Staying Motivated, Tip #3: Take these 5 STEPS for Success

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/13/2009 4:58 PM   :  83 comments

In Tip #2, I said that feeling unmotivated is what happens when you fall into “autopilot” mode instead of making conscious choices about your eating and exercise. And I suggested that feeling motivated comes more from making conscious decisions about your own behavior than from the results your behavior produces.

Today’s blog takes a look at HOW being mindful keeps you feeling motivated, even when your choices aren’t always “perfect.” And we’ll talk about a 5-step process you can use to turn your autopilot off and keep yourself mindfully motivated.


Many experts believe that one of the primary building blocks of strong motivation is self-efficacy, which in simple terms is the sense that you can do what you need to do to accomplish your goal. Self-efficacy is not the same thing as general self-esteem, self-confidence, or positive thinking. One way it’s different from these other things is that it is “goal specific”—self-efficacy is not about believing that you can do anything you set your mind to, it’s about believing that you can do the very specific things required to achieve a particular goal.

If you want to develop a strong sense of self-efficacy in connection with your healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss goals, you need to give yourself opportunities to be successful at the small, specific tasks required to meet your overall goal—like making good food choices and sticking to your exercise plans more often than not. You can’t build self-efficacy simply by telling yourself “I can do it” over and over again. You need to have a realistic idea of what actually needs to be done, and frequently demonstrate to yourself that you can actually do those things.

So, now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Oh, great! To get motivated, I just need to start doing the things I haven’t been able to do consistently so far, so I’ll start believing I can do them. Thanks for all the help!” And your sarcasm would be totally justified—except for one key thing.

I didn’t say you had to be successful at these tasks to start developing self-efficacy, I said you need to “give yourself opportunities to be successful” at them. And that brings us back to the issue of mindfulness.

When you’re being mindful, you can build up your sense of self-efficacy just as easily by paying attention to your failures and difficulties as by being successful—and maybe end up more strongly motivated in the process.

You already know this, and you probably do it all the time—but maybe not in connection with eating and exercise. It’s really nothing more complicated than learning from your mistakes as well as your successes. But the ability to do this learning depends on taking charge of your own attitude. If you constantly feel guilty for not being perfect, or tell yourself you’re not motivated, or believe that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, or blame other people/situations for your problems, the only thing you’re going to learn is that you really can’t do what you need to do—and that’s the kiss of death for your motivation.

If, on the other hand, you can kick those kinds of thoughts to the curb for a while, and practice the following five steps instead, you can build your self-efficacy whenever you make a conscious decision, act on it, and notice what happens, regardless of what that decision--or the outcome--is.

The 5 STEPS to Mindful Self-Motivation

Here are the five things you need to do to turn off your autopilot and keep yourself in decision-making mode:

  • Step One. STOP. Whenever you find yourself reaching for something to eat, putting something in your grocery cart, or talking to yourself about what to do with the next chunk of your time, just STOP for a minute—don’t do anything until you give yourself a chance to decide what you really want to do.

  • Step Two. THINK.What do you want/hope to accomplish with this choice you’re about to make? What’s the best thing you can do in this situation to help yourself accomplish that? How do you think you’ll feel after you’ve chosen any of the options you’re considering? Are you willing to choose the option you think will make you feel best afterwards, or is some other factor more important to you at the moment? Be honest and open with yourself—don’t just include the goals or intentions you think you should have. If what you really want right now is to do a little comfort eating, or give yourself a little treat that’s not on your menu, or take a nap instead of exercising, just say so—no rationalizations or excuses necessary or allowed.

  • Step Three. EXECUTE. Once you know what you want to accomplish with this particular choice, and have decided on the best way to make this happen, just do it. And recognize that it’s you making the decision and taking action—not the food, or the couch, or the situation, or the other people involved, or your genes.

