Last Saturday, I taught a workshop at Steadfast Supply about building healthy habits.
When I was planning the workshop, the phrase that kept coming back to me is “motivation is a muscle”.
So often, we believe that some people are blessed with a large amount of motivation, and other people simply don’t have it.
I know that motivation is something you can build. Just like any other muscle, as you work your motivation and put habits into practice, you get better and better at it. Yes, it’s a challenge, yes it’s uncomfortable, but it’s possible.
I also realized that there are 3 key mindset shifts you need to make in order to keep with your habits and achieve your goals.
Let’s dive into these mindset shifts, and as we do, ask yourself: Which of these do I already have? Which do I need to cultivate more of in order to be successful?
Mindset Shift 1: Creativity
I’ll explain this one with an example. A member of my workshop last Saturday wanted to get up early and workout in the morning. She’d been trying for months, sometimes sticking with it, but most of the time just hitting snooze.
At the beginning of our workshop, she was focused on “I just have to get up earlier. I just have to do it.”
As we continued, I invited her to bring some creativity into her methods of getting her morning workout in. We talked about going to bed earlier. About keeping her gym clothes by the bed. About getting a friend to workout with. And then – to actually plan out her workouts ahead of time.
Suddenly she smiled. “YES! I never know what workouts to do, so there’s no reason to actually get up.”
With a little brainstorming, we were able to come up with a bunch of ideas that might help her get up early, and we eventually realized the true reason she wasn’t achieving her goal.
So invite creativity. Look beyond the exact behavior and explore: what happens before the target habit? What’s happening afterwards? Why don’t I feel super motivated to do it?
You’ll generate a lot of ideas that aren’t the reason, but you’ll eventually land on one that can make a huge difference in determining whether you do or don’t accomplish your target habit every day.
Mindset Shift 2: Humility
Look. I don’t think that you are physically incapable of working out 7 days each week. Or that you can’t transform your entire schedule tomorrow. But…
Let’s just say it’s a heck of a lot less likely that you’ll stick with your target habits if you try to take on too much at one time.
Start with something that feels doable. Something that you’re 90% sure you can accomplish. Something that’s a stretch, not a leap (as I learned from Brian Johnson of Optimize).
Why? Because you’ll accomplish your goal. And when you start racking up those successes, you’ll be more confident. And then you can take on bigger goals. And you’ll accomplish those. And then you’ll grow again. And again. It’s amazing.
Corollary to Mindset Shift 2: Be Honest.
Changing habits doesn’t work if you’re not honest about what you want or are able to do.
Don’t pretend you’ll get home from work at 5 if it’s usually closer to 6.
Don’t say you’re ready to run 40 minutes if you’ve never run for 5.
There’s no shame in admitting either of these things, but the more honest you are, the better chance you have of actually getting to your goal.
A great way to get honest about your internal obstacles that might get in the way of you accomplishing your goal is to WOOP!
Mindset Shift 3: Scientific
No, you don’t have to calculate anything, but I do want you to think back to your science classes.
Scientists have a hypothesis (something they think is true), and then they run an experiment to test it. If they’re hypothesis turns out to be true – great! If it’s not – great!
Either way, the scientist learns. The scientist gets closer to the truth. It’s not win or lose, it’s win or learn. If the hypothesis was incorrect, it doesn’t mean the scientist was bad, it means there’s something more to learn about the situation.
So how does this relate to you? If you set a goal and you can’t stick with the target habit, it doesn’t mean you have bad motivation, it means your hypothesis was wrong. You thought that if you got to bed an hour earlier and pre-planned your workouts, you’d wake up early to do a workout. It didn’t happen. OK. How come? Maybe you didn’t like the workouts you were planning, or you need some better accountability with a friend. Maybe getting up an hour earlier meant that your kids just got up an hour earlier too. Who knows!? It’s just another experiment to test.
For this reason, when my clients are setting a new target habit, I tell them to set an alarm for 3 weeks in the future. That date is an opportunity to check in with the target habit, see how it’s going, to celebrate a win, or to learn and re-adjust their hypothesis.
These three mindset shifts will get you a lot closer to achieving your target habits. So what did you think? Which one of these mindset shifts could you bring more consistently into your life and habit building practice? Leave a note in the comments below.
Also, as you probably realized, it’s so much easier to see these solutions and shifts in other people than yourself. That’s why I coach others on bringing these amazing changes into their lives. If you’d be interested in learning more about what working with me as your coach can do for your life and wellbeing, send me an email – sam[at]behappyhealthyhuman[dot]com.Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.