"... But I'm glad 'cause they feed me the fuel that I need for the fire
to burn and it's burning and I have return..." - Eminem
Motivation is a funny thing. It can be powerful... and it can be fleeting. Sustaining your momentum can be difficult when you are pursuing any goal, whether it be a fitness journey, a career goal, or picking up a new hobby. Why is sustaining it so hard? Are we adding too much fuel to the fire? Why do we so quickly burn out? And how do we keep the fire going?
On December 7th, 2014, after spending 16 hours at Disneyland the day before, I went to the gym. It's not the first time I had ever been to the gym. I went to the gym once or twice a week for several months before this gym visit, and had been known to be a gym junkie from time to time throughout my adult life. So why was this particular gym visit so notable? Well, on that particular chilly Sunday, I decided to hit the gym... HARD. For the first time in years, I ran. I ran until my legs wouldn't let me run any further. And when I couldn't continue running? I climbed. I hiked that incline up to the max and I power walked for another 15 minutes. When I finally hopped off that treadmill, I headed to the free weights. With the familiar cold steel in my hands, my body remembered what to do. My arms shook; my legs ached... but my body remembered. Why had I neglected the weight rack for so long? Oh, my sweet, steel friends... why did I leave you?
I called a couple of my best friends over the next few days and told them about my experience. I confided to them how current life frustrations had motivated the workout, and told them about my personal fitness challenge. They encouraged me, some even betting me to see if it would help motivate me to continue. I didn't need a financial reward - the frustration, the ANGER, was all the fuel that I needed. This was my motivation! I kept it up for nearly 30 days straight, stopping only after a doctor confirmed that I had the flu. Stupid flu. All of this motivation... all of this incredible fuel that had ignited my fitness fire... was gone. Just like that! It was gone! I was so disappointed. Until...
Remember that post I did on gym selfies? And how they're not so vain or stupid after all? I have been posting these gym selfies on Instagram. It wasn't a conscious decision... I just sort of posted one on a whim one day, and was surprised to find that a bunch of other people do the same thing! Eventually, I even made fitness buddies on Instagram. A community of strangers applauding each other, and inspiring each other to push on and continue. It's awesome! One of these friends noticed I hadn't published these selfies as regularly as before, and asked what was up. I explained to her my original motivations for kicking off this adventure, and how that motivation had waned... She applauded my honesty and encouraged me to continue. She described her own struggles with her fitness journey, and how she got past them. Her encouragement, along with countless friends, family members, and colleagues, has really helped me continue. THIS has become my new motivation. I'm not just doing this for myself anymore... I'm not doing this because I'm angry... I'm doing this for them now!
Despite this newfound motivation, I sometimes fear that this, too, shall pass. I fear that failure, injury, or illness may demotivate me once again, and I'll fall back on those old habits I've worked so hard to overcome. In addition to planning for an upcoming vacation, I've spent a lot of time this weekend reading about motivation and inspiration... what drives people to continue towards and past their goals. I've met a lot of amazing people in the last year or so that have really transformed what motivation and inspiration look like to me. I've learned a lot from these people, and combined what I learned from them and what I've learned reading this weekend, to come up with the below. I hope it helps you too!
- Visualize the Finish Line. You need to know what the finish line looks like before you can visualize yourself crossing it. Can that finish line change? Sure. Can it move? Absolutely. But you've got to know what it looks like if you're ever going to reach it. See yourself at the goal line... do you like what you see? How do you feel? What does it smell like? Is it exactly what you wanted? Good. Now, let's get there!
- Mapping the Trail. It does us no good to have a finish line unless we know how to get there. Being inspired to create a goal is great. Being motivated to reach the goal is even better! But where are we going? Do we even know how to get there? Sure, you can cheat... but how often do cheaters really win? Map out your goals. Give yourself realistic timelines. Remember that persistence is key! Persistence... and good, old-fashioned hard work.
- Planning for Failure. No, I'm not saying to expect to lose the race. I'm not wanting you to quit before you start! That would just be silly! What I'm asking you to do is to understand that this won't be easy! You'll face plenty of opposition to reaching the finish line. There will be competition. There will be setbacks. These don't have to be roadblocks, however, unless you let them. So... how are you going to get around it? Detours are ok! Plan for this now, so you don't have to act under duress later on. Trust me... had I thought to do this when I caught the flu earlier this year, I would have been back at it so much sooner! Always be prepared to adapt when faced with obstacles and obstructions.
- Build Your Billboards. While you're running on this track towards the finish line, you may forget why you're running. Build your billboards to stay connected to your goal. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How are you getting there? It's easy to get caught up in our day to day lives. We have work stress... family stress... financial stress... And all of these stressors can easily detract us from our goals. Remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing. WRITE IT DOWN! Repeat it to yourself as often as you can. Share it with others. Trust me... it's very easy to think that the finish line is too far. "You've gone far enough," you'll say. You owe it to yourself to finish if you start. Keep reminding yourself that!
- Reaching the Finish Line. I'm a big believer that the race doesn't end at the finish line. Rather, a new map is made and a new race is ran. When you meet your first goal, start planning for the next one. In fitness, a lot of people complain about the plateau... I've experienced the same, but I can honestly say that when I've done that, it's usually because I've been unwilling to push myself past my comfort zone. This plateau may just be the end of my first finish line... it's time to start mapping to finish line number 2! Every successful person I know always has a new goal in mind. Never, ever get complacent.
So friends... tell me. What is it that motivates you? How do you sustain your motivation? And when you've felt your motivation begin to wane.... how did you rescue it? I'd love to hear from you! In the meantime, I'm going to take my own advice... As soon as I return from Europe, I'm going to draw my map. I'm going to build my billboards. I'm going to strive for that finish line. I hope you'll join me : )