Question: I need help with motivation. This has always been my biggest struggle. No matter what I do, I can’t stay motivated to lose weight, or workout, or go to the gym, or eat right. This stops me from being consistent, which prevents me from making progress. What can I do to finally change this?
Answer: This is one of the most common questions I get asked, and the answer is the complete opposite of what you think it is.
If you struggle with getting or staying motivated, please pay very close attention.
The Problem: Motivation Is Temporary
Most people approach goals like weight loss or building muscle with motivation as the sole (or at least, primary) factor getting them to consistently do what needs to be done.
This is great, except for one thing: motivation is temporary.
It goes up and down over the course of a day, comes and goes over the course of weeks, and completely vanishes and eventually reappears (if you’re lucky) over a span of months, years, and decades.
It’s something that could be there in full force on Monday but then not be there at all on Tuesday.
Yet this is the thing you (and everyone else) have decided to rely on to get yourself to consistently do what needs to be done on a daily basis?
That’s never going to work.
You’re doomed from the start with this approach.
In the end, motivation is a wonderful thing for getting people to START doing something, but it absolutely sucks for getting people to continue doing that thing on a consistent basis.
Forget About Getting Or Staying Motivated
That’s why the real problem here has nothing to do with your lack of motivation, or your inability to “stay motivated.”
“Staying motivated” doesn’t exist, so feel free to permanently remove that concept from your brain and stop wasting your time searching for it.
You’ll never find it.
Instead, the real problem is your belief that motivation is something you need to have in order to consistently workout, eat right, and do everything else that needs to be done to successfully lose weight, build muscle, or reach whatever goal you have.
But it’s not.
Take me, for example.
Do you think I’m always motivated to workout? 3-5 days per week? Every week? For the last 15 years?
But yet I don’t miss workouts.
And do you think I’m always motivated to eat right? And stick to my diet? And eat the right amounts of calories/macros each day while keeping the junky stuff to a minimum?
But yet I do it anyway.
My Big “Secret”
How do I do it, you ask?
Do I have exceptional will power? Amazing genetics? A personal chef who cooks all of my meals for me?
Do I have the perfect Instagram feed filled with the right combination of inspirational quotes? Surely that has to be it!!
What I have are habits I’ve built up over time that ensure I do what needs to be done regardless of whether I feel motivated to do it.
It’s just like brushing my teeth every night.
This isn’t something I’m ever motivated to do, but yet it gets done every single night without fail. It’s completely on autopilot, and my feelings don’t play a role in whether or not I do it.
It doesn’t matter if I’m tired. Or busy. Or not in the mood.
It just gets done.
Working out and eating right are exactly the same.
Granted, it will take more time and effort to build these habits than it did to build the habit of brushing your teeth. We’re comparing one small habit (brushing your teeth) with two really big habits (proper diet and exercise) which encompass dozens of smaller sub-habits.
But the underlying concept is still the same.
So if you can manage to brush your teeth every night, then guess what? You have what it takes to consistently stick to your diet and workout.
You just need to start approaching them the same way.
Step 1: Stop Relying On Motivation
The first step you need to take is to stop relying on motivation.
No matter how much you seek it out in an attempt to find new and better ways to “get motivated” and “feel motivated” and “stay motivated,” it will always fail you.
Regardless of how many motivational quotes, videos, photos, memes, and social media accounts you find, the best you can ever expect to get is a tiny amount of temporary motivation that will make you feel good for a few seconds and then leave you feeling exactly as unmotivated as you previously felt.
And then what happens?
Then you’re back to blaming your inability to stay motivated for why you’re not doing what needs to be done, at which point you seek out the next useless source of temporary motivation that will also fail you.
And then what?
Then this cycle repeats itself over and over again. For months, years, or decades.
If this sounds familiar, here’s what I recommend doing.
You know all of the time and effort you’re putting into this cycle of being motivated and then not being motivated?
I want you to put that time and effort into building the habits that will allow you to do the important things even when you’re not feeling motivated to do them.
That’s going to be the key to your success (or lack thereof).
Step 2: Start Building Habits
So… how do you build these habits?
Start by approaching each new habit one at a time instead of trying to do 100 new things all at once. That rarely works.
Instead, pick one thing you can start doing tomorrow that will help you reach your goals.
- Maybe that’s working out just once or twice per week?
- Maybe that’s eating more protein?
- Maybe that’s replacing soda with water?
- Maybe that’s tracking your calories?
- Maybe that’s weighing yourself daily and tracking the weekly averages?
- Maybe that’s something else altogether.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be perfect or even close to it. That will come later.
For now, just pick one thing and focus entirely on doing that one thing on a consistent basis for a few weeks.
Once you’ve successfully done that, repeat this process again with a second thing while keeping the first habit intact.
A few weeks later, add on a third thing.
This approach will allow you to gradually build a bunch of smaller habits that will eventually form the bigger habits you need to be successful.
This is the opposite of what most people do, which is jump right into doing EVERYTHING on Day 1 when they’re feeling that sudden burst of motivation, but then they inevitably fail to sustain it when that feeling of motivation disappears soon after.
This approach prevents you from being one of those people.
Step 3: Make Sure Your Habits Are “PECS”
PECS is the cute little acronym I came up with a few years ago that stands for Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient, and Sustainable.
(Full details here: The PECS Method)
And one of the most important things you can do when choosing which diet and workout habits to build is make sure you choose habits that are as PECS for you as possible.
Here’s an example of what that means.
Let’s say you know you can make it to the gym to workout 3 days per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is your ideal workout schedule, because it’s convenient and fits best into your everyday life.
So for you, this workout schedule is PECS.
However, you decide to go to the gym 5 times per week instead because you assume “more is better,” or you saw some advanced 5-day workout routine that looked cool, or whatever the reason may be.
Do you know what’s going to happen?
You’re going to fail to build this workout habit.
Why? Because it’s not PECS.
Here’s another example.
Let’s say you love carbs (rice, potatoes, bread, etc.), but yet you’ve decided to try to lose weight by following a low carb diet.
Once again, this isn’t going to work out well, because you’re doing things that aren’t PECS for you. A low carb diet will just make things significantly harder for you than they need to be (and unnecessarily so, because a low carb diet isn’t remotely needed for losing weight).
These are just two examples of many, but the point here is simple.
Don’t just try to build habits.
Try to build the right habits. #PECS
Step 4: Watch Your Habits Build Momentum
Do you know what’s awesome about this approach to building smaller habits one at a time?
It builds momentum.
You have one thing, on top of another thing, on top of another thing, on top of another thing… all moving you closer and closer towards your goal.
And once you’re building momentum towards your goal, five wonderful things happen:
- Everything becomes easier and easier for you to continue doing.
- You become much less likely to ever stop, quit, or get off track.
- You successfully reach your goal.
- You successfully maintain it afterwards.
- You realize that motivation wasn’t the thing you needed.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it and see for yourself.