  • Step Four. PAY attention to the results. Did your choice give you the results you expected? Did it make you feel the way you thought it would? Is this something you’d be happy to do again? If not, what can you change to get the results you’re hoping for?

  • Step Five. START over again at Step One. Take what you’ve learned and use it to help you figure out what to do next time you have a similar decision to make. Repeat this process as necessary—and it’s always necessary.

    Motivating yourself is really an on-going process of learning what works for you from your own experience, and experimenting with different ways to accomplish that. The key to success is maintaining the same kind of attitude towards yourself that a good scientist needs to have towards an experiment: letting the results determine what you believe, instead of letting what you already think determine the results you see.

    You already have everything you need to motivate yourself from the inside: your desires, your needs, your feelings and reactions, your imagination, your particular skills and talents, and your innate drive towards self-determination and self-development. When you learn how to observe and monitor yourself in action, without passing judgment in advance on how things “should” be, you set up a creative and powerful feedback mechanism that allows you to use both positive and negative experiences to keep adjusting your goals so they’re right for you, and keep yourself moving towards them. That’s where real motivation comes from, if you’re willing to trust yourself enough to give it a chance.

    Do you trust yourself enough to give your internal feedback mechanism a chance to motivate you? Or do your own negative attitudes keep getting in the way?


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    Comments

    • 83
      Yes!

      Stop, and think. It's so simple--and yet so helpful to hear it again. - 4/4/2012   2:34:48 PM
    • 82
      Exxcellent article! Needed this today to make me mindful. - 3/21/2012   11:13:58 AM
    • 81
      Excellent! - 1/22/2012   4:26:11 PM
    • 80
      This is a great article. Matter of fact I took it with me to my local weight loss club and they are actually using it for a program. I also made a blog about the 5 steps and post the results after every club meeting. Thanks SparkPeople !!! - 4/20/2010   4:36:24 PM
    • 79
      Love it, just what i needed today! (i know i am finding it two and a half months after it was published)

      The only thing that may be missing is taking time to CELEBRATE when things go well! - 3/26/2010   3:14:09 PM
    • 78
      I'm copying and pasting this onto my spark page so I can read it every day until it is engraved in my mind! - 2/7/2010   9:58:38 AM
    • CRACKERMOM
      77
      What a great blog! I have been thinking like this lately. I usually act a certain way when I get discouraged, and it is NOT making things any better. I have the power to change my attitude and not give in to the same destructive behavior I used in the past. It is sometimes hard to learn to make new choices, and even harder to know what those choices should be. But with the encouragement and new ideas I've received from other Spark members, I am making progress in the right direction. - 9/17/2009   9:42:20 PM
    • 76
      I need to do this. I have been in auto pilot and keep wondering why the pounds are not falling off. Thanks for the blog. - 7/9/2009   7:24:18 AM
    • 75
      So glad to have you back Coach Dean. Tahnk you for the great advice. - 7/4/2009   8:39:45 AM
    • 74
      I think the thing that frustrates me is that I made it work at one point in time. I did all the right things and came within 2 lbs. of my goal weight. Then an injury took away my exercise routine / flow for 2 months. Winter came. The work to stay on track eroded away and I've lost 2 1/2 years from where I had gotten. My work / home responsibilties changed. I can't seem to get back on that mindset that I once had. Help!
      I will print these ideas out and see if I can use this perspective to find that track once again.... - 5/25/2009   12:33:10 AM
    • 73
      the 5 steps have really helped me thanks - 4/21/2009   6:37:16 AM
    • 72
      Wonderful article...thank you! - 4/17/2009   1:10:23 PM
    • TYME4T
      71
      Thank you for this lifting and inspiring article. - 4/9/2009   4:48:14 PM
    • 70
      Thank you for this article - after so many years of defeat, I am finally learning what it is to live life on purpose - not just to "float" or be carried by the tide. This article reaffirms and strngthens me to keep practicing this - it will get me to where I want to go! - 4/1/2009   4:57:13 PM
    • 69
      Thank you so much for this great article! I have printed it out so I can read it daily...You are the BEST!! - 3/24/2009   10:57:29 PM
    • 68
      Great article- point taken on the art of mindfulness. It is a practiced skill- one that I've been practicing for a bit, so I'm glad to see an article on it. - 2/25/2009   9:45:36 AM
    • KRBRADD
      67
      You make me think I can really get myself under control.
      Thank you sooo much. It seems the older I get the harder it gets to motivate myself. - 2/5/2009   4:30:17 PM
    • 66
      Great article, thanks for sharing. - 2/5/2009   8:31:25 AM
    • 65
      I didn't realise until now that it's a matter of trust. But you're right - it is.
      For years (and years...) I've been sabotaging myself by thinking that I can't *really* trust myself around food - after all, I have an eating disorder. I am stunned by the realisation that just *because* I have an eating disorder, I need to trust myself.
      My "turning point" came with your tip #2 - get off the autopilot and work on staying off it.
      Well, it must be working, because following the STEPS outlined above resulted naturally, even before I read about them here.
      And for the first time since I can remember myself, I don't feel *compelled* to empty my plate.

