There IS a secret to staying motivated and it is completely within your control. That’s the good news. Putting the secret to work to benefit you takes just a little conscious effort on your part. (For you super-lazy people, that’s the bad news.)
For the rest of us, staying motivated is actually easier than you think right now. And sure, some of your “anchor” reminders or aspirational images truly may help you focus on where you’re going. I won’t say that’s complete hogwash. After all, I am often caught saying “we have in our lives exactly what we believe we deserve.” And I stand by that. So those anchors and aspirational images actually do help you envision what you deserve…as long as they are not accompanied by an inner dialogue that completely negates everything they stand for.
If you look at that anchor photo of the beautiful house you will afford, or the lovey-dovey couple joyously cavorting on the beach in their elder years, or the svelte model in the exact jumpsuit you have hanging in your closet waiting for you to drop 15 pounds…and you say to yourself “fat chance, sucker, who do you think you are? That’s not you; you’ll never get there…”
…well, it’s not the image or anchor that needs to change. It’s your inner dialogue that needs to adjust so your motivation has some staying power! And the key to staying motivated is shifting your inner dialogue.
Shift the Inner Dialogue to stay motivated
Psychology Today did an article on Silencing your Inner Critic several months ago. Since I keep the magazine in my lobby at Luwandi Counseling and Coaching here in Cincinnati, I observe what people pick up. Other issues have been recycled, but reprints of that one article has been requested more than any other.
Maybe part of the reason is that I talk about this in sessions. It relates to being gentle, (a theme song everyone who knows me hears over and over) and it’s one of the best ways to stay motivated when the rest of therapy (or life) is a struggle.
Why on earth are we hard on ourselves?
Many of us think it’s what actually gets us motivated and moving. That’s rarely authentically true. Usually there is fear under the harshness and well, fear just is NOT as good as faith (or love and respect.) Ask any kid who ever had a harsh parent.
Did that harshness really engender respect and make any child a better person? I have met adults who heard that harshness and gritted their teeth and vowed to prove that parent, coach, or teacher wrong! But it was anger that motivated, not the harshness itself.
Sure, I’ve had clients who internalized the harshness and passed that harshness, critical, and bitter bile onto their children, hurting the generation to follow. But no one was better for it.
And yes, fear keeps us running for a while. All of us have imagined wolves or rabid dogs (of some sort) chasing and nipping at our heels and it DID keep us moving and striving. But it’s exhausting after a bit. It’s super exhausting after years… or decades.
It’s time you put down the harshness and fear and realized it just does not serve you anymore.
There is a better way!
Shift your inner dialogue from harsh to caring (not permissive or anything goes, don’t worry!) I know at first it can feel like you’re hiking cliff-side without guard rails, but You have Got this! (I say that even though I secretly think that phrase is so overused!)
But seriously… get a hold of yourself, keep your eyes in front of you. Resist the fear and just proceed one step after the other.
Notice when your inner dialogue gets harsh. It happens any time you call yourself names, when you disparage your efforts, or label your behavior as worthy of disdain. First notice, and then replace it with something you can believe.
Replace the inner critic with a Cheerleader
I’m talking the kind of cheerleader you can believe. Which means you don’t go from zero to a thousand if your mind is just going to laugh at you. Begin in gentle increments. But begin.
You’re not an idiot. You’re not a slob or gross or a klutz or hopeless. Start with easy phrases like “you got this” if you can believe it. Encourage yourself with soothing, encouraging phrases you might tell a small child. Cheer yourself with things you’d say to a very dearest friend. Be GOOD to you.
Just a note
Yes, being good to you IS different than being indulgent. In my office, I like to talk about waking up your true self, the “Gentle, Benevolent Observer” who is really your higher self, your higher consciousness, the higher self, your functional adult…all the same part of each of us as humans. You’ll recognize her when she acts like her name. You’ll know him when he shows up performing the duties his name describes. Get in touch with THAT part of you. It’s the YOU who prevails, succeeds, breaks habits, makes new ones, and reaches the goals your heart desires.
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