Finding the Right Motivation for Change

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” — Abraham Lincoln

In my weight loss journey finding and maintaining motivation has been a cornerstone. At the beginning of my process I went through an exercise I found really helpful and can apply to anyone facing any kind of change.

Those of you doing Lean or performance management may notice similarities between this approach and what we are applying in the work setting. I found this convergence of skills development in the personal and professional realms really interesting. It is part of the Take Shape for LIfe program, and based on work by Robert Fritz.

The basic idea behind the exercise is to identify what you WANT instead of the PROBLEM you are trying to solve. For example, I WANT as much time as possible with my family. My PROBLEM was that my weight put me at risk for diabetes and other chronic conditions that might shorten my life expectancy and affect my quality of life in my later years. I could make my problem go away when I went to the doctor’s office and my lab results showed normal blood sugar, normal blood pressure and normal cholesterol. But, my desire for more time with my family doesn’t change. It’s an outcome instead of a problem.

Focusing on the problem instead of the outcome leads to yo-yoing. Emotional conflict leads us to act. Because we’ve acted we feel better even if the situation hasn’t changed much. Feeling better takes the pressure off, lessening the emotional conflict. Less emotional conflict means less reason to continue dong the things that reduced the conflict in the first place. Since we feel better, we no longer feel a pressing need to follow through on our actions. And the original behavior returns.

Another way to think of it is moving toward something positive instead of away from something negative. Here’s the exercise. Write your answers down. It will really help you think more clearly. I put my answers in so you can see how it works.

1)      Assess Your Current Health (your wellness assessment can help with this)

  1. Current reality including activity level, energy level, sleep quality
  2. b.      Desire to improve on a scale from 1 – 10. 10
  3. c.       What does good health look like to you? I will be a positive example to my kids and others to follow. I will believe in my own power to do things. I will be confident in the choices I make. Family time will the doing fun, active things together – skiing, swimming, etc. I will be able to look forward to a healthy retirement. I will be an active part of my kids’ lives when they have kids. I will be able to enjoy rowing and playing tennis again.
  4. d.      How will good health change your life? I will feel good physically and emotionally. I will know that every day I am doing all that I can to accomplish my goals. I will feel confident.

2)      What do you visualize for yourself?

  1. a.       I am a positive role model for my kids and others
  2. b.      I believe in my own power to do things
  3. c.       I will look and feel fit and healthy
  4. d.      I will be able to participate in many activities
  5. e.      I can lean my family in trying new things
  6. f.        I will be a great cook of delicious, healthy meals – harvest feasts from our garden
  7. g.       I will have creative outlets like knitting and making pretty things.

3)      What are your most important goals in life? (these should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time oriented)

  1. a.       Lose 97 lbs. before the end of 2012
  2. b.      Do the Danskin Triathalon in 2013
  3. c.       Plan a kitchen garden with veggies and herbs before the end of summer 2013
  4. d.      Explore new, healthy recipes online, in books and through classes
  5. e.      Begin to life weights by the end of 2012
  6. f.        Be more supportive of myself

4)      Why do you want to reach these goals?

  1. a.       I want to look better – I want to feel proud of how I look
  2. b.      I want to do something I never thought I could
  3. c.       I want to be creative in growing food and cooking so I can enjoy it and bring others together in a healthy way
  4. d.      I want my skin to be more elastic and my muscles firmer.
  5. e.      I want to feel more coordinated.
  6. f.        I want to be a positive force in my own life and a better friend to myself

So, here’s the great thing about this exercise. You have now prioritized your goals in life which will help you make choices to accomplish these goals. When your internal process is aligned with your goals, it’s easier to make the choice that supports what’s most important to you. If you’ve made a fundamental choice to have good health, it will guide your daily choices and dictates the other choices to make to accomplish that goal.

For me, choosing not to have a bagel with cream cheese and a decaf in the morning is not easy. But, when I put that choice against the feeling of accomplishing something I never thought I could, the choice gets easier. And it’s a choice that makes me feel like I am getting something instead of giving something up.

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