One of my clients asked me last week if there are any books I would recommend about motivation. I have to admit to being a bit flummoxed that she was trying to find something external to help her when motivation needs to come from within.
She has a point, though, and one I struggled with myself over the years. “How do I get myself into that ‘zone?’” “How do I tap into my will power?” I wanted, I admit, some magic pixie dust that I could sprinkle over myself.
We each have, within us, enormous caches of capacity to do more than we ever imagined—but, finding the way to unlock that capacity can so often seem elusive! Yet, there are concrete things we can do to open that door to ourselves, to ignite our inner fire.
It starts with the “why.” Why do you want to make a change? The reason has to be so compelling to you that it drives all the decisions you make for yourself. Essential to that reason is that you have to believe in it with every fiber of your being. You have to believe you can make it happen. Big goals that you set as your future “ideal state” are meaningless if you don’t know that you can achieve them.
I didn’t set a weight loss goal until I had lost over half the weight I needed to lose. My goal in the beginning was to not feel so miserable, to not be trapped by my own body. While that might be a negative, it was a powerful motivator for me. I knew how miserable I was; I knew that I simply couldn’t tolerate it any more—that anything was better than how I was living. That was a powerful driver.
You also need to focus on the process, not just the outcomes, because the process is what you can control. I can’t decide I’m going to lose five pounds in two weeks, but I can decide what changes I am going to make to lose those five pounds. That is true about any big change we want to make in our lives. We have to push the levers we have in our control, believing that those levers will result in the outcome we ultimately want. You can’t decide you are going to get a good job, but you can network, clean up your resume, go to job search groups, do mock interviews with friends.
You need to believe in yourself and in what you are doing. You are your own best friend—and oh, how long it took me to learn that! Feeling good about yourself and the choices you are making helps make the path ahead so much easier to walk! You aren’t just heading towards that end point, you’re enjoying the journey. Taking the time to celebrate your successes along the way isn’t an indulgence, it’s a crucial part of a holistic approach to transformative change.
Understand that you are on a continuum, a path that truly has no end but stretches out the rest of your life. One of the reasons diets fail is because they have an end point where we resume old bad habits. Every step you take along the way should be building your knowledge of how to live differently, how to make choices that support the new you. Going back to the job search analogy, networking only when you are looking for work isn’t nearly as effective as continuous networking whether a job is needed or not.
The other advantage of approaching transformative change as a continuum is that you have a plan in place if you step off the path a bit. Rather than beating yourself up about making a choice that veered you off in a direction you didn’t want to go, you can step right back onto that path again—and feel really good that you could do so.
We each have to find what motivates us, and also to understand that our motivations change over time. This is one of the reasons I set “mini-challenges” for myself. I lost an average of a pound and a quarter a week. That can get pretty old and feel like a slog when I had so much weight to lose! Things like “twenty-five pounds by December 25th” or buying a new dress for Easter broke up the monotony and reinvigorated me along the way.
You are your most powerful tool for transformative change. Believe in that, believe in yourself, and use your strength and willpower, your knowledge and attitude, to start your journey.