10 Tips for Maintaining Your Motivation, #2: The One Thing You Should NEVER, EVER Do.

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week, in the first of 10 Tips on Maintaining Your Motivation, I talked about the importance of framing your healthy lifestyle goals in positive language.

There is, however, one very basic and important goal that everyone should have on their list, and it really needs to be expressed in the strongest possible negative terms: Do NOT do this, EVER!

So, what is this one thing you should never do? Read Tip #2 to find out...

The one thing you should never, ever do is tell yourself you’re not motivated.

I don’t care how unmotivated you feel, or how often you end up not sticking to your eating and exercise goals. None of this means you’re not motivated, and telling yourself that is what it means is really the only thing you can do that will actually wreck your motivation.

You can survive and overcome virtually any obstacle or problem you run into on your path to a healthy lifestyle–as long as you don’t talk yourself out of trying by saying you’re not motivated. The only time it makes sense to say you’re not motivated is when you really mean that you don’t want to lose weight, eat healthy, or get more fit. If you do want those things, then you’ve got all the motivation you need, even if it looks to you like you must not want them enough to do what’s necessary to make them happen.

You just have to figure out how to tap into that motivation at the right time. Telling yourself that you’re not motivated is really the only thing that can keep you from learning how to do this.

Feeling motivated is what happens when the decisions and choices you’re making are consistent with your goals. Feeling un-motivated is what happens when you’re not really making conscious choices at all–you’re just responding mindlessly to various triggers in your environment, or operating on “autopilot” based on old habits and conditioned behavior. To put it another way, you could say that the opposite of feeling motivated is feeling helpless, powerless, or unable to make the “right” decisions. But it’s hardly ever true that you actually are helpless, powerless or unable to make the choices you want.

What is pretty rare is for people to make choices that are truly inconsistent with their goals. Unless someone or something is literally forcing us to do something else, we normally do pretty much what we actually want to do. The problem is that we almost always want more than one thing, and sometimes one thing we want isn’t consistent with another one.

In practical terms, this usually translates into a conflict between immediate gratification (like eating what you want when you want it, or chilling on the couch instead of exercising) and delayed gratification (like eating and exercising the way you know you need to if you want to lose weight and feel better down the road).

The big mistake people often make is thinking that, if you’re “motivated,” it will be easy to say “no” to the immediate gratification and “yes” to the delayed gratification, because that’s what you “really” want. That’s nonsense. And it’s also a mistake to assume that delayed gratification is inherently superior to immediate gratification. We all want both our immediate satisfactions and the satisfaction of achieving a longer term goal–that’s the way we’re built, and we need both types of gratification to stay sane, healthy, and functional.

Getting down on yourself for wanting the immediate gratification is to deny half of who and what you are–and that will always cause more problems than it could ever solve. But that’s exactly what you do every time you tell yourself that you’re “not motivated” when you go for the immediate gratification at the expense of your longer term goal. You are motivated, you've just made a choice between two different things you want.

The great irony here is that telling yourself that you’re not motivated is really the only thing you can do that will actually keep you from making the choices you want . If you simply admit that you want two different things, and will usually have to make a choice between them, you give yourself the ability to actually make that choice. You might decide to make one choice now, and the opposite one later, but that’s fine. You’ll know that it’s you making the choice, not some character defect or some mysterious problem called “lack of motivation.” And you’ll know that you can make the other choice any time you want to do that. No more wasting time and energy wondering what’s wrong with you or your motivation.

So, here are your assignments for this next week:

  • Take “I’m not motivated” out of your vocabulary.
  • Refuse to put yourself down for going for the instant gratification when you do that. Instead, ask yourself whether you stopped and gave yourself time to make a real decision, or whether you were on autopilot.
  • Do some thinking about how you can keep yourself off autopilot and in decision-making mode more of the time.

    In next week’s blog, we’ll talk more about switching off the autopilot and being more mindful.

    Do you feel unmotivated a lot? Do you think that’s really true, or could you be sabotaging your own motivation by expecting that “being motivated” means it will be easy to make the “right” choice all the time?

