t seem to get through day #1 half the time.
I believe that if you are going to invest in a key life change, like training for a race, losing weight, or changing your productivity habits, you want to think about starting in a way that will set you up for long-term success.
It’s going to take more than to “start running.” I need a real mindset shift over here.
Building a strong foundation for change requires intentional thought.
Because sooner or later the usual suspects come knocking on your door: stress, fatigue, pressure, social situations, burnout, and lack of preparedness.
(My day #1 excuse: it’s too cold! It’s going to be an uphill battle with my inner chicken.)
When that moment comes for you, and it always does, two little words stand between all your hard work and the impending self-sabotage.
Those two words cue the U-turn into setback city, often to get lost and not re-emerge to changeville for a long time.
Real change that lasts requires a strategy that addresses the “F#ck-It Factor.” (FIF for short).
What makes you vulnerable to the FIF?
Motivators are the reason you are making the change in the first place. There are some predictably poor motivators, ones that will fail against the FIF early and often.
Here are some POOR, LAME motivators:
- SHOULD and it’s cousin SUPPOSED TO. People don’t like to do what they should. The inner rebel will always say “eff it.”
- MUST or NEED TO. These are based in fear or desperation. When the fear eases up, the crisis passes, must and need to become maybe and sometimes very quickly.
- Relying on someone else. Often someone wants you to do it more than you want to do it. No one likes to be told what to do. Your inner rebel bubbles up and you’ll end up eating potato chips in your car and hiding your receipts from your spouse like a guilty criminal. For example. So I’ve heard.
- Superficial. Motivators that are associated with appearance or are status-based are not sturdy for the long-term. They don’t tend to be compelling and don’t make the foundation for positive life change. You are not changing for your benefit really, only for how you superficially are seen by others.
- Wishy-washy, confusing, or not very defined. Motivators that are unclear simply don’t hold up. If you aren’t really clear about why you are doing something, it will not happen for long.
- Vague. If you can’t clearly hold onto why you are doing something with great specificity, you won’t be able to keep it in view for the long-term.
I suppose relying on my friend who talked me into signing up for this race isn’t going to be enough.
Lasting change is anchored by strong motivators.
How you talk to yourself about why you want to change is the key to being successful. You can create strong motivation if you actually want the change and also talk to yourself very intentionally about why you want this change.
Here are some ideas for motivators that will help you stand up to the FIF:
- Want. Start with “I want to because….”. Why is it that you, and you alone, want to make this change?
- Choice. Understand how the change is your choice. Even if you have enlisted someone to support or monitor you, remember YOU made that happen. Change is about owning your choices. There is no supposed to or because someone said so. You are an adult. Own it.
- Feel. Be clear with how you will feel physically or emotionally different as a result of the change. Understanding the benefits on how it feels to be in your body when you are making this choice, this change. Compare that to what it’s like to not change. I’m motivated to do things that allow me to feel well, energized, even keeled, and able to sleep at night. What physical and emotional feelings motivate you to make your decisions?
- Detailed. Write down your motivators with as much description as you can. Say in as many details why you want this and how it will improve your life. What will be better and different? Focus on the positives as a result from the change.
- Visceral. If you have a strong physical reaction when you write or say your motivators out loud, that will be an indication that you are on track. I want you to feel something powerful. So powerful that “f#ck it” won’t stand a chance.
The truth is, I’m running because I want to feel good about being able to move my body in that way, to feel lighter and looser, and to enjoy the social aspects of running races. It feels good to push myself a little and to have a way to destress and let go. These things will serve me well, if I remember exactly why I’m doing this. I actually have always loved running, if I can remember what it feels like when it feels good. I will soon.
If you really want to make a change, I encourage you to write down your motivators right now. See if you can follow these guidelines. If you want to be brave, write it down in the comments section. I promise to allow only supportive comments towards anyone brave enough to share!
Over time, pay attention to new motivators you didn’t even expect. Keep your list of reasons growing and growing. You can do this!
Let me know how you do. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll update you on my running situation.
About Hannah Curtis, LCSW: I’m the owner and a therapist at New Approaches, a private practice in Portland, Maine, that offers counseling, coaching, and workshops to help you live your best life. I have a side project where I teach big-hearted people the tools to becoming powerful, confident truth tellers at hannah-curtis.com.