It's about that time of year when most people realize that their New Year's resolution has long since fallen by the wayside. You’re no longer strapping on your sneakers for a jog at 6am; your attempts to abstain from alcohol have woefully failed. But instead of resigning yourself to starting again in 2017, learn how you can find the motivation to get back on track.
Motivation is only the ignition, not the gas pedal
First, it’s important to understand the nature of motivation and its various forms to be able to hack it. To illustrate this, consider two different people: Person A and Person B.
Person A just wants to look good. Scratch that, he wants to look exactly like Thor in The Avengers. He spends most of his time reading about how grow his vanity muscles, makes sure he grunts extra loud at the gym, and swears by a 10-exercise routine just for his biceps. But it takes a lot of effort, and by the time the weekend rolls by, he caves and goes all out on beer, burgers, and buffalo wings. By contrast, Person B barely thinks about his exercise routine. He just likes to go for a run every morning because it boosts his mood for the rest of the day, and he manages to do it pretty consistently.
The main difference, motivation-wise, between the two is that Person A’s sole incentive is his end goal. Realistic or not, he’s pinned all of his efforts on a reward that he can only enjoy once he’s reached the finish line. By contrast, Person B doesn’t even think of the finish line. They’ve focused their effort on a process that continually links their effort with reward (in this case, running and feeling good). This process-driven approach allows them to strengthen their routine into a sustainable habit.
That isn’t to say that looking to Arnie or Jason Statham to kick your ass into gear isn’t helpful. It is. But if motivation is the ignition, habit is the gas pedal that keeps driving you forward. And this is why your New Year’s Resolution motivation probably ran out: you tried to make a cross-country road trip solely powered by your car’s ignition, and not its fuel tank.
To make a successful metaphorical road trip, you need to follow a two-step process:
1. Start the ignition -- i.e. create short-term motivation to get you into the gym.
2. Use that momentum to start creating visible, quantifiable results.