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    YMWONG22 9/6/2020
    Thank you. Report
    There are some days when I do lack motivation but normally I think about doctor's appointment and get my behind in gear. Thanx SP!!! Report
    Great series of blogs! Thank you. Report
    thanks Report
    Good things to think about... Report
    Great article Report
    Great article! Report
    Wow! LOVED THIS! And so timely, as I was just having a similar conversation with my mother, who after 6 months of dieting has begun to unmindfully sabotage all her progress. Thank you so much for this. I’ve sent her the article & hopefully it will make a difference! In any case, it’s food for thought! :-) Report
    Excellent article Report
    good article Report
    I really like this article! Report
    This set of 10 articles are my favorite ones! I refer back to them a lot! Report
    Boy. Oh boy. This is what I needed today. I was saying to self just this morning. I am not motivated..but your sharing re this thought is inspiring or itself. Thank you. I know I will make better choices today . Report
    You have really made me think through this process i struggle with, and then gave us the tools to be successful. Thanks for a great blog! Report
    You've published some terrific articles on here, Dean, but this is one of the best. I really appreciate your analysis of the conflicts we encounter in working through life's challenges (of any sort). Understanding and awareness are at least half the battle and you've provided excellent tools for both. Report
    AWESOME! Thanks for helping me to close a huge loophole in my program! I love that perceptual shift from "not motivated" to "not realizing I'm experiencing a conflict between delayed and instant gratification. Wow, 2012 IS going to be an amazing new year. Everybody, read this blog! Report
    Thank you, this blog comes at such a good time for me. All along I've used "Im just not motivated" as my crutch. It has been however, a bloody excuse. I am motived, and I will make better choices. Thank you :) Report
    As Gru from "Despicable Me" would say, "Lightbulb." Report
    Thanks for this! It was well timed for me. I can make choices and enjoy them, for instant and delayed gratification without beating myself up! I don't lack will power or motivation, I just lacked conscious choice making! Report
    AHA-FRACKIN-MOMENT!!!! I always considered myself an emotional eater because I thought I was eating when I was bored but that never felt quite right. Reading this article I realized that is NOT IT AT ALL! I'm an autopilot eater. I turn off the decision making part of my brain because I want instant gratification but don't want to own that. According to Maya Angelou 'you do what you do when you know what you know'. I can do better and now I know how. Thank you so much! Report
    Each time I said I was struggling to feel more motivated, I felt like such a failure, which just compounded the problem. At the same time, I do a great deal of reading about the laws of attraction and the power of words - that what I put out into the universe was going to be my reality. Thank you for a fresh way of looking at motivation that can help me to remember to be in charge & stay positive! Report
    I just posted my status as I'm not ... Guess I need to go change that. Now to go get moving. :) Report
    That's a good point about being on autopilot. It's so important to realize that we are, in fact, continually making choices. This blog made me more aware of the choices I make, and why I make them. Thank you. Report
    Since joining SP and faithfully checking in, there hasn't been a single day I have NOT been motivated by something on the site or by my own progress. I can't believe it took me this long to discover the perfect maintenance program! Report
    Coach Dean, you are a genius. You can take a topic like motivation and make us understand that we really are in control and not a bad person, or some kind of a reject for giving in to temptation. We are in control! Next time I decide to have that yummy piece of cheesecake, I am going to self talk, ask myself if I really want it, then make "my" choice. No negative talk after. The next time I have a choice, I may say "no", its not worth it. Again that is my choice!
    Thanks Coach Dean, I am one of your biggest fans! Report
    Good article. It's so much easier to say 'I'm not motivated,' because somehow that seems to be somebody else's fault. To actually clearly understand that in this moment I am making a choice between two things means taking on full responsibility for my own actions, and that's something I've been avoiding for my whole life. It is so much easier to think of myself as being a slave to some internal drives that I have no control over, rather than seeing it as me making choices.
    Spark is helping me keep those two things clear in my mind. Report
    Thinking on good things...I can and I will. Report
    Great blog! Thanks for motivating all of us! Report
    Speak motivation into your work out, job, diet, relationships, whenever it may be. Remove the negative words and know that you can do all things through Christ, who strenthens us! Report
    I used to think all of this "only talk positive" stuff was crazy talk, but I'm beginning to get excited about the possibility of its truth. I'm the kind who makes a poor choice and then feels like an idiot afterward (did it just this afternoon). I really like this article because it reminds me that I really am in control (I know when I'm something I shouldn't...I mean not eating more things that I should). I need to remember that it's "nonsense" to think that making poor choices makes me a failure. That's probably the biggest reason I haven't been able to stay motivated long enough to finish the job I've started so many times.

