Staying Motivated, Tip #3: Take these 5 STEPS for Success

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In Tip #2, I said that feeling unmotivated is what happens when you fall into “autopilot” mode instead of making conscious choices about your eating and exercise. And I suggested that feeling motivated comes more from making conscious decisions about your own behavior than from the results your behavior produces.

Today’s blog takes a look at HOW being mindful keeps you feeling motivated, even when your choices aren’t always “perfect.” And we’ll talk about a 5-step process you can use to turn your autopilot off and keep yourself mindfully motivated.

Many experts believe that one of the primary building blocks of strong motivation is self-efficacy, which in simple terms is the sense that you can do what you need to do to accomplish your goal. Self-efficacy is not the same thing as general self-esteem, self-confidence, or positive thinking. One way it’s different from these other things is that it is “goal specific”—self-efficacy is not about believing that you can do anything you set your mind to, it’s about believing that you can do the very specific things required to achieve a particular goal.

If you want to develop a strong sense of self-efficacy in connection with your healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss goals, you need to give yourself opportunities to be successful at the small, specific tasks required to meet your overall goal—like making good food choices and sticking to your exercise plans more often than not. You can’t build self-efficacy simply by telling yourself “I can do it” over and over again. You need to have a realistic idea of what actually needs to be done, and frequently demonstrate to yourself that you can actually do those things.

So, now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Oh, great! To get motivated, I just need to start doing the things I haven’t been able to do consistently so far, so I’ll start believing I can do them. Thanks for all the help!” And your sarcasm would be totally justified—except for one key thing.

I didn’t say you had to be successful at these tasks to start developing self-efficacy, I said you need to “give yourself opportunities to be successful” at them. And that brings us back to the issue of mindfulness.

When you’re being mindful, you can build up your sense of self-efficacy just as easily by paying attention to your failures and difficulties as by being successful—and maybe end up more strongly motivated in the process.

You already know this, and you probably do it all the time—but maybe not in connection with eating and exercise. It’s really nothing more complicated than learning from your mistakes as well as your successes. But the ability to do this learning depends on taking charge of your own attitude. If you constantly feel guilty for not being perfect, or tell yourself you’re not motivated, or believe that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, or blame other people/situations for your problems, the only thing you’re going to learn is that you really can’t do what you need to do—and that’s the kiss of death for your motivation.

If, on the other hand, you can kick those kinds of thoughts to the curb for a while, and practice the following five steps instead, you can build your self-efficacy whenever you make a conscious decision, act on it, and notice what happens, regardless of what that decision--or the outcome--is.

The 5 STEPS to Mindful Self-Motivation

Here are the five things you need to do to turn off your autopilot and keep yourself in decision-making mode:

  • Step One. STOP. Whenever you find yourself reaching for something to eat, putting something in your grocery cart, or talking to yourself about what to do with the next chunk of your time, just STOP for a minute—don’t do anything until you give yourself a chance to decide what you really want to do.

  • Step Two. THINK.What do you want/hope to accomplish with this choice you’re about to make? What’s the best thing you can do in this situation to help yourself accomplish that? How do you think you’ll feel after you’ve chosen any of the options you’re considering? Are you willing to choose the option you think will make you feel best afterwards, or is some other factor more important to you at the moment? Be honest and open with yourself—don’t just include the goals or intentions you think you should have. If what you really want right now is to do a little comfort eating, or give yourself a little treat that’s not on your menu, or take a nap instead of exercising, just say so—no rationalizations or excuses necessary or allowed.

  • Step Three. EXECUTE. Once you know what you want to accomplish with this particular choice, and have decided on the best way to make this happen, just do it. And recognize that it’s you making the decision and taking action—not the food, or the couch, or the situation, or the other people involved, or your genes.

  • Step Four. PAY attention to the results. Did your choice give you the results you expected? Did it make you feel the way you thought it would? Is this something you’d be happy to do again? If not, what can you change to get the results you’re hoping for?

  • Step Five. START over again at Step One. Take what you’ve learned and use it to help you figure out what to do next time you have a similar decision to make. Repeat this process as necessary—and it’s always necessary.

    Motivating yourself is really an on-going process of learning what works for you from your own experience, and experimenting with different ways to accomplish that. The key to success is maintaining the same kind of attitude towards yourself that a good scientist needs to have towards an experiment: letting the results determine what you believe, instead of letting what you already think determine the results you see.

    You already have everything you need to motivate yourself from the inside: your desires, your needs, your feelings and reactions, your imagination, your particular skills and talents, and your innate drive towards self-determination and self-development. When you learn how to observe and monitor yourself in action, without passing judgment in advance on how things “should” be, you set up a creative and powerful feedback mechanism that allows you to use both positive and negative experiences to keep adjusting your goals so they’re right for you, and keep yourself moving towards them. That’s where real motivation comes from, if you’re willing to trust yourself enough to give it a chance.

