Motivation can be a tricky thing. It may be there one day and nowhere to be found the next. Unfortunately, motivation can be hard to get back when you’re feeling like you’re in a slump. Motivation is affected by your internal biology, emotional state, social surroundings, and thoughts. Ideally, when these factors are aligned, this motivation leads to a specific (hopefully, healthy) behaviour.
Many people have no idea what motivates them and this is one of the biggest challenges they face in working towards a goal or implementing a healthy habit. With fibromyalgia, there’s the added challenge of working with how you feel that day, which can change a lot day to day. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to get yourself motivated to make a change and keep yourself motivated long-term.
#1: Set the goal and consider WHY it’s important to you.
This step may seem obvious, but it’s one that people often skip. It’s important that you physically write your goal down, as this solidifies your intention in your brain. Many very successful people write out their goals every single day to continually remind their brain that it’s important. You can also check out my post on creating a vision board here.
It’s not enough to just set the goal. You also need to consider why achieving this goal is important to you. The why part of this exercise is what you will return to when motivation is waning to get you excited about it again.
It’s also important that you frame your goals in the positive. You’re going to want to state what you’re going to achieve and what benefit that will bring you, not what you want to avoid, fix, or stop doing. Your brain doesn’t respond as well to a goal or intention that’s framed in a negative sense, because you don’t get excited about it. For example: Setting the goal of stretching three times per week is very different from setting the goal of spending less time on the couch. Stretching three times per week so that you can get down on the floor to play with your kids is much more motivating than aiming to spend less time on the couch because you know it’s not good for you.
#2: Understand how you respond to internal vs external expectations.
One of the most helpful tricks is determining how you respond to expectations and using that to your advantage. We are exposed to two kinds of expectations: internal and external. Internal expectations are expectations we place upon ourselves, such as deciding we want to start exercising regularly, eating healthy, or sticking to our New Year’s resolutions. External expectations are those placed upon us by others, such as committing to going to the gym with a friend, hiring a health care professional to keep you accountable to your eating habits, or meeting a work deadline.
For some, internal expectations may motivate them much more than external expectations. For others, committing to someone else will more likely ensure they follow through with a task than if they made the commitment to themselves. Others are equally motivated by internal and external expectations or they may respond to neither. Gretchen Rubin (author of The Four Tendencies) has a handy quiz to help you determine which of these categories you fit into. You can check that out here.
Once you know how your respond to internal and external expectations, you can use them to your advantage. For example, if you respond to external expectations, but not internal expectations, having an accountability buddy or imposing a deadline that someone else will hold you to will help you to achieve your goal.
#3: Consider what could be an obstacle in achieving your goal and plan for it.
Many people have a pretty good idea of what has derailed them from achieving a goal in the past. Considering why you haven’t achieved a goal in the past can help you prepare for these obstacles in the future. I caution you against doing this from a place of judgement. You’re using your past difficulties achieving a goal as a learning point, not to beat yourself up. Beating yourself up is no help to you now or to your chances of achieving your goal in the future.
It’s helpful to consider possible obstacles when you set a goal, because your motivation will naturally be high at the beginning of this process. As time goes on, it will take more effort to stay motivated to achieve your goal and if you haven’t planned for obstacles, it will be easier to get derailed. Planning for possible obstacles or things that you know are stumbling points for you will make it much easier to stay on track when these things inevitable come up and motivation is lower. If you know that attending social events and holidays always derail your process, make a plan for how you’ll deal with the social event/holiday and prevent them from getting you off track.
In my practice, I commonly see patients struggle when initially implementing a new habit or healthy change because they forget. When starting something new, it’s easy to forget until you’ve incorporated this new change into your daily life. Easy fixes for this could include setting an alarm on your phone, putting up a reminder note somewhere you’ll see it often (on the fridge or bathroom mirror), or associating your new habit with another habit you already have engrained. For example, if your goal is to drink more water, you could pair the habit of having a glass of water with going to the bathroom. Every time you go to the bathroom, you have a glass of water. If you’re forgetting to take your supplements or medications, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself until this new habit becomes second nature.
Setting alarms in your phone, making notes for yourself, and pairing new habits with old routines can be really helpful when you’re feeling foggy. Struggling with fibrofog and making the changes necessary to get you feeling your best can be incredibly unmotivating and overwhelming, but you can do it. Start small, remind yourself as often as you need, and be kind to yourself. You will get there and once the habit is engrained, it won’t take as much mental effort to maintain it.
#4: Speak with your health care provider about lab testing.
There is a number of underlying health issues that can show up as a lack of motivation that have nothing to do with your willpower. “Willpower” isn’t the only factor in making change. If you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, speak with your heath care provider about having some updated blood work done. Nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter imbalances, and an underfunctioning thyroid can all affect your motivation levels and make it much more difficult to achieve a goal when not treated appropriately.
#5: Listen to your body.
Sometimes our body is just telling us that it needs a break, not that our goal is less exciting or important. If you’re been working at a goal relentlessly for a while and motivation is starting to fade, consider whether you are just in need of some extra TLC. If you’re been at the grind for a while and you are feeling tired, give yourself the grace to take the rest you need and then get back on track.
Feel you need some accountability and guidance on how to achieve your health goals? I would love to support you! Schedule your Complementary Discovery Session here so we can discuss how to get you where you want to be.