1.) you must move evaluation away from the terms “good” and “bad”
The guilt-shame spiral DOES NOT WORK. Behaviors are productive or counterproductive/unproductive. When we observe a day or week and discover anything unproductive toward one’s desired health or fitness improvement, the only reasonable questions to ask have no moral judgment inherent. Stop using "good" and "bad" to describe yourself, as if we're watching a children's television show. Life is far more robust than heroes and villains. It’s more powerful and prudent to ask something along the lines of, “SPECIFICALLY HOW WILL I place myself in a better position to avoid those counterproductive thoughts and actions, while improving chances of productive ones?”
2.) you must give yourself a low resistance entry/re-entry point
Five minute daily practices. A daily multivitamin. An auto-timer on the power strip to your cable box/router with a hard stop to devices and screens at bed time. Something, anything which appears to your mind to represent NO EFFORT and very little decision-making budget. Impractical entry points for most people look like 60 minute per day efforts, hardcore dieting, and most popular fitness ideas.
3.) you must accept that as nice as motivation feels, you cannot always be motivated, but you can always be disciplined
Life will get busy. You will feel defeated. You will get sick. Something substantive and tangible will happen that supersedes the feelings of motivation. For many people, this occurs far more often than not. That is, your every day obligations may materially be greater than any height of inspiration or motivation possible. You can’t rely on motivation ever. But you can always rely heavily on discipline.
4.) you must recognize that you are, in fact, a disciplined individual
I’ve performed thousands upon thousands of meet-and-greets and initial intakes. Even people who think of themselves as totally undisciplined have showcased incredible discipline somewhere in their lives. Recognition of this is key, because, as stated above, people are going to hit a tough spot and guilt and shame won’t motivate. Motivation itself will wane. Now what?
Discipline will reign, if you let it. But if you keep telling yourself that you can’t be disciplined and aren’t disciplined, how will that ever work?
If you have even once completed a course or series of courses, you have shown superhuman discipline. Think accreditation or licensure. Think marriage. Think parenting. Think loyalty in friendship. None are always easy. You keep it together out of discipline, out of duty, out of honor, and NEVER out of motivation. Not everyone can resonate with this example, but college is a good one. You set out to obtain one or more degrees (or, let’s call it “lose 60lbs”). You know precisely how many credit hours you’ll have to achieve (or, let’s call it “healthy behaviors”) and at what acceptable performance level (or, let’s call it “nutritional compliance”) to obtain that degree in the next 2-5 years. When, at week 14 in a semester, you are totally demotivated, does it matter? Of course not. You acknowledge that your feelings have zero universal significance. Discipline is all that matters. You study for the final WHEN you don’t want to.
That’s a bit more concrete. But there are more peripheral examples, with a hobby or some practice which someone has done thousands and thousands of times. There are disciplined video gamers. There are disciplined readers. There are disciplined conspiracy theorists. Even the most flimsy people flailing about in life have developed outrageous discipline somewhere, somehow, at some thing. Motivation played little to no role.
Your life purpose is superior to your momentary feelings. Your 12 month purpose is superior to your 9 months of unrelenting depression. Your 10 year goal is superior to your holiday, party, etc.
You are disciplined. And you must view yourself this way.
5.) you must be going somewhere
We aren’t robots. Though discipline must reign, we are permitted to enjoy. Nay, we must enjoy. And for that, you must be going somewhere. A daily practice is grounding. Low resistance entry/re-entry points are necessary. But this is not SUFFICIENT.
People have a utility budget for the day and week. They can suffer long. But they must experience some form of joy, no matter how slight or ethereal. The health and wellness journey, therefore, MUST yield some joy.
There are “tough” people who talk a “tough” game about persistent unending drive. They slave for their craft. But they also are wired in such a way as to experience joy in the pain. So they aren’t very good examples. You are not going to just flip a switch to have joy in the pain today or tomorrow. In fact, that just doesn’t jive for most people.
Instead, you will experience joy when there’s direction. This is why I so harp on strengthening. You DO experience skill improvement and strength progress with an appropriate program at any age, with any health difficulty, with any barriers.
And this excitement or joy is important. It’s important for many reasons. One, it’s important that we shift your joy toward productive activities. That way, the empty excitement which comes from binge eating and victim narratives and drama crusades can lessen (perhaps even end). Two, looking FORWARD to something has a self-reinforcing draw. I WANT to get up at 3:45am on Monday morning to see how much more I can squat than the prior week. I have joy in coming in early, seeing just how much progress there’s been, BEFORE taking on that work day.
Your experience need not be like this. In fact, it should not. It should be whatever can gift joy and positivity to you in the way you’re wired. But this is a critical evaluation to keep having: am I viewing X as drudgery? Make no mistake. You must stay disciplined. But if the discipline has no obvious direction, it’s only suffering. Your utility budget won’t be met, and you will GET HIGH in whatever counterproductive way seems easiest. It’s an empty joy you’ll reach for, but reach you will, nonetheless.
Usually, for people who failed to plan appropriately, as their suffering crosses a threshold, they get high off of drama. It may sound silly, and it is, but people get high from quitting everything beneficial. And the biggest high comes from quitting THE most beneficial practice. Getting high from dramatically damaging self and others is a common coping mechanism when frustration sets in. You see it in yourself and others in political debate. When we can’t get someone to move in the direction we want, we may default to insults, yelling, name-calling and other unnecessary personal attacks in order to at least get high from choosing a direction: that is, driving the two of your farther apart.
And that is actually an apt example for health and fitness. Your habitual self is like one political extremist. And your health goals are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. These five “musts” are the dialogue which works to help them coexist. These five “musts” are the moderate diplomatic negotiations to benefit all. When one side feels that things aren’t going their way, or that things don’t have a direction, that’s when we see division, strife, and discord show up. Then, we must merely return to the five “musts”. Calm. Reevaluate. Renegotiate.