Why Motivation Doesn't Make Lasting Changes

By Dr. Brooke Kalanick

Turn off autopilot if you want a chance at change.

Recently, my good friend and Girls Gone Strong Co-Founder Molly Galbraith had a great post on her Facebook page suggesting we pick one habit that will yield big results, and change it. Solid advice, but sometimes it’s downright hard to make change.

In fact, I’d say that’s the number one thing that goes wrong in so many weight loss and get healthy ventures—filling the gap between knowing better and doing better. This I why I focus so much of my coaching on habit change, because much of what you do all day is habit.

Most of us are on autopilot and we’re not even sure why we’re doing it half the time.

For example:

  • You don’t realize that you always brush your teeth with your right hand.
  • You don’t realize that it’s leaving your office that triggers the desire for a glass of wine.
  • You don’t realize that it’s that one coworker who makes you want sugary treats.
  • You don’t realize you ate the rest of the French fries off your kid’s plate until they’re gone.

... and so on and so forth. You’re on cruise control, with your unconscious mind at the wheel.

Maybe you've heard this oft-repeated statistic before: the unconscious mind processes four billion bits of information per second, while your conscious awareness takes in only 2000 bits per second. How can you even compete with that?

Start with getting mindful.

With so much of your day being  don’t-even-think-about-it habits, you gotta learn to pay attention!  Being mindful doesn’t mean you have to meditate or "get your zen on" up top a mountain.  You can get mindful anywhere, anytime.

To be more mindful, simply pick a time of day, such as putting on your make up in the morning or sitting down to lunch, that cues you to pay attention. Or you can set an alarm on your phone to go off on the hour to remind you to practice mindfulness.

All mindfulness is, is becoming aware of this moment right now.

To do so, simply pay attention to one thing: the feeling of your ring on your finger or your feet in your shoes. Pick something and practice with it. Just be aware, that’s it. You don’t have to do anything with the moment at first, just notice it.

meditation-on-beach-450x338Mindfulness sounds “nice” of course, but let's be honest. It's not something you really have time for, right? Despite what you think, you don't have to be doing yoga in a remote location to practice mindfulness—thank goodness!

Well, like I say, motivation is out and mindfulness is in. If you want to have better success with your body change or weight loss goals you’ve gotta get mindful. Mindful trumps motivation every time when it comes to making changes.

Motivation is an emotion that lasts a few days or even weeks if you're lucky, and then peters out, and yet we rely on this over and over again to get to our goals.

Instead, take up some strategies that help you really change and aren’t reliant upon how you’re feeling in the moment, but rather bring you right into the moment – however good or bad it may be. Mindfulness does just that, gets you present to the here and now. It’s in each moment that you can observe the little decisions you make that get you into trouble – aka your habits. Here's how:

Observe the habit and look for the reminder.

Look for the reminder—the thought, feeling or activity that happens just before you take the action (do the habit).  The reminder is the first part of the habit loop (more on the habit loop coming soon, sit tight). It’s this loop that you have to unravel to change your habits, so start from the top: the reminder.

wine-glasses-450x338To get to the reminder, get mindful. Slow down and watch yourself.  Pick one habit, like drinking wine or not being able to pass up the bread basket at a restaurant, and see if you can figure out your reminder. What is the feeling or time of day or type of situation that triggers you wanting to engage in that habit? What's your trigger? Do you crave wine after a long day at work? Or maybe at dinner with girlfriends?

Something that will come up for you as you get more mindful, is “Why in the world do I even do this?"

What's the payoff?

We often see how a habit is not helping us, yet we struggle to stop doing it. You can usually easily see the cost: it’s keeping you from your goal. But what about the payoff? This is the flipside. The thing we don’t necessarily want to admit about why we do what we do. You need to get clear on this—we don’t do anything without some sort of payoff, and you’ll need to give this up if you want to get your WANT!

I know. It's tough to admit, but do it.  None of this makes you a bad person, just a human.

What is the thing you don’t want to give up in order to get a better, healthier body?

It is often freedom, time, security, or energy—as in, it’s easier to just sleep in than get up and workout. It feels restrictive to avoid gluten or watch your carbs. It takes too much time to get in shape.

