It happens to us all at one time or another. We simply lose our mojo. The motivation to train fades and no matter how deep we dig we simply can’t find it.
But that’s OK, you don’t always need to be motivated to get the job done. You just need to know how to get started. Once you get started momentum will take over and drive you forwards.
More often than not, action comes before motivation, rather than the other way round. It would be impossible to feel motivated all the time and quite frankly, it would be exhausting!
Even those annoying people who seem to be motivated all the time probably aren’t. But they will have learned habits that keep them moving forwards and taking action.
They will probably have learned that once they take action and get started they then feel motivated to continue. Let’s break that down.
Action before motivation
Motivation tends to be the outcome of an action rather than the cause of it. We can’t control motivation and that’s why some days we might spring out of bed ready to take on the world and other days it could be an effort to even make it to the bathroom.
But what you can control is a series of factors that lead to finding your mojo when it’s nowhere to be found. Those factors include creating routines and habits, a series of regular actions that lead to a desired outcome or activity.
One of the main keys to taking action is to make it easy to start. For example, before you go to bed you lay out your workout clothes and put your trainers by the door so when you get up it’s easy to put them on.
You’ve already taken your first step towards working out as you’re now dressed for it and habit dictates that when you’re wearing these clothes that’s what you go and do. Once you start working out you’ll start to feel more energised and then more motivated to continue.
Action came before motivation.
Schedule your actions
Without a schedule you’ll probably wake up hoping that you make time to workout today, or hoping to find the motivation to complete whatever task you wish to complete. But if you wake up knowing that you train at 8am you’re much more likely to do so.
If you go for a walk at 12pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday you have a routine in place so you waste less time wondering when you’re going to have time to fit a walk in and looking for your motivation to do so.
Professional athletes don’t rely on motivation to train, they create a schedule and stick to it, however they’re feeling.
Setting a schedule for yourself and creating routines or habits removes the daily decision-making process and makes it much more likely that you will follow through on your actions regardless of your motivation levels.
The first step is the hardest
It’s true that the first step is often the hardest to take but getting started even in a very small way is the best way to feel motivated. Taking the first step will lead to momentum that keeps you in motion.
As author James Clear talks about in his New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones it is a lack of action or motion that makes it feel so difficult to get started on something.
“Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.”
Clear uses the analogy of Newton’s first law of motion to describe how an object at rest tends to remain at rest, while an object in motion tends to stay in motion.
When it comes to feeling motivated the most important thing is getting started. Once you are in motion, it will be easier to stay in motion.
Get in motion: the 2-minute rule
So how do you get in motion? How do you get started? The answer is to begin by taking small steps. Even just take one step. Or use the 2-minute rule.
The 2-minute rule states that starting a new habit should never take more than two minutes to do. It is a strategy designed to help you stop procrastinating and stick to good habits.
The 2-minute rule originated from an idea by author and productivity consultant David Allen, who created his own strategy for improving productivity. His idea was: “If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.”
Clear took inspiration from this strategy and wrote his own 2-minute rule. He believes that any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version, for example:
- “Read before bed each night” becomes “read one page before bed each night.”
- “Do 30 minutes of yoga” becomes “take out my yoga mat.”
- “Run three miles” becomes “tie my running shoes.”
The idea is to make a new habit as easy as possible to start, rather than it feeling like a huge challenge, and we can apply this to any activity. If you can’t find the motivation to start a task that you really want to get done use the 2-minute to rule. Take one small step, get in motion and the rest will follow.
Instead of wasting time searching for your mojo to get started, make the first two minutes of your action easy to accomplish. You can make the actions that follow more challenging once you have created a habit or are in motion. To quote an example that Clear uses:
“Running a marathon is very hard. Running a 5K is hard. Walking 10,000 steps is moderately difficult. Walking 10 minutes is easy. And putting on your running shoes is very easy. Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes.”
Applying these strategies
Action before motivation, Newton’s first law of motion and the 2-minute rule are all theories that can be applied to an immediate task or a longer term goal when it comes to finding motivation.
Some days it can be hard to find motivation to start even the smallest task and even harder to maintain your motivation levels over the longer term to accomplish a larger goal. But if you apply each of these ‘hacks’ to your daily life you are likely to become the kind of person who achieves their goals through habit and consistency.
For instance, one day you decide to go for a walk but you don’t really like going. You know you could do with some fresh air and movement but you really feel like slumping on the sofa instead. You take a small first step and put your walking boots on.
You step outside the door and decide to walk for two minutes. You know really that you are tricking yourself into going but it works. After a couple of minutes of fresh air and activity you start to feel more energised.
You begin to enjoy your surroundings and breathe deeply. You feel invigorated and keep walking. After 30 minutes you finish, feeling motivated. But motivation didn’t come first, it came after you took action.
The next time you feel the same way about going for a walk you know that taking action helps you to feel motivated and energised. You make walking for 30 minutes a habit and become an active, motivated person.
If you ingrain certain habits in your life they become part of your identity.
In a nutshell
Once you have created a regular habit you will worry less about needing the motivation to get started each time, and once you get started on something you are more likely to feel motivated to continue.
Taking the first step is the hardest but with certain hacks you can make it easier and once you get in motion, you are likely to stay in motion.
Some days your mojo will be AWOL and that’s OK, you don’t have to be motivated all the time. Sometimes digging deep is all that’s required and other days we simply need to stick to our routines.
Sometimes we need time out too. Listen to your body and if none of the tricks you’ve learned – such as scheduling your habits and taking a small first step – works, you know it’s just one of those days.
Your mojo will come back. Just think, action before motivation.
If you’d like any advice about strength training and or would like to get started, get in touch with us. Our expert personal trainers are on hand to guide you on your fitness journey, whatever stage you are currently at. We help people just starting out, right up to experienced athletes, and everyone else in between.