Motivate Yourself

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The hardest part of going for a run isn’t completing the 8 kilometres you set for yourself, it’s actually getting out there. If you feel like you should be exercising and you just haven’t felt like it, or it takes too much work, it might be time to get you motivated.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DISCIPLINE AND MOTIVATION

Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta suggested that there was no such thing as discipline or willpower, that they were just part of the world of motivation. “How do I explain my ability to wake up early, and to run on a regular basis? Simple: I have adequate and varied motivation. I get up every morning, not out of discipline, but because I really want to — and have tricked myself into doing it. I get out the door and go for a run not because I’m super disciplined, but because I really want to.”

I think there is such a thing as discipline. It’s just part of the larger spectrum of motivation. Discipline is a man standing rigid in a snowstorm, refusing to budge. What motivates him to stay out in the cold? Discipline, he thinks. When five o’clock in the morning rolls around and he doesn’t feel like getting up, he shouts at himself and forces himself out of bed. I’m getting up, he thinks; I’m getting up because I have discipline.

This is a motivating technique, although it’s not always effective. Not all of us want to whip ourselves in shape.

When trying to eat healthy, a disciplined person refrains from eating a slice of cake. A motivated person reaches for an banana instead.

Instead, for Babauta, true motivation comes from developing positive habits. While discipline and willpower are about vigilantly stopping yourself from having bad habits, true motivation is the development of good habits.

SOME MOTIVATION TECHNIQUES

  • Livestrong’s Kylene Arnold emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positive effects of exercise. If you associate exercising with sweat and pain, you’re not going to want to do it. Remember: exercise is exhilarating, and it washes your brain in the warmth of pleasure-inducing chemicals. The more you focus on how exercising makes you feel great, the more you’ll want to do it.
  • Picture yourself as a strong, vibrant person, capable of great feats of strength. Positive self image has a strong impact on your motivation. If you slog home from work and feel like a hollowed-out wreck, you’re not going to want to go for a run at all. But you’re not a wreck, you’re a towering inferno of energy, and You Can Do This.
  • Tack a picture of your sport of choice up where you can see it. A guy running or another athlete. It serves as a reminder of your goal, and tells your brain to keep it in mind.
  • Write down your goals on a piece of paper. Everyone from Babauta to Robin Sharma advocates this habit. Writing down your goals plucks them from the ether and makes them concrete in your mind.
  • Don’t feel defeated. It takes about a month to instill new habits. If you feel like you had an awful run, and you didn’t perform nearly as well as you should have, don’t give up. It will get better.

And as I said before, the exercising part isn’t even the hard part.

The hardest part is just getting out that door. And the easiest way to do that is to…

BREAK IT DOWN INTO STEPS

Exercising takes a lot of organization and prep work, enough of it that sometimes it’s just easier to stay on the couch.

There’s the clothes, for instance. You can’t just get home from work and immediately go for a run in your suit and tie. You’d wear out your shoes, and you’d probably damage something, either your clothes or yourself. It takes proper activewear, proper shoes, and something to keep you hydrated. After a long day of work, just putting all that together can seem like a Herculean task.

A while back I wrote about how to help push yourself to conquer your fears. In that article, I wrote about the technique of breaking objectives down into bite-sized doable steps.

A couple years back I had a hard time getting myself out the door to jog. It sounds silly, but at the time it just seemed like too much to organize—you had to dress for the part, make sure you had music and a water bottle, get your stuff together, etc. Crazy, I know, but this to-do list seemed just more daunting than, say, staying home.

I started splitting the organizational process into steps and focusing on each of those at a time. Don’t focus on the whole task at hand. Split it up into little bits, like “Put on jogging clothes” or “Fill up a water bottle” and focus on that.

GET OUT THE DOOR

Just put on your shoes, grab a bottle and get out the door. Everything else will take care of itself.

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