Why do I get super excited to start a new project or goal? Only to work on it for a day or two then let it fade into the background as if mission accomplished, even though I only just started?
Why do some goals get set, knowing that the rewards are considerably beneficial and yet they seem so damn boring to do on a daily basis?
How are we to get better at something unless we can be consistent enough to actually put in the work?
After pondering these questions it occurred to me that my real issue is not the goal, but the follow through.
How did I figure this out? How did I become motivated to follow through? In short, I developed Stronger Awareness. A process of:
- 1 – Visualizing
- 2 – Listing Actionable Items
- 3 – Charting Progress
But first a little background for context.
Ten years ago I started my fitness journey. I had always held the belief that I was the small guy. This belief sparked my motivation to look bigger, get stronger, and get better at hockey. In the past, I would set goals of going to the gym every day, but only for limited periods of time. I would get to the gym on day one, lift weights until the point of exhaustion then head home (This is working!!!). The next day I would wake up, feel sore, question whether I should go or not, mope around, feel the absolute urge to stay home when the time arrived to head back the gym.
I didn’t have any clue how to manage those impulsive feelings. I would just blindly follow them. Do I just not have the drive to go the gym? Or am I just not being present and focused on my goals? The typical “I’m lazy” response is one that has floated through my head in the past and definitely does not add to either my ability to accomplish my goals or my overall wellbeing. I would make gains, followed by losses, followed by gains, and then losses again. The net result was staying in the same place even though I did have some fleeting success. Eventually, I became aware that in order to make lasting improvements, I needed to change my impulsiveness and consistency level.
Let’s take a look at how I managed this impulsiveness and crushed my goals by developing my awareness.
What we really need at the end of the day is a way to increase our awareness towards that tricky goal. I was lacking very severely in this department. I didn’t have an ounce of what they call attention. The funny thing is that we all believe we have great attention until those moments when we realize that we really don’t. It is almost as if someone has taken off the blindfold in those moments of realization (and trust me, was I ever blind). We have thousands of competing influences over our interest that pull our attention away from our goals and towards usually ineffective or impulsive behaviors. It’s not that I am lazy and just don’t want to go to the gym, it can be to easy to get distracted by other influences such as phones, computers, friends, work, commitments, etc.
We need to find ways of maintaining a high level of motivation for our goals to outcompete these other impulses. We also need to develop a higher level of awareness in order to notice and eventually avoid our impulsive behaviors that do not add to our long-term happiness and health. As I started to develop more attention, the world became an equally hard but much easier place to understand. Every day you realize what the hell you have been doing wrong for so long. It almost leaves you feeling a little bit demoralized until you start to put the work in and see the results. So what is this work that I am talking about? Let’s equip you with a few more tools for your toolkit =)
1 – Visualization
The first tool that has made a massive impact has been the use of highly vivid visualizations and contrasting that with reality. Some people dream a lot in an uncoordinated way. They get excited about the potential of some future event, which is great, but for our purposes we want to be a little bit more specific with our dreams. We can do this by visualizing.
– First, we want to visualize the goal that we are after. This will no doubt get us very excited which will increase our motivation. Think of every little detail that excites you. Think of the challenges and how fun it will be. The more detailed we can get the better.
– Second, we want to visualize where we are currently. This will create a gap in our minds between where we are and where we want to be. Think of this as a motivational gap to understand that the first visualization is exciting but we are not at this point. We are at the visualization of our current self which can help create the motivation and drive to our future goals.
-The third part which you can visualize, is the specific steps that it will take to get your future goals. All three of these in combination gives us a very specific framework in our minds about
- where we are
- what needs to be done
- where we are going
One episode of visualization generally won’t light a fuse under your ass to get you moving. We need multiple efforts to develop strong a strong motivational capacity. The more vivid an internal blue print (visualization) is, the quicker we can use our attention to access that blue print. We can now understand the need to act and what is required to act without humming and hawing.
2 – Listing Actionable Items
The second tool is simply actions you need to take in order to succeed with your goal. It is generally the items in the third visualization. We need to realize the challenges and hardships that will occur. Be aware of these and get excited to conquer them. Get specific, break down what needs to be done and hammer it out.
3 – Charting Progress
The (third) tool that has made a difference in following through with goals is the use of progress charts…. OMG did I just say that. How boring… but wait they are seriously awesome. We learned these types of activities in Life Skills classes in high school for this reason, because they work. Unfortunately, what they didn’t teach in school is that this stuff is fun once it starts to propel you to every dream you ever had.
These sheets seem very obvious and simple at first but if you don’t understand how they affect your state of mind then you may not have the interest to follow through with them.
Charting my fitness has been instrumental in taking me in the direction that I want. First off every number and note that I write down gives me feedback that I am heading in the direction of my goals. These notes and numbers can not be overlooked, even though they only provided me with a small amount of feedback. You are increasing your awareness of the small everyday breakthroughs that you have, which builds confidence and self-reliance. The more we expect ourselves to complete a goal the more motivation we have to follow through with it.
Fast forward ten years. After applying these strategies for some time I have become much more aware of my own internal processes. I feel like I have some small epiphany nearly every day about my own internal processes. Seeing these “small wins” helps me to understand when something is working or not.
I have also carved out a much more consistent morning routine. No need to question what I will be doing first thing in the morning, which makes it very easy to make progress. Each day I will be waking up to either workout or make progress on this website. Those are the only options at 6 in the morning unless I have a training session. No phones, no wasting time, just progress. If you want a sample of how I start my mornings check out Feeling Good by Using a Morning Routine – Cold Shower, Drink Water and Cardiovascular Exercise.
Actionable items – to do lists