One of the biggest challenges people have when they are committed to living a healthier life is staying motivated (I like to call it “inspired”).
If I had the secret sauce I could pour all over your steak to give you lifelong, unwavering inspiration, I would!!
Alas, I don’t.
But I do have some fantastic tools up my sleeve to help you regain your inspiration.
One of the most important ones is to look at any new habit you are creating and ask yourself the question, “What do I get out of it?”
When you ask yourself this question, it is important that the reward is realized within 12 hours.
So, let’s say you are having trouble staying inspired to stop nighttime eating.
You would ask yourself, “If I stop eating at 7 PM, what’s my reward?”
And in case you’re wondering, you are already most likely asking this question in an unconscious way.
When you choose to eat in a way that you know is not aligned with your goals your brain is unconsciously asking the other parts of your brain, “Hey, should we do this? And if so, what’s the payoff? Is it worth the effort? Do we really care?” And finding out that it is NOT worth the effort.
When the consensus in our brains is that “we” don’t care enough to make the effort (ie: not enough motivation/inspiration) then we go with the choice that will give the quickest payoff, health be damned.
We’re hardwired to be selfish!
We’re hardwired to look for quick and fast returns on our investment.
We want to feel good and we want to feel good NOW!
This is why in our programs we ask our clients to find quick and measurable rewards for their new habits.
Going back to the example of someone trying to stop nighttime eating.
Once you ask the question, “If I stop eating at 7 PM, what’s the reward?”, you better have an answer or you probably won’t stop eating at 7 PM.
I used to be addicted to nighttime eating. One method I used to overcome this was to focus on the quick rewards I got from NOT eating after 7 PM.
What did I find?
First, I noticed that I slept better. SCORE!
Second, I realized that the meditation session I have before bed every night was so much easier and more enjoyable if I wasn’t full or stuffed.
Now, when I think, “Hmmmmm….one more cookie can’t hurt” OR “I’m just going to snack a little more”, I stop myself because I remember that I WANT to have a good meditation and sleep well MORE than I want to eat that food.
My brain is going through that process of weighing the pros and cons and it comes up with more cons from eating the food than pros. I feel a well of willpower in my body and I decide not to eat more food.
In all health-building endeavors, there is a process. The process starts with awareness and a desire for change.
Then we figure out what we want to do and commit to doing it.
Then we have to take action.
Ideally, we take small baby steps and over time develop a strong habit.
But in the midst of all this, we need to have motivation/inspiration in order to stick at it long enough for it to become a habit.
This is where most people rely on willpower. NOT a good idea. Willpower is just not reliable.
So…we have to stay inspired (and set up our environment for success).
How do we stay inspired?
By showing our brains that the effort is worth it!
Hence, the 12-hour or less positive payoff for our efforts.
I’ll give you another example.
A few years ago I decided I wanted to improve my sleep.
But I found that I had the habit of staying up late and I liked that. I didn’t want to go to bed early!! (imagine a 3-year-old child stomping her feet and screaming).
But when I realized that when I got into bed at 9:30 I had a lot more energy the next day I knew I had a quick and measurable payoff.
So, at bedtime, when I was having a bit of an internal struggle (3-year-old self arguing with adult self) I was able to prevail with reason because I had measurable evidence that it was completely worth it to put down my device and get in bed.
So, if you are struggling with making the right decisions, use this tool.
You will have to find YOUR “rewards”. I can’t find them for you.
Play around with it. Try something new and see if you feel better. Pay attention to what’s in it for you within 12 hours of doing that thing. It could even be as simple as a sense of accomplishment.
Another example is eating more fiber.
See how you feel when you eat more fiber.
Do you have fewer cravings? Do you feel hungry less often? Do you feel more satisfied after your meals? Do you have better bowel movements? Any one of those rewards would be worth the effort of eating more fiber. Emphasize that in your mind.
“Hey, when I make the effort to eat more fiber, I feel so much better, I have less hunger, I think about food less, and I feel more satisfied AND I am having good bowel movements every day!”
Keep reminding yourself over and over again. You are getting a big payoff for your efforts. SCORE!
This WILL help with your motivation and you will be on your way to developing a new strong habit of eating more fiber!