It’s not motivation you are lacking, but persistence and here is how to build it to become an unstoppable warrior goddess.
I can generally tell when someone fills out my goals questionnaire or within a 20 minute conversation whether they are going to follow through on a weight loss or lifestyle change plan.
So what is it that I see in them that determines their success? Any permanent change requires two elements: a plan that works and a willingness to pursue it. But there are strategies to achieve it more quickly or more efficiently but it has to start with a decision.
And here lies the issue. Not all of us are truly decisive.
You know the ‘in with both feet’ decision. Or we are just not able yet to follow through on that decision. We don’t understand the key skills of commitment, persistence and self discipline. The 3 scary words we tend to avoid.
So, let’s stop avoiding them and take a better look…
Motivation is such an incredibly fascinating and complex subject. There are so many factors involved in the ebb and flow of a woman’s motivation. When I think of motivation I think of words like desire and drive. When I think of commitment I think of words like determination, and dedication.
Some of you reading this might think “What’s the difference?
If you have one then you have the other.”, but I think there are subtle yet important differences between the two that are worth teasing out.
The first questions that come to me as I try to tease out those differences are:
What is commitment without motivation?
What is motivation without commitment?
Motivation and commitment leap frog each other throughout the process of working towards a mission or goal. Motivation is what starts you off on your path and commitment is what sees you through to the end.
I love what Scott Young outlines in his blog, ‘Commitment, is not the same as motivation. While motivation is the push to seek rewards and results, persistence is the ability to continue even when those rewards and results don’t appear.’
Persistence is important along with motivation because most goals have vacuums. Vacuums where you get zero positive feedback or encouragement towards a goal. Even if you have motivation, if you lack persistence, you won’t be able to make it through the largest of these vacuums.
Since persistence isn’t the same as motivation, I think it is built up in a fundamentally different way.
It’s a different mental ability, and needs different training.
Doing bicep curls won’t make you run faster, and running a marathon won’t give you large biceps.
Building the mental asset of persistence takes a different approach.’
And his most poignant question is: What about Forever?
I believe that the ultimate level of persistence is when you are willing to continue forever towards a goal, even if you never get any results. This demonstrates the difference between motivation and persistence.
Motivation fails if you foresee the possibility of never reaching your goal. Why bother trying if you’ll never get there?
When you completely remove positive feedback, you’re left with only two sources of momentum to push you forward.
The first is the intrinsic value you draw from the activity. If you’re passionate about something, it is far easier to persist, even if the results don’t come.
This is my main motivation to unschool my child as I wanted to foster his own motivations and passions from an intrinsic value rather than teaching what he should like or not like.
We struggle with understanding the concept of intrinsic value and that is our problem with persistence.
Often we are not even sure what is important to us. We do not define our motivations or passions. We do not strongly value something for fear of projected loss.
I mean, “what’s the point of wanting something, I’m never going to get it, right?”.
Wrong. The first step to achieving anything is to get wickedly obsessed with it. I mean on the verge of obsession and compulsion. Doing it like your life depending on it (and in some cases it just might).
However, few of us seek out, enjoy or harness this emotion. Desire. Because desire can lead to frustration. Desire can take us into a frenzy of negative feelings of fear.
Away from Motivation
The only other source of drive is regret from the alternative. Even you don’t receive feedback, the pain you’d feel from not reaching your goal is less than the pain of giving up and wondering whether you would have made it.
To quote Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
If you have a similar attitude, that regret over lost possibilities might keep you focused in the complete lack of feedback.
Build your Inner Word
Could you imagine what your world would be like if you did the things you said you were going to do?
You know that voice inside your head we were talking about in the previous chapter. The one that we are telling you to ignore if it is downright mean?
Well, could you imagine having a conversation with this voice, telling it you were going to achieve something and then you did.
How would you and that voice react? How do you think your relationship would be with that inner voice?
How do you think this relates to your Inner Will? This strength to do the right thing in challenging times.
These two drivers: Motivation & Building your Inner Word are what I’d collectively call Persistence.
The drive that comes from intrinsically enjoying the path towards an end, and the drive that comes from feeling that you’re doing the best option available, even if you don’t make it. And the drive that everytime you turn up for yourself, you are filled with just that little bit more self esteem, self respect and well pride that you want to do it again and again.
Build in Accountability
Motivation is fueled with positive reinforcement. If I have a successful month in my own training that is incredibly motivating for me to continue going. However, if I plateau for a few months, or even start to regress, my motivation will drop considerably. That’s when I need to rely on those twin back-up drives called persistence.
However, there is one additional resource that is not to be overlooked.
An accountability buddy.