    Do you trust yourself enough to give your internal feedback mechanism a chance to motivate you? Or do your own negative attitudes keep getting in the way?

  • Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
      You will earn 5 SparkPoints


    Thank you! This is a terrific series! Report
    Great Article, I put them on the cover of my journal, great to take with me when going food shopping, then again can be used for all aspects of my life....Thank you. Report
    Mindful eating is a great way to change our lives. This kind of thoughtfulness seeps over into all aspects of our lives.
    Excellent article! Thank you. Report
    Coach Dean, you are one of the most inspiring people I have ever met when it comes to self-improvement and motivation. The best part is that I know from SP what you've gone through to get where you are today. What I find so appealing about your way of looking at things is that it reminds me of cognitive therapy: your approach helps the reader center on the self, how one is thinking, feeling, and behaving, and using active, conscious, thought-processes to alter positively behavior. Remaining consistently mindful, keeping a healthy perspective, and being kind to myself are things I personally struggle with on a daily basis. Thank you for being there for us and sharing your experiences and professionalism. Report
    Good series with NEW information - thanks Report
    This was a great article Dean - I really like 5-step process to becoming more mindful of your behavior. I'm definitely going to start using this in my life. Report
    It is funny how we are told one thing - and follow it, then new research comes out and we change to fit that. I think that many of the numbers used to say you have high cholesterol are for the drug manufactures benefit. If you are active, eat right, that is most likelt what you need to stay healthy. Report
    I printed it out and have it posted in my office! Report
    My word of the year for 2009 is MINDFULNESS. I thought about it concerning nutrition, exercise, decluttering and finances. Never occurred to me about MINDFUL motivation! Thanks for the kick! Report
    good advice. sharing this with others Report
    It is so easy to "check out." This is something I will put into pratice. I tend to "zone" out a lot to get stuff done but this helps you stay in the moment. Thank you. Cathy Report
    I liked the minfulness part! Report
    This is great, and so relevant! In my profession (quality engineer), we use the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle to drive improvement. Steps 2-5 are just applying that to staying healthy - it really speaks to me! Report
    Thank You, Coach Dean. Another great blog with very useful information. Report
    this is so true... thank you for sharing this... It means a lot...I will win this war of obessity. Report
    tHANK YOU. I saved it to my favorites Report
    Sounds good. I think you're on to something Report
    great article --- thank-you Wendy/Goldenpearle Report
    Dear Dean Anderson,

    What you call "auto-pilot" I call "my coma". SparkPeople helps me stay mindful. I've never been able to express this phenomena as well as you have in this article. Your 5 Steps are almost exactly what I do when I am alert to what is happening. More and more I am alert. It takes practice. I'm sure I'm re-programming my brain, or eating mechanisim, or something......... Thank you for your analysis and help in turning my "auto-pilot" toward the right goal. Report
    Thanks. I'll re-read this when I'm feeling less than motivated! Report
    Thank you Im printing this and sticking it on my fridge!! Report
    Just when I was about to trick myself into believing a late night chocolate chip cookie wouldn't hurt...this blog saved me. Thanks tons! Report
    Thank you for sharing......It's a Keeper -- in My Spark Favorites. Report
    I think this was the best yet. I've been sharing these with a number of friends.
    Thank-you. Report
    Thanks for posting Report
    This was great. I'm in my 3rd week of eating healthy and exercizing. It's beginning to get harder. Thanx for these steps. I feel I can put them to good use. Report
    Thank you. I think we tend to forget how to be mindful! I definately needed a reminder! Report
    I have been eating right and exercising for about 2 weeks. I feel so much better. I have more energy during the day. THAT IS MOTIVATION! Report
    I loved this post! So true. One of the things I struggle with the most - I'm including this on my page. Thanks! Report
    Thats kind of funny. I more or less blogged about thsi today and here it is thrown at me. No negative thoughts here. I'm on a roll for life. I want to live. I want to be strong and healthy. I want to see the sun shine. Spark People has given me a new lease on life. These steps are terrific. A little more than a year ago I was told by my Dr. that if I don't change my ways I'll be dead in 2 years. At 4'11" I was 250 lbs. When I started SP I was 235. Now I'm in my 190's and going down. Don't rock my boat cuz it's sailin smooth.

    I'm happy today. Whoever thought I would be helping others. I'm full of joy. Motivated like never before. I walk 30 minutes twice a day for cardio, go to the gym for 60 minutes plus wrestle my ball with coach nicole in the background. And I'm 52.

    Great blog here. Thanks. Report
    That was just what I needed to hear today. I wrote it down and will keep it where I can remind myself. It's so easy to think I have no control, but it's not at all true. Report
    I love this series. It gives me food for thought and helps me take responsibility for my choices and that gives me a feeling of power. Not knowing my goals and not realizing that I do have choices make me powerless. Thanks for putting in a succint manner. Report
    Thank you for posting this. Great info. Report
    very good reminders. i am putting them on my computer. thanks Report
    Thank you. Report