The world can be a busy, overwhelming, noisy pushy place. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to tap into my true motivation to stay healthy and balanced. I’m always looking for a soothing oasis of calm and comfort to regain a sense of internal harmony. I do better when those oases involve breathing, tea and moments of mindfulness. These are the “good” habit that I need to make room for in my life.


But staying with these kinds of good habits is deceptively difficult. They seem to be put to the backburner when other people’s needs rise up. It was worth doing some digging to find out a way to help me stick to them. A straightforward method has been developed by BJ Fogg. His method depends on picking the “right seed” – a tiny behavior that is a gateway to a steady habit. Then you pick the “right spot” in your day – adding it just after something you’re already doing. Coaxing it to grow depends on motivation.


Fogg doesn’t really believe in motivation. He feels that if you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot. He claims that you don’t need to reach inside to find your true motivation. If you set it up right the new habits will flow like water.


This sounds good, but I’m betting we all have a trail of broken resolutions behind us. So we know instinctively that the story is more complex than this. There always comes a time when the effort of planning for this effortless moment is competing with something easier or more fun or soothing. The planning doesn’t happen and then the moment doesn’t happen.


True Motivation Rises up From Why


There are many times when we need the boost of true motivation to help us push through the hard or the inertia. We often think of motivational speakers or motivational quotes as being a great source for the push. It’s because they engage our emotions – they make us “feel” like we want to push through or “feel” shamed because we don’t want to. But Fogg is on to something when he cautions against waiting for this “feeling” to hit.


There are three kinds of true motivations that run deeper than waiting for the “feeling” to arrive and they are all based on knowing why you want to make the change. The most sustainable why is to feel good about what you’re doing.


  • It’s got to be meaningful to you – maybe to others too, but definitely to you
  • It’s got to be something you want to learn about and master
  • It’s got to feel good along the way


Be True to You


You can count on your motivation when you’re changing for yourself. You have to see, feel and taste how awesome your life will be when you get this thing handled.


Sometimes we think that making big changes will buy us something we don’t already have. Things like confidence, love, respect and self-worth. In this case you’re dancing with your anxiety. Look deeply into the goal to see if you’re being influenced by the people around you and your environment to think you want something different.


Don’t choose a goal that is popular with the cool kids only to achieve it and feel like you’ve just done it to fit in. Choose a goal that is aligned with how you want to feel in your days and your life.


Be a Student of Your Success


Your success will change your life and who you know yourself to be. The things you learn along the way will be transformational. The successes will teach you as much, if not more, than the failures. Grit is what will see you through.


If you’ve outsourced the mastery part of your goal you may reach an endpoint that you’re happy with but you won’t really know how to keep it. I think some of the weight loss programs create this result. You can follow the program and get the results but you won’t have discovered what your body really responds to. You’ll be dependent on someone else’s process for success. A deeper, more satisfying success comes from learning how to make the change for yourself.


Make Feeling Good the Goal


Danielle LaPorte is on to something here with her Desire Map. Her approach makes the assumption that it will be easier to put in the grit and hard work if the goal makes you feel good along the way. If you understand that your deepest desire is to feel more connected – to people and life – then it becomes clear that working two jobs to buy a bigger house isn’t going to get that done.


This is a deeper and more sustainable kind of “feeling”. I don’t think anyone ever wakes up at 5 am and “feels” like they want to put on their runners and head out the door. But the connection with nature that you get when the sun starts to rise on a fresh new day is a very motivating kind of feeling.


How do you stay motivated to make the kinds of changes you want to?

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