The New Year often inspires interest in a new you, but what does it take to propel this transformation into action? Some argue, it just takes motivation. Which may hold some truth, but is it enough?
If you haven’t already read the statistics, a mere 8% of those who set a New Year’s resolution have long-term success. With that in mind, it raises doubt as to whether motivation is enough to launch a new you.
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Change is an undeniably difficult task, even during a state of heightened motivation. It leaves you wondering, why do we regard motivation as the secret to success?
Think of motivation as the force that gets the ball rolling. It’s a boost of energy that allows you to concentrate your efforts on something new. It explains why the first few days, or few weeks of starting a new habit are easy (well, at least easier) to sustain. You have an internal drive, like a fire with fresh fuel!
Here’s the kicker, the simple fact that motivation takes energy means you’ll struggle to sustain it. Your fire will begin to fade, unless there is something to refuel it.
Thinking of motivation as energy is a bit abstract, so bear with me. You understand physical energy, such as the effort required to exercise. Motivation is the result of appropriate mental, emotional and spiritual energy.
Consider what it takes to create and sustain a new habit, then you’ll better understand how mental, emotional and spiritual energy support, or don’t support, motivation.
First and foremost, you have to think about a change to make, and the steps required to do it. This thought process requires mental energy. Then, you have to remember to do what you said you were going to do. This also requires mental energy because you are changing your routine. Routine being an act you do subconsciously, or, without effort.
If you’re lucky enough to maintain some consistency with your actions, then you have to be brave enough to enter the zone of discomfort. Whether it’s beginning to exercise, learning a skill or changing your diet, being new at something takes more effort than it does after you’ve become good at it. As you can see, learning takes mental energy.
As you may well know, the attempt to do something new is much better at drawing out a string of four letter words than it is at evoking encouragement. Hence, the zone of discomfort. We are emotionally drained by feelings of frustration, disappointment and discouragement. Lacking positive emotional energy squanders your motivation.
Over time, mental and emotional fatigue sets in. That initial burst of motivating energy, stemming from an idealistic vision, fades away. An additional twinge of disappointment accompanies the decision to scrap the new-you plan. In its place is the self-talk preparing you to accept yourself the way you are.
You may find yourself asking, why was I doing this in the first place? It’s an excellent question. One that brings us to the spiritual energy required to sustain motivation.
During my early years as a registered dietitian, a mentor told me the fastest way to get someone to change their diet was to tell them they have cancer. It seemed harsh, but the point of the statement was acknowledging the power of your why.
When change becomes difficult, and it always does, you have to have a darn good reason for sticking with it. It has to be so powerful, that it gives you hope, determination and resilience. The outcome has to benefit you beyond a superficial reward.
So yes, we do need motivation to make change. But, most of the time, we fail to start the change process by first establishing a deeply meaningful reason to support it.
In 2022, start by asking yourself why change matters. Does the result of this change somehow connect to the people and things you truly value? If not, let it go.
Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at email@example.com or 382-6461.