    -j Report
    Thank you for explaining instant and delayed gratification vs. motivation. I now know that I AM motivated all the time. Your distinction between instant and delayed gratification was an "aha" moment for me because I have been working so hard to explain to other Sparkers that there is no need to beat yourself up for one misstep, mistake, or step backwards--even if it is all in one day. It truly is a learning experience but only if one learns something about each step backwards and learns how to figure out what can get them back on track. At first it was a lot of work for me, and now it is fun learning what makes me stay on track (or go off track). It's like becoming my own best friend--truly a joyous journey! Report
    Thanks for the blog. I have to learn to be more positive and thinking more positive for sure. i think i can, i think i can. Report
    I hear people say that they are quitting smoking, exersizing more and dieting all at the same time. And I want to just yell at them. Take one thing at a time or you will never stick with your program. Report
    Just found this, and it really comes at an opportune time for me. I've been telling myself I'm unmotivated for MONTHS now. I really needed to read this right now. Thanks for such a great blog! Report
    Coach Dean, you seem to be reading my mind. This is the second article of yours I've read the past two days that fit perfectly into a blog I recently wrote. You do a wonderful job of explaining how we can let our thoughts control us or we can control them. Thank you! Report
    Indeed it's a very good article. Change isn't easy, but it will be well worth in the long run. If I look at the big picture (the amount of weight I need to lose) it's too overwhelming (actually it depressing). So I choose to look at each simple win or change as a piece of that picture. And when it all comes together, I'll have a picture of a healthy, energized, confident individual. Report
    I do feel unmotivated often, but I attribute that to extremely hot weather in the summer and harsh winds all other times. Also, depression does not help. Report
    Thanks for the article, I really needed this. Report
    That is me at this very moment (and for at least a month's worth of moments so far)! I have been a huge proponent of "Don't Over think It, Just Do It" but seems I'm my own worse patient. I have to just stop being so lazy. Oops... there it is again, saying the same thing but using different words. STOP IT. Report
    COACH DEAN RULES!!! everything you say makes so much sense to me. you are my rock. nancy Report
    Thanks for the blog/article! It made a lot of sense to me and really "spoke" to me for how I'm feeling today. It would be nice to be able to turn off the auto-pilot for belittling yourself for going for the Instant Gratification.... :o) Report
    Well ... DUH!!! This article makes so much sense, if it had been a snake it would have bit me! (Freudian finger slip made me type "snack" instead of snake. Oops! LOL) Report
    I had to read the article a few times to figure out how it related to me, which was a very useful exercise. Interestingly, when I tell myself I'm unmotivated its when I literally just don't think eating right/exercise is worth the effort and want to quit. I try to use telling myself that as a trigger for trying to figure out WHY I feel that way though, usually there is a deeper issue than not wanting to exercise of course. On the flip side, I feel like being motivated means that whatever choice I end up making, I am making it with some sort of conscious thought to the choice and its being made with the knowledge that I DO want to be healthier and I am working that way.

    Luckily, I have had very little problems with auto-pilot choices, so that doesn't really factor into my motivational issues. Report
    Yikes, you were describing me when I'm on autopilot and shove food down whether I really am hungry or not. I never gave it too much thought but I will now. This was an article that needs to be read frequently. Thank you. Report
    Thank you! I have been questioning my motivation lately, as I have been repeatedly succumbing to emotional eating. I DO want this, badly. But there are times that I just want to make the pain go away. I KNOW it's a bad idea, that it won't help in the long run, even as I do it. Yet logic is a blunt weapon against emotions.

    This has given me a new perspective. Perhaps I can now better apply my energy to figuring out better ways to deal with my demons. I waste too much questioning myself. Report
    Great article...thanks Report
    Coach Dean comes up with such great blogs! Thanks Dude!
    I totally relate to what he is saying here. For so long I have "felt" like such a failure and so "unmotivated".. but the fact that I am STILL HERE, STILL WORKING at overcoming this addictive behavior is proof positive that I am totally motivated. Because I, at times, revert to the creature of habit I have become accustomed to being for a lifetime, that in itself doesn't mean I am a failure. Never again will I believe that lie. Each time I fall, I will get right back up and someday I will win this race!
    The fact that I (or you) are here today, reading this is PROOF that we are winners! Report
    Wow this really hit home with me, when ever I make good progress and then have a string of weak instant gratification momments I tell myself that I have lost motavation and then I never start making the right choices for me to be healthy. I am taking that phrase out of my vocabulary forever. I really needed to hear this today, as I start day 2 of making choices that will help me achieve my weightloss goals, after months of telling myself I'm not motivated. Next time I want to go on a junk food eating binge I will take the time to stop and ask myself if I really want it or if I am just on "autopilot". Thanks so much!!! Report