"How do you stay motivated?"
Anyone who's committed to a longterm healthy lifestyle has been asked that question. Friends and family praise your willpower, your motivation, your ambition to stay devoted to what they might see as a crazy lifestyle.
Well, I'm not going to beat around the bush or bury the lead.
Here's the secret: consistency.
Why consistency matters more than motivation
Motivation is a flash in the pan. It burns hot, then wanes. That's exactly why so many people kick off the New Year with lofty goals and big plans, but by February their resolutions have been pushed to the corner.
Everyone has experienced that feeling of "I just don't want to do that today." You had a late night and don't want to head to the gym in the morning. You wake up late and don't want to make breakfast. You'd rather turn on Netflix and chill on the couch than journal or meditate for 5 minutes.
We all, and I mean ALL, have those feelings. The same day I write this, I woke up to my alarm at 4:45 am, as I do every weekday morning, to get to the gym for 5:30 am class. But this morning, I shut my alarm off, nestled back under the covers, and thought:
"I could just sleep in."
"I could take the day off."
"I could go to the gym in the afternoon."
But after a couple minutes of trying to rationalize all the reasons to skip out on my normal routine, I got out of bed, got dressed, and headed to the gym.
So what's the difference between getting out of bed and not? Habit. Consistency. Routine.
Develop habits instead of relying on motivation
Have you ever taken a long vacation and by the end of it, you were almost excited to come home? To return to your routine, your own bed, all the normal, deeply-ingrained parts of your life?
That feeling is exactly why making healthy practices a habit can make more of an impact than motivation.
Life will always be messy. No matter how ingrained your routine, a day or week or month will eventually get thrown off-kilter.
Habit holds more power than motivation because blip days will always, ALWAYS happen. With habit in your arsenal, those blips over the long stretch of your life will remain just that — blips. Tiny moments in the grand scheme of things, where life went a little awry. But the next day, or week, or month, you're able to return to your routine without shame, guilt, "falling off the wagon" and then struggling desperately to jump back on.
Above, I talked about getting out of bed at 4:45 am for the gym even when I had plenty of excuses for staying in bed. Blip days happen with that habit, too!
Some nights I have trouble sleeping for one reason or another, and I know I've gotten a grand total of 3 hours that night. Even though my habit is to get up and go to the gym, those are mornings I sleep in — because I know the sleep is what I need that day.
But I know it's just a blip. A wrinkle. Not laziness or "giving up." Because I'll show up again once the blip passes — no motivation required.
How to develop longterm habits that stick
Eventually I'm sure this topic will become its own post, but for now here's a few tips for developing healthy habits:
This is tip #1 because nothing happens without action. You can't develop a healthy habit if you don't first START. Too often we tell ourselves things like "I'll start meal prepping once I have more time", "I'll start journaling once I find the perfect notebook", "I'll join CrossFit once I get fit" (I've heard that one a LOT)! But guess what? The time will NEVER be perfect, you just have to start. My girl Taylor at She Thrives Blog has a whole post dedicated to this topic, so give it a read for more info!
Create one habit at a time.
It's all too easy to make grand, sweeping changes in your life (think New Year's Resolutions). But if you change your diet, try to adopt meal planning, get a gym membership, start journaling every morning, try meditation, and overhaul your bedtime routine all in the same week, your chances of making those overhauls stick are slimmer with each new change. Instead, pick one thing that you can change, and develop that habit before trying to add in a new one.
Accept that blip days happen.
Try not to let one - or two - or seven blip days quash your habit. Once you accept that not every day will work out perfectly, you're WAY more likely to adopt a habit instead of throwing it out the window once something shakes up your routine. Too many people feel shame or guilt when a healthy habit gets skipped.
Use your environment to your advantage.
You aren't likely to make workout out a habit if you sign up for a gym 30 minutes out of your way. Environment has a HUGE impact on making habits stick. Maybe you've heard the tip to set out your workout shoes before you go to bed so they're ready for you in the morning? I set out my workout clothes at night to make my early mornings easy. It works! Fill your fridge with ready-to-eat healthy snacks. Put a meditation app on the front page of your phone. The adage "out of sight, out of mind" works the other way, too!
Hopefully these tips help you build the healthy habits you want for your life! Do you have any other tips to add to this list?