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

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?