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Andrew Radcliffe


November 8, 2023

Unlocking Lasting Motivation: The Habit-Driven Approach to Success

How do I stay motivated?"

It's a question we've all asked ourselves at some point in our quest for personal growth and self-improvement. Many of us have fallen into the trap of believing that motivation is the holy grail, that it's the secret sauce to unlock our full potential. We picture ourselves waking up each morning brimming with enthusiasm, ready to tackle our workouts, and sticking to our diets without hesitation. But the truth is, it's not that simple.

The truth is, motivation is unreliable. It ebbs and flows and won't consistently deliver the results you seek. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't seek motivation, as it can provide a helpful kickstart and occasionally pull you out of a rut. However, relying on it and viewing it as the magic solution only sets you up for disappointment.

I get it; this post might sound a bit disheartening...

But here's the key: the less you let motivation dictate your actions, the more you can concentrate on your routines and habits—the factors that genuinely shape your life.

Let me illustrate why motivation can be problematic:

Imagine it's a Friday night, and you're out to dinner with friends. One of them raves about their new diet and how fantastic they feel. Right then and there, you decide to make a change and join them, declaring, "I'll start working out and dieting on Monday!" (We've all been there.)

Sunday night arrives, and it's time to prepare food. You're exhausted from a busy weekend, but you still manage to pack a healthy lunch for the next day, even including a few snacks.

Monday comes, and you skip breakfast, thinking you don't need those extra calories. By 9:30 am, you're anxiously awaiting your snack. You devour yogurt and fruit, feeling like a diet champion.

Lunchtime rolls around, and your salmon and rice taste divine. You're thrilled about your choices, super motivated!

However, on the drive home, hunger strikes again, and you didn't plan for dinner. You manage to grab something healthy from a local takeout spot, like a salad with chicken.

When it's time to unwind after a hectic Monday, you opt for Netflix and chill.

Then, it hits you—no preparations for tomorrow. But it's alright; you'll grab something healthy on your way to work.

Morning arrives, and you skip breakfast because of those extra calories. No snacks today, but you do pick up a muscle milk from Wawa along with a tuna wrap. By the time you get home from work, you're famished, and pasta is on the menu.

You repeat this pattern until you reach Friday, just barely hanging onto the idea that you're dieting. You feel like a failure because Patty is nailing her diet while you can't make it a week. Dieting seems impossible, and you contemplate trying something new next week, like that lemon water cleanse Rhonda mentioned.

It's astonishing how different this story could have been if you had set yourself up for success by working on your diet strategy rather than diving in headfirst on day one.

Do you need to start with a full-on HIIT workout, meal prep for the entire week, or commit to 30 minutes of meditation? Absolutely not!

Begin with a low bar—choose something that requires minimal effort or time. You could go for a brief walk around the block, prepare a double batch of veggie stir-fry for dinner (so you have a healthy lunch for tomorrow), or take a 3-minute breathing break to center yourself.

Let's take a different approach to this example:

On a Friday night, you feel highly motivated to make a change and embark on a diet and workout program (even though you haven't been consistent in either).

Come Sunday, instead of stressing about crafting perfect meals for the entire week, you focus solely on your breakfast for the next five days. You whip up an egg bake casserole, which takes just 10 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake (all while watching the Eagles trounce some hapless team).

You also schedule your workouts (starting with a 10-minute walk after work before dinner).

Your sole measure of success for the week is:

  • Did you have breakfast every day?
  • Did you complete your 5-10 minute walk after work each day?

Now, that's something you can build upon. You feel accomplished because you've incorporated healthy habits without derailing your life. You're motivated and may even consider adding another healthy habit (for the second week, you're planning to pack a protein shake for your morning snack).

There may be weeks when you can't add anything new, and that's perfectly fine. In fact, there may be weeks when you need to scale back on a habit because it's too taxing. The main focus is consistency in performing these healthy actions daily. They should be non-negotiable.

Stop setting yourself up for failure with an all-or-nothing approach. This method doesn't work for those leading busy, normal lives. It may have worked in your early 20s when you could call in sick to work after a night of heavy drinking, but it doesn't fit your current lifestyle, and that's okay.

Remember, the goal isn't perfection; it's progress. A year from now, you'll be unrecognizable to your former self.

Concluding Thoughts:

As you embark on your journey to maintain motivation and build healthy habits, remember this crucial piece of advice: future you will thank current you for investing in these habits rather than relying solely on motivation. It's the consistent daily actions, the small, manageable steps, that ultimately shape your future self.

By setting achievable goals and focusing on building habits, you're ensuring a more sustainable path to success. Your efforts may not always result in immediate, eye-catching transformations, but they create a foundation for lasting change.

So, when the allure of motivation wanes, and it will, you can count on your habits to keep you on track. Over time, you'll look back at your journey with pride and gratitude for your commitment to progress. Future you will be the living testament to the power of steady, persistent effort. Embrace the journey, and remember, your future self is cheering you on every step of the way.

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