Motivation is over rated. You will do better putting effort into creating habits.
Motivation Is Limited
I’m not saying motivation isn’t any good. It is in fact quite powerful. Unfortunately it is finite. We all have so many times we don’t feel motivated. How do we keep working towards our goals when motivation has left us?
Motivation gets us started.
Habit keeps us going.
Inundating yourself with motivational memes can only do so much. Giving 110% each and every day just has me thinking exaggeration is the greatest thing in the whole universe since before forever.
How Habits Work
Habits are actions which are triggered automatically in response to cues. An example would be putting on your seatbelt when you get into a car. Of note we use something to trigger an action. The trigger can initiate the action independent of conscious thought or even motivation.
There is evidence it takes only 4 days of repetition to begin to create this trigger. Further repetition solidifies the habit and improves the speed or efficiency of this association. Daily repetition has been shown to keep strengthening the automaticity of the habit for about 66 days. That’s right, keep working at it for over 2 months.
The take away is to use motivation to create a trigger and keep repeating it at the beginning. Then the process of habit formation takes over when motivation wears off.
Breaking Bad Habits
But I have other habits. Lazy habits that take over. What about those?
Those lazy habits may be strong. My personal approach is to identify what my triggers are for these habits. My own example is if I lay in bed when my alarm goes off I find my mind goes through a list of reasons about why it is okay to skip today’s training. It happens almost without fail. If I lie back for a few minutes then it becomes easy to justify not training. My solution is to insert an earlier trigger for a positive action. In this case, when my alarm goes off I immediately get up out of bed. That triggers the process of getting ready for training. It tends to eliminate the lazy thoughts that would otherwise go through my head.
Create New Habits
- Decide on the action (stretch)
- Select the trigger (turn on the tv in the evening)
- Use motivation to repeat it daily for beyond 4 days
- Keep repeating for 66 days to strengthen the habit (2-3 months)
References / Further Reading
- A New Look At The Habit-Goal Interface
- Experiences Of Habit Formation: A Qualitative Study
- How Habits Are Formed: Modelling Habit Formation In The Real World