Have you ever wanted to know why it is you manage to talk yourself out of taking action on goals you were originally so enthusiastic about? It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? Even for those that are avid goal-setters, I bet you have some goals that just don’t work out as well as others.
In all my years of training as an athlete in sports and fitness, as well as coaching, I have discovered that motivation is almost entirely controlled by three main factors:
- Desire (also known as Importance)
- Courage (also known as Confidence)
The amazing thing I have learned, and something I thoroughly enjoy passing on to you, is the truth about motivation: you are in complete control of these factors. This means you can are the driving factor in your level of motivation as long as you:
- Understand which of these factors is letting you down
- How to increase motivation through addressing the problem-area
So the first step is to actually realize that motivation is an issue for you (Go ahead and admit we have a problem). This means you can clearly see that you are not doing as well with one or more of your goals as you expected to. Forgive yourself, we all have motivation issues – this is how fear can control us. Time to take control back!
Have a seat, grab something to write with and some paper, together we are going to analyze the problem. At the top of the paper write out your goal. Then write out where you think you should be with this goal by now. Finally, the hard part: write down where you actually are with the goal.
It might end up looking like this:
Goal – I will go to the gym three times per week to hit my weight loss goal by the end of December 2021
The progress I should have made by now – I should have lost about 10 pounds or look a lot more toned than six weeks ago
The progress I’ve actually made – because I keep missing sessions I’ve hit a plateau and am now starting to put weight back on, after some earlier success. Makes me feel really disappointed in myself
Writing it down like this creates a commitment from yourself to actually do something about it, and will start to give you clues as to where the problems lie. Even if it doesn’t, it’s okay, because we’re going to figure out what is actually holding you back.
STEP ONE: RANK MOTIVATION FACTORS 1 THROUGH 3
Write down those three factors (desire, courage and resources) and rank each of them out of 10. You do this by asking yourself some key questions, like:
- “How important is it for me to complete this goal?” (desire)
- “How confident am I in my ability to complete this goal?” (courage)
- “What do I have to help me achieve this goal?” (resources)
Include a quick little description as to why you’ve scored it that way. So let’s say you’ve got that pesky gym goal that you keep procrastinating on. Maybe your scores look something like this:
Desire – 6/10 – while it’s vital that I take care of my physical health in order to run my business, sometimes I can’t be bothered because I’m too tired from work, and the pizza and beer during football season is so appealing
Courage – 9/10 – the gym is right near my house and I know the program really well so no issues with confidence there
Resources – 10/10 – got a program, the gym is easy to get to, and I know how to do the exercises
Right away we can see the problem area: desire. You want to achieve the goal but you’re inconsistent with in-the-moment enthusiasm.
STEP TWO: PLAN HOW TO ATTACK THE PROBLEM AREA
Once you’ve identified the main problem area, you can for now basically forget about having to take action in the other areas. Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken! Sometimes you may identify issues in two or even all three areas. For now, just choose the lowest-scoring factor.
Now it’s time to get crafty. You’re going to figure out how to increase the score in the problem area. The key here is to take small steps. Don’t try to tackle it all at once and get overwhelmed. Rather than trying to raise a 6 all the way to a 10, focus on how to raise the 6 to a 7. This will make the action seem almost too easy, rather than intimidating.
Ask yourself this question:
“What can I do to raise the score from X to Y?” (e.g. “What can I do to raise my desire score from 6 to 7?”)
Brainstorm as many ideas as you can think of to raise the score in that problem area by just 1 or 2 points. Using the gym example, it might look like this:
- Listen to your favorite workout playlist on the drive after work to pump yourself up
- Change the time I go to the gym to morning before work because I start my day happier
- Tell my coach I plan to come to certain workout times during the week to hold me accountable to them
You get the picture. Right?
STEP THREE: TIME TO PUT IT TO THE TEST
For the next week or two focus on implementing the strategies you’ve decided on to address the problematic area. Set a date to come back to the goal and score the factors again. I recommend 2-4 week intervals here. Don’t wait too long! If you come back to the exercise and the scores have increased, then Voila! You have figured out the solution to your motivation barrier.
Came back to it and the score is unchanged, or even lower? Don’t get discouraged. It looks like your strategy is not working and it’s time to change it up a bit. If you can keep trying you will have a breakthrough, probably a lot sooner than you think. Perseverance is the true key to success!
It’s super important that you are honest with yourself when you are scoring these areas. No one but yourself will see this exercise (unless you’re brave and smart enough to share it with a partner or someone to hold yourself to account), so you’re free to be totally vulnerable. If you’re not, this exercise will not work.
Be prepared for your strategies to only make a small impact at first. When you’re suffering from motivation issues your creativity and energy will probably also have barriers. Keep pushing yourself for other ideas, or even better, do a bit of research into how others overcame similar issues. This is where having a coach or mentor helps a lot. (Someone you can trust and confide in.)
Remind yourself that when you wrote/planned the goal you were sure of it. Something has changed since then and it’s probably just your motivation – some part of you is still very enthusiastic about the goal. Stay laser-focused on the end goal!