Do you struggle with the motivation to accomplish your stated goals? Do you feel like you need to pump yourself up in order to take the steps to reach those goals?
Recently, I read a great article in Outside magazine called "Motivation is Overrated," by Brad Stulberg. It's basically a response to the fact that many people fail to keep their New Year's resolutions, but I think the information is applicable anytime. I don't know about you, but I tend to make goals for myself throughout the year, whether it's health-related, work/school-related, or relationship-related. I don't put much stock in goals that are made once a year and then forgotten. I think self-introspection should be done regularly, and if something isn't working in life, then it needs to be corrected. This can happen in July as well as it can in January.
The premise of the article is this: Usually when we make a new goal, we are excited to get started. Our mood is elevated, we are raring to go. Inevitably, our mood changes. And we let that dictate our actions.
For instance, suppose you decide you really want to focus on healthy family dinners. You promise yourself you're going to cook six nights out of seven. You are chomping at the bit to get started; you have visions in your head of your family sitting around the dining room table, eating a delicious, balanced meal that you prepared. Everyone is laughing and talking. Everyone is feeling good because they are together and they are being nourished by what you provided. This feels great. Your heart swells and you decide to make it happen. The first week, you're pumped; you plan the week's meals, you shop for everything you need, you clear an hour out of your schedule to prepare the meal each night. That week goes great, the novelty is wonderful, your family is happy, oh, maybe your one picky kid isn't so thrilled, but it all goes swimmingly nonetheless. The next week you plan the same, but something comes up at work and you're not able to do one of the nights. Then one of your kids suddenly has a soccer practice scheduled and you can't do another night. You still forge ahead with the plan, but then you just don't feel like cooking one night, and one night turns into two, and before you know it, it all falls apart because your motivation failed. Your brain started telling you it wasn't worth all this trouble, and your FEELINGS started telling you it was too much work and trying to schedule it around real life just wasn't feasible. You let your MOOD DICTATE YOUR ACTIONS.
Well, I'm like this with daily exercise. I love to hike in the hills. I love to take walks. I especially love the way I feel afterwards - cleansed, whole, fresh. Alive. Energetic. Despite all these things, I have trouble getting motivated to just get out there. And so I was encouraged to read, in this Outside article, that I had it all backwards. I shouldn't wait until I FEEL like walking. Instead, MOOD FOLLOWS ACTION. I need to DO the thing first, and then the good feelings will follow.
This has become my new motto. When I don't feel like doing my homework? MOOD FOLLOWS ACTION. I get it done and I feel good. Smart. On top of things. When I don't want to clean the house? MOOD FOLLOWS ACTION. I get it done and then I feel organized and happy with my surroundings. When I don't want to go walking in the rain? MOOD FOLLOWS ACTION. I get it done and then I feel better, more focused.
It works in reverse too. When I want to reach for some ice cream after dinner? I say, 'that's just a feeling. I don't let my feelings dictate my actions.' And that helps.
So, give it a try - make it your motto, too. And see if it helps you get closer to your goals. I'm finding it surprisingly affective.
By the way, I subscribed to Outside magazine for years, but I was always rather put off by their male-centric focus, especially male-athlete-centric focus. The gear they reviewed was always for guys, the articles were always about male athletes, and the sections on health and physical fitness were always skewed male. So I let my subscription lapse. But in the last year, I've been following them on twitter, and things are changing at the magazine. They made a commitment that half their stories would be by women writers, and they are focusing on people of color and people of different body types. One of the greatest adventure stories I read this year was the story of a queer black woman hiking the Appalachian Trail alone. Recently I also read a story about a female athlete with a larger, curvier size. Her size wasn't just glossed over, it was the focus of the article - that she was appreciating her body and what it could do.
Another thing they are doing well is commentary on the state of outdoor conservation in the current political climate. They also took a stance on the #metoo movement and started surveying women to find out about harassment in the outdoors.
Plus, as their executive editor Alexandra Navas said, "We're trying to have our stories be more respresentative of our readers... As I see it, we're a magazine for people who love the outdoors, and that's not just core athletes, that can be anyone."
If you, like me, have been turned off by this magazine in the past, I'd say give it another try. Here is their website - check it out.