The motivation myth - why you just have to do it anyway

We often think that in order to achieve a goal, we need to get motivated. Newsflash: It doesn't work like that. Research shows that, in most cases, motivation will come from actually doing something, rather than be the cause of it.

People don't usually make changes to their lifestyle for the sake of making a change. Whether the goal is to be healthier, lose or maintain weight, or look better, we're all looking to achieve something. But that doesn't mean that people are motivated to achieve it. Wanting something to be different isn't synonymous with actually being inspired to change it.

But, this inspiration, or motivation, isn't a prerequisite for change. More often than not, motivation will come after the change has started. Think about it - the first day of cutting junk food is the hardest, not only because you're used to old habits, but also because you're not motivated enough to ignore the temptations around you. Once you get into the habit of eating healthier, you're motivated to keep on the right track.

We're not saying that motivation is not important. Of course it is! It gives you this amazing tunnel vision that makes all other inclinations seem less important than reaching the goal you set for yourself. We're just saying that if you wait for it to hit you, you might wait a long time.

There are a few things you can do to make changes easier. One useful model is: goal, reason and plan. What we mean by that is pretty simple. Instead of sitting and waiting aimlessly for motivation to kick in, you can start thinking about the end goal you want to achieve. If, for example, you really want to quit smoking, that's your goal.

Then, you can start thinking about the reasons why you want to quit smoking in the first place. This bit is important. The 'how' gets easier once you've sorted your 'why'. So focus in on the smokers cough and the dent in your wallet. No matter what the reason is, thinking about it will affirm your decision.

And then comes the plan. This is the step that people often forget. In order to get something done, thinking of practical steps to achieve that goal is where it's at. So research the field, think of the best ways to implement the changes, and then just go with them and see what works.

And remember, change is a messy process. False starts, dead ends and adjusted plans are the route to lasting change. No effort is wasted. Start where you are at that moment and do what you can.

If you wait for motivation to come to you while you're on your way to Tesco to get another pack, you'll never quit. After you go through a day, a week or a month without a smoke - that's when the motivation will hit. Motivation is what keeps you going, not what gets you started.

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