      Thank you thank you thank you! - 1/21/2009   12:28:36 AM
    • TEEMUL
      64
      Thanks so much for a great article. Mindfulness is definitely a key strategy for success! - 1/18/2009   6:09:50 PM
    • 63
      I've been a sparkpeople.com enthusiast for over a year now. I feel better and do not lose the excitement I had from the first day! Coach Dean THANK YOU for this EXCELLENT article. It is one of the best ones I've read. I copied and pasted it and sent it to myself as a reminder of what a good action STOP is! Again thank you all for the efforts you put in to helping us.
      Lee - 1/18/2009   3:46:36 PM
    • 62
      This discussion of being aware of our decisions is really valuable. I'm realizing how much I and everyone do things on auto pilot...just move through our day without much thought to our action or inaction or our decision making process. Thanks for these series of blogs!! - 1/18/2009   3:44:42 PM
    • 61
      Great reminder in taking responsibility for our positive and not so positive actions. What a motivating way to start our Saturday morning! I am responsible! - 1/17/2009   9:53:15 AM
    • 60
      I'm going to re-read this when I'm a little more rested....think I get it, but not sure. Just know that I am not at my goal weight, but do know that I enjoy this new, "healthy" LIFESTYLE. I have a very difficult time eating or considering eating something that I consider "unhealthy" - not saying that I HAVEN'T, but it is no longer my "norm"..... - 1/16/2009   9:16:54 PM
    • 59
      Wow. Thanks so much Coach Dean! This is exactly what I needed for today. - 1/16/2009   7:55:31 PM
    • 58
      This is a great article! I know you've also written articles on the other side too. When a person is mindfully doing all the right eating and exercising and the scale isn't moving and the clothing isn't getting any looser. - 1/16/2009   12:15:26 PM
    • MATRIARCHMAMMA
      57
      What timing. I've been having these sorts of experiences this week...practicing making conscious choices and learning from them. Mindfulness is the name of the game. I've gotten back to tracking, I've come down 6 pounds, and my mind is healthy. Thanks for your well-timed words and encouragement. - 1/16/2009   11:27:50 AM
    • HOUGHTALENJ
      56
      The article described the 'Zen' of dieting so simply... - 1/16/2009   9:04:25 AM
    • 55
      This is a great article. You have given some great tips to follow for a successful program , especially with weight loss. Thanks for great advice. - 1/15/2009   11:42:14 PM
    • LFARRINGTON84
      54
      I lost 12 lbs with SparkPeople a while back and I THOUGHT I had changed my lifestyle but in retrospect I had been dieting. I gained back half the weight, but about a month ago, I started using SparkPeople again. I can really feel that its different this time. I'm making conscious decisions to be healthy and I don't feel deprived by the lifestyle anymore. Its really pretty exciting! I've never been this motivated and I'm finally happy with myself - even though I'm not at my goal weight yet. - 1/15/2009   5:08:58 PM
    • 53
      This is very helpful - Thanks - 1/15/2009   5:00:03 PM
    • 52
      I am loving this series on staying motivated. Great reminders. After I read this, I put away the almonds I was munching on at my desk. Yes, it's a healthy snack, but only in moderation, and I had gone past that already. - 1/15/2009   12:33:09 PM
    • 51