This is where you may be feeling your neck muscles tightening up as you start to feel your resistance to answering these tough questions.  Your brain likes things to stay easy, to stay the same and it will start to say stuff like, “I eat well enough and I don’t need this psycho-babble about payoffs and inspiration.”

Here’s the reality check: whatever you are doing—no matter how good you think your diet is—it’s giving you the body you have now. If you’re not happy with that status quo, well... you see where I’m going here.

You may already be trying very hard, but if your body isn’t changing, then there’s work to be done. And it’s probably not at the gym. Exercise is very important, but after 10 years of helping women lose fat, I see time and time again that at least 80% of results are determined by diet (especially for women who are struggling the most). Chances are, you’ve got more work to do in the kitchen than in the gym.

As you start to decide where you’ll focus your efforts to get your WANT, keep in mind that your diet is going to change. This is a good time to notice if you’re complaining or taking a victim mindset.  If you’re thinking things like:

“It’s so hard, I have a job and a family and I can’t do this.”
“Who has time?”
And the classic—and my personal favorite: “It’s not fair. Why do I have to work so hard when So-and-So doesn’t?”

If you catch yourself thinking anything along those lines, go back to the payoff. What are you getting out of not trying to do it differently? Of not taking on more with your nutrition plan? And what is the cost of continuing to do what you’re doing now?

Stings a bit, huh? I certainly thought so. You’re not alone. This is the human condition. It’s easier to complain and feel like we’re at the mercy of our lives than take responsibility and give some really comfy stuff up. You do it. Your girlfriends do it. I do it.

Get clear on the payoff of your habits—especially those who you’re resistant to giving up. To really change you have to give these things up in spite of the payoff. Knowing the cost isn’t usually enough—you know darn well, for example, that booze is not the way to fitter physique. You know a lot actually. We all do. Yet many struggle to bridge the gap between knowing better and doing better.

You’re taking a huge step towards actually making change by observing your habits, looking for the habit reminders and getting clear on what you’re really giving up to have your WANT. Take the time to find the payoffs, you’ll have much more power in the face of change by doing so cuz let’s face it, change isn’t effortless.

For just today, get mindful.

See all the little habits you have by just by watching them. Get a notebook and take a few notes. See your reminders and your payoffs. In my next post we’ll dig into what happens after the reminder: the routine and the reward. We’ll take the reminder observation one step further and see what your habit is seeking—the reward.

This one is often the hardest part to suss out, but don’t worry though I’ll walk you through it.

(Pssst... If you're ready for more now, check out Part 2: How To Truly Change Your Habits, and Part 3: The 6 Step Process To Changing Any Habit).

We know that making changes and working on your habits is hard work. If you feel like you could use a little guidance, let us help!

Get in the best shape of your life—for good.

With Girls Gone Strong Coaching, you’ll get the support, accountability, and expert coaching to eat and exercise in a sustainable way — without restrictive diets or spending your life in the gym.

Whether your health and fitness goals are to…

  • Get stronger
  • Gain muscle
  • Lose body fat
  • Improve your pull-ups
  • Have a safe and healthy pregnancy
  • Return to exercise safely postpartum
  • Heal your relationship with food
  • Increase your confidence

... or anything else, we’ll help you achieve them. You can experience life-changing results while eating and exercising in a way that actually fits into your life — instead of controlling it.

Throughout our 12-month program, you’ll get a simple, step-by-step plan for developing nutrition, fitness, and mindset habits that will lead the way in reaching your goal.

Your coach is available 5 days a week to answer questions and help you navigate situations — like eating while you’re on vacation, exercise substitutions so you don’t aggravate your knee pain, or planning a workout with limited equipment options — so you always have support when you need it. And together, you'll find the best path toward long-term results in a way that works for you.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Improve your nutrition without giving up the foods you love
  • Exercise safely and effectively so you’re getting maximum results from your workouts without burning yourself out
  • Increase your confidence, love the way your body looks, feels, and performs — and enjoy your life more than you ever thought possible

And you’ll become the happiest, fittest, strongest version of yourself, one step at a time.

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About the author:  Dr. Brooke Kalanick

Dr. Brooke Kalanick earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Known as “The Hormone Whisperer,” Brooke's balanced approach to health, using both conventional and alternative therapies, allows her to successfully treat patients with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and PCOS as well as other female hormone imbalances. Learn more about Dr. Brooke on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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