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Motivation and Maintaining Your Goals

Posted Apr 15 2012 4:02pm

I think I’m one of those people that does their best to make life difficult for themselves. I think that’s taken as read when you decide to do a PhD – in anything – and on top of a job? Well, that’s just a fool’s game. But I do it, because I’m passionate about it.

Working out and eating healthy, though? Those are two things I was not born to be passionate about. I mean, for years, I wondered – where’s the fun in tiring yourself out with exercise when you could just read a book and be just as stimulated? And eating “rabbit food”? Nah. I’d just rather have a pizza.

Yes, pizza, I know you

I’m not saying I love working out now, and there are days when I would sell a finger for a slice of cheesecake. That doesn’t go away. But now, I’ve got a sort of well of motivation in me that I can draw from when I’m in need. It’s not infallible, but I don’t believe in completely prohibiting myself. I mean, I’ll try everything before I resort to the cheesecake, but if it’s really got to be done, then fine – but instead of eating the whole cake, I’ll have a small slice, and walk away. Job done.

But building up enough motivation to keep it up, long-term? That takes time and effort.

After all, you start a journey like this with so much energy, and so much motivation, that it feels like you’ll be able to do it forever. Of course, that’s usually the point where you’re limiting yourself so much that it’s wholly unsustainable, long-term. No carbs, no fat, no whatever – it’s not something you can keep up forever. But that’s a topic for another post.

This is a lot like the PhD – I wrote 25,000 words in my first 6 months (10,000 of which were in one weekend), and nothing for the following 3. Not a word. Not even a letter. When you first start, you’ve got the intensity and the drive to get going, and that’s great – but you have to be prepared for the inevitable point where suddenly, you’re a bit burned out.

The temptation at this point is to lose all motivation, fall out with yourself and give up. I know that temptation, and I’ve given into it – my 9 month hiatus from fitness wasn’t just a plateau. I had a lot of takeaway in those 9 months. But eventually, I got back to it, and discovered new ways of motivating myself which have meant that those cheesecake moments are fewer and further between.

So, here are my top tips for getting motivated and maintaining your goals:

Know what those goals are.

If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, it’s almost impossible to stay on track – because you’ve got no clear idea of how far you’ve got to go. It sounds obvious, but knowing what you want is essential – not just for weight loss, or fitness, but for your wellbeing in general.

Be realistic – and be creative!

These goals shouldn’t just be numbers on the scale, because SCALES ARE EVIL AND THEY WILL MESS WITH YOUR HEAD. Particularly if you’re a fan of weight training (which I am) and are a woman with a cycle (which I am).

Yes, scales. I mean you.

Maybe there’s a dress you’d like to fit back into? Or maybe you just want to be able to touch your toes? Or walk/jog/run a 5k?

Don’t go over the top, either – set yourself mini-goals along the way. Although I said I wanted to lose 100lbs when I first started, I had a number of mini-goals along the way – 10lbs, a 5 minute row, certain weights, distances on the treadmill, and so on. Be good to your psyche. You’ll need it.

Seek out inspiration.

Having certain things that inspire you to hand is an excellent way of keeping yourself on track. For instance, on my PC at work (where I’m more inclined to eat biscuits/sweets/whatever else is around than anywhere else) I’ve got a bookmark bar full of my favourite fitness sites – for instance, Shape.com , A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss (I know, I’m a white girl – but Erika is an amazing source of butt-kicking inspiration), The Adventures of Diet Girl … They’re all right there, at the top of my browser, for when someone walks into the office clutching a cake for everyone.

Plus, I’ve got an episode of I Used to Be Fat (the Jordan episode, with the very delectable Trainer Joey – who is at least 60% of my reason for watching it) on my desktop at home. When I’m feeling a bit low on inspiration, I’ll flick on 5 minutes of that and remember that other people have it even harder – and that there’s no excuse for sitting around watching the TV.

Look at that. It

And my desktop background? The very lovely Christina Hendricks. Definitely the body shape I’m aiming for, given that I’m a curvy girl and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Everyone’s got different things that inspire them – but having a few within easy reach is an excellent way to motivate yourself.

Tell people what you’re doing.

Now, I’m not suggesting you wear a T-shirt that says “I’m on a diet, kick my butt if I look at the biscuits” or anything. But letting a select few people know that you’re trying to lead a better lifestyle is an excellent way to keep yourself in check. I know, it’s sort of outsourcing your motivation – but I couldn’t have done any of this without my family and friends reminding me from time to time that what I’m doing is worth it. Just be selective as to who you tell – because certain evil people will try to throw you off. I don’t know why, but I intend to return to this point in another blog.

Make it interesting!

Chances are if you’re craving something bad, it’s because you’re bored. Bored of your “diet,” bored at work, bored of… Whatever. You need to highlight the boredom and counteract it. Try a new recipe/workout/outfit, get up, go for a walk, anything – if you’re trying to change your lifestyle, you need to make it interesting and fun, and surviving on rabbit food ain’t the way to do it. And for God’s sake, if you are surviving on rabbit food, stop – you’re doing it wrong.

So, those are my main tips – how do you stay motivated?

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