      JUST IN TIME! The scale went up and I went down. Funny how I know that numbers can lie, but just let that scale move in the wrong direction and I start looking for the chocolate. Thanks for the lift. - 1/15/2009   10:49:41 AM
    • 50
      Wow, that's a powerful message, and great "food for thought".
      Thanks so much.
      MistyPaws - 1/15/2009   10:44:00 AM
    • ANGELBABY4448
      49
      thank you soooo much!! - 1/15/2009   9:26:24 AM
    • BOTAYLOR11
      48
      Thank you!!! - 1/15/2009   8:51:13 AM
    • 47
      Thank you, Coach Dean! I love this series. You're the guru of motivation, mixing inspiration, information, common sense, and tough love! - 1/15/2009   3:40:36 AM
    • 46
      Thanks. - 1/15/2009   1:19:01 AM
    • 45
      My only Motivation Obstacles, are Life & Health sometimes get in the way : ( - 1/14/2009   9:25:35 PM
    • 44
      Ayup. Keeping mindful, knowing who is making the choices.
      Thanks. I relish your words. - 1/14/2009   8:57:45 PM
    • 43
      Thanks. I'm putting a copy of the five steps in my pantry and another one in my fridge! - 1/14/2009   8:43:54 PM
    • 42
      Now that is advice worth trying. The battle really is with the mind and not the stomach. Thanks for sharing! - 1/14/2009   6:12:22 PM
    • 41
      My local team is doing Weekly Challenges this year. We pick 3 or 4 things to work on each week, and then daily indicate YES or NO as to whether we accomplished each thing. Generally, the challenges include something nutritional, something to do with exercise, and something personal (such as playing with the cat, playing outdoors with a son, cleaning a closet, cleaning the kitchen, etc.). We seldom report a NO two days in a row (at least, not without an explanation) - there's something about having to admit you didn't do such a simple thing as spend 15 minutes cleaning the closet that makes you determined to do it the next day! By the end of the week, we decide whether to keep these mini goals for the next week, or we can pick something else to work on. We also make a point to word each goal in a positive way; i.e., instead of "Don't eat any sweets", the goal might be to "Eat within the calorie limit for the day." The daily reports help keep us motivated and help us support each other. - 1/14/2009   2:35:28 PM
    • 40
      As always, great advice & like others have already said, I'm really enjoying this series! Keep writing, Coach! - 1/14/2009   2:26:00 PM
    • VIKKIG2
      39
      Thanks for the 5 step plan. I was using # 1 mostly. It's great to follow those other steps - especially # 4 - I love my results and know I need to continue to make wise choices and not fall back into old habits. - 1/14/2009   2:00:34 PM
    • 38
      I love this series! Thank you, Coach Dean! - 1/14/2009   1:55:51 PM
    • NELLGWYN
      37
      Dean, thank you! You have put into words what I have been thinking about recently & trying to do more often than not. - 1/14/2009   1:48:57 PM
    • 36
      Thank you! This is a terrific series! - 1/14/2009   11:47:23 AM
    • 35
      Great Article, I put them on the cover of my journal, great to take with me when going food shopping, then again can be used for all aspects of my life....Thank you. - 1/14/2009   11:05:54 AM
    • 34
      Mindful eating is a great way to change our lives. This kind of thoughtfulness seeps over into all aspects of our lives.
      - 1/14/2009   9:44:44 AM

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