How to stay motivated — even when times are hard.
Many of you have asked me how I stay motivated with my goals and what has helped me stay inspired during not only my fitness journey, but also on my professional life. For this reason, I’ve decided to write this article.
Enjoy the read!
When you are just sick and tired… what to do?
Do you know when you fight relentlessly for a goal, you are super motivated and on track, but then weeks or months pass by, and suddenly it comes to a point where… you are just sick and tired of it?
Well, we’ve all been there. It is certainly not an easy moment to be in, but this is also a normal human behavior: there is no way we can be pumped up all the time, and once something is not a novelty anymore, things start getting tricky.
So, here is some of my experience on how to keep going when times are hard. By the way, it is important to mention that I’ve used these strategies not only for fitness, but for many other aspects of my life.
Before anything… don’t be like Alice!
Firstly, I already talked about the fact that you have to understand what is it that you want to achieve in the first place, when you are on your journey towards a better life, body or mind.
One of my favorite movies of all times is “Alice in Wonderland”.
My favorite moment is when Alice is lost and meets the Cat. When she asks the cat for a direction on which way she should go, he asks her the following question:
“Where do you want to go?”
Alice tells the cat she doesn’t really know where she wants to go. The cat, then, replies:
“Then in doesn’t really matter which way you go”.
What does it mean? If you don’t know where you want to get, any way will be fine, and you won’t be tracking your progress.
That being said, let’s move to the actual tips:
1. Keep track of your journey and document it
Once you start off, make sure to keep track and document your progress, preferably on a daily basis. I know that’s sometimes hard to do, but you could always find a flexible way of doing so, and it will really help you create a sense of achievement, know where you stand, and also look back on what has happened. Here are some of the ways you can do that:
Create a Diary/Journal: Keeping a diary of your progress on one or more habits is a great way to visualize you journey. On the left side, you can see the example from a friend of mine on how she has decided to track her habits during the month.
Since my artistic skills are quite limited, I have decided to personally use a board where I color-code my days in terms of food and exercise (green means I followed perfectly, yellow means average, red means bad). In the end, it’s up to you to define what works and what doesn’t, as long as you do it.
Another thing I do is to take pictures of my physique in a monthly basis, always wearing the same clothes and on the same positions. Then I can compare and see small changes that I wouldn’t be able to notice otherwise. Specially when you put all those pictures together, let’s say, after 6 months, you will see how much you have evolved and this will give you a great sense of accomplishment. I already book the time to do so on my calendar, so I don’t forget about it.
Use different Applications: In case you are more of a tech person, you can use different applications to track your goals and your habits. A good example is Strides, a very complete goal/habit tracker that allows you to choose between exercise, weight, water, getting up, reading, budget,etc…The good thing about Strides is that it’s fully customization, but there are others too, such as Headspace, Nutritionix (to track your food), MyfitnessPal, etc.
2. Find your community of support
As human beings, we need to connect to others around us and create a sense of community so we are happier. Find the people that are doing (or trying to do) the same as you are, as they will very probably experience the same challenges as you.
I am part of different whatsapp groups on topics I care about, and I also follow other communities on social media. However, what really helps me, specially on hard days, when I feel like giving it all up, is to give these friends a call and share my struggles.
I still prefer the idea of meeting peers for a coffee or going to events where I can meet like-minded people. I also go to many innovations events, sports events, among others, as this is the best way to find a new tribe.
3. Take time to reflect on your achievements and improvements
Whether you’re doing all the work to document your journey or not, it’s always good to stop for a bit and reflect on where you stand in terms of your life as a whole. For that, I usually take 2–3 hours every quarter to do a personal “quarter review”, where I really take a 360 degree view into my life and how it has evolved during the quarter.
If you need some guidance on how to do your quarter review, I have a great article to recommend. You can find it here.
4. Focus on the “Do something” principle
When we lack inspiration to do something, then the most common reaction is to give it all up, and directly feel guilty afterwards. That usually leads us to stop completely whatever we are doing, because, well… our inspiration is gone.
The main issue with this behavior is the following: we believe that if we’re not inspired, everything is over. Then, we don’t take action and we sit and wait until this inspiration strikes again.
This is how we usually see things:
However, I’d like to challenge your thought on this one. Because the truth is: Inspiration is a result of action, not a cause to it.
“When I was in high school, my math teacher Mr. Packwood used to say: ‘If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t just sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.’” Mark Manson, on “The Subtle Art of not giving a fuck”
The challenge, thus, is to start working on something, even though we are not inspired at all. Inspiration will come, as you can see on the example below:
That’s the “Do Something” Principle. Pretty simple, right?
Bottom line: Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
5. One habit at a time
I know, we all have those moments where we want to completely change our lives… We want to eat healthy, go to the gym, sleep 8 hours a day, be productive at work, learn 3 languages… But guess what? If you do it all at once, you will fall off tracks very quickly. Why is that? As humans, we are not prepared to take up so many changes at once.
According to James Clear, author of the book “Atomic Habits”, the best way to make habits stick is by making small changes, and choosing one habit at a time to focus on.
Matt D’avella, a famous minimalist youtuber, has decided to add a new habit every month, across the whole year of 2019. His journey is very interesting and I recommend you check it out!
Summing up: It only depends on you.
Staying motivated is not something easy, because it is impossible to be motivated all the time. However, sticking to our habits and goals will make us happier in the longer term, and it depend on us to keep it going even when times are hard.
Often times, we externalize the responsibility for us not sticking to our plan, but as you can see from the tips above, all of them start with you. In the end, Motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside.
And I wish you the best of luck fostering this journey!
By the way, what are other tips you have on staying inspired?
Feel free to share them below!