Or in a woman’s life. The power of her tribe, community or circle.[Related post: The Tribe of Sisterhood and the Power of The Circle of Women ]
However simply outwardly expressing your goals, dreams, values or challenges, makes them real. Having someone other than you ‘in it with you’ can be the tipping point of success.
Building the ‘Muscle’ of Persistence
Enough talk about what persistence is, how do you build it? Part of persistence is just improving your self-discipline.
Now, before you freak yourself out over this word, I want to spend some time defining it and singing its praises. It is not a bad or scary word, it does not restrict us or hold us back. In fact it is something you can learn to love as it gives you power and strength. In fact, those that have it love it as it helps to define who they are and helps them achieve their dreams. People think that self discipline is a lack of freedom but it really is the opposite. It’s like a barometer or a rubber band.
It helps us to understand what we are capable of, how far we can go and what we can resist mentally and emotionally before we stop or drop. It can really help us to define ourselves and offer us ideas on where we need to grow our capacity or skills to achieve what we need.
While self-discipline is important in the short-term, I don’t think it is as critical for goals that last years and decades.
Instead, I think the way to improve persistence is to enhance the two forces that make it up. Either by increasing your intrinsic enjoyment of the pursuit, or increasing your resolution that giving up is unbearable.
And of course the repeated actions turn into habits, then into rituals and just become who we are.
This is so true for me as a vegetarian.
At the ripe age of 13 I decided to stop eating meat, I found myself challenged a lot when 25 years ago this lifestyle option was either ignored or laughed upon. I found myself in situations where I either had to choose to forgo eating or standing up for what I believed and reinforcing my own ethical values.[ Related post: Transitioning to a Plant Based Lifestyle: Why, How and What to Eat?]
Finding Joy in the Doing: Intrinsic Enjoyment
The first step to this is easy, don’t work on goals you can’t enjoy. Don’t start a healthy eating plan if you don’t like eating healthy food.. Don’t start a training regimen if you hate feeling fit. Don’t read a book if you don’t like the subject.
OK, this may sound a little simplistic. And given my vegetarian example, it’s not quite the point I want to make. I had a belief, an ethic I wanted to uphold and that was a greater value to me than eating a hamburger. At 13 did I prefer the taste of vegetables to hamburgers, ah no. In fact I really didn’t like vegetables much at all. But I was willing to sacrifice that to uphold my value.
And honestly, I am still not a fan of exercise, the gym or working out (as a personal trainer that may seem strange to hear) but what I did love was teaching, coaching, helping people to be better, do better and watching the journey of transformation. That’s where I get my kicks.
So, the second step is to find ways to enjoy the work, regardless of the feedback. In many ways, this can be as simple as becoming aware of what you’re doing. It can be easy to become so obsessed with feedback (i.e. motivated) that you completely lose sight of what you’re doing in the current moment.
In my life it is seeing the results of my clients, getting their feedback to the content I provide and help I offer them and in turn motivates me more to be the healthy role model that goes to the gym!
And the saying that : if you ain’t having fun, you’re just not doing it right!
If I had a bad month in my strength training, where my strength levels declined, that might start to cloud out the fact that I actually like how I feel when I workout. The same is true of learning, running my business or my social life.
The solution is to switch your focus back on the tasks and let the results fade out of your thinking.
Get back to focusing on what you’re actually doing, and enjoying it, instead of obsessing about the numbers. Focusing on numbers can be important for results, but that’s only when you’re actively making a new plan. When you’re actually working, it’s usually better to focus on the work and forget the outcomes.
Avoiding the Alternative
The alternate way to boost your persistence is to accept that the alternative, to you, is less desirable.
The picture of what happens when you don’t do it. The bad picture.
I’ve written previously, that my goal this year is to get in my best shape yet. Only recently have I started to approach that goal. In the past, there were many months when I completely lacked positive feedback or wanted to eat my weight in chocolate.
During that motivational crisis, the thing that helped me persist was that I knew struggling at this goal was better than the alternative of giving up and never knowing or not achieving what I told myself I wanted. I knew that I would always be driven towards the goal, so it was better to work towards and fail, than it was to sit back and wonder if I would have succeeded.
This approach may not sound too inspirational, but it works. When you’re facing a dry-spell of motivation, it can be hard to summon up the optimism to believe things will get better soon. But you can always compare the alternatives of giving up entirely with continuing through adversity.
There is the danger of starting without commitment. Since most worthwhile goals will have large gaps without feedback, it’s absolutely essential that your engines are running on more than just enthusiasm.
Persistence is the back-up fuel that can get you through the vacuums.
And your why in the first instance – your goal, your values, your dream will keep you going when you really don’t know if you can.
If you want to begin to get your head in the right space to make truly lasting change, then download my FREE Mindset Change Video & Journal
If you need help in uncovering your goals, dreams and motivation or that added accountability to reach your goals, then get in touch. I can help you.