I’ll let you in on a little secret. Human beings are wired for pleasure and positive gratification. Nobody is really looking forward to making sacrifices like giving up on chocolate, wine, comfort food or sweating at the gym…NOONE! This makes it very difficult to create and maintain healthy lifestyle changes.
Willpower is also not enough to sustain change. It is a muscle that tires easily and won’t last long. Relying too much on willpower will drain your energy and detract from other important goals and tasks in your life.
So how can you make positive changes that bring you towards a healthier lifestyle? How can you find the motivation to finally change your habits? I’ll give you a few tips.
Internal Motivation vs External Motivation
So let’s say that you want to lose weight. My first question to you would be: why? Is this your true wish and desire? Is it something that you think you should do or that has been advised by someone, like your doctor?
Is it something you should do or something you want to do?
Understanding the real reasons for your choices and goal setting goes a long way toward how effective your strategy will be.
Long Term Goals vs Short Term Goals
We are all wired for instant satisfaction. The willpower that I mentioned earlier, and that can support your initial changes, will last for a while, but won’t last forever. This is why a lot of people relapse and then feel bad about themselves chipping that confidence and motivation away.
So the trick is to adjust your focus.
Instead of focusing on a long term goal, like ” I want to get healthy to reduce the chance of getting lifestyle diseases” (that feels like a long way to go and a lot of effort and willpower to support that effort) focus on more short to medium term benefits, and keep that long term goal as a sense of direction, the “intention” you want to set going forward.
This should make you feel grounded and give you a sense of purpose while being able to celebrate those little medium-term victories along the way to keep you happy and motivated.
For example, let’s say that you want to improve your diet and lose 10 pounds. For many people, this will mean a bit of time and quite a few changes.
So instead of focusing on the long term goal ( the 10 pound weight loss) try focusing on short-term benefits that are easier and quicker to get.
Try focusing on finding more energy in your everyday life or maybe sleeping better. Or maybe to simply feel those pants a bit looser on your waist. These are benefits that are easier to achieve in the short term so that you can look forward to those few lifestyle changes because the rewards are tangible, easier and reasonably quicker to get.
Visualize, Feel, Savor
Can you then visualize the benefits that come with the achievement of one or two of these short/medium term goals?
How would that make you feel?
How can you imagine your life changing for the better if you could have, let’s say, more energy or finally sleep better and feel more rested?
Visualize those benefits, say them aloud.
Write them down if that helps. Make a list and put it somewhere where you can see it to read and remind you when you feel like you’re losing focus.
By moving the positive gratification forward, you are working within your own in-built rewards system, not against it. Our reward system is connected with our motivation and it is an integral part of establishing new habits, helping us rewire our brain.
There are many tools that can help you to rewire the brain, and those neural patterns that help you maintain those automatic behaviors: your habits.