Don’t Stop Now—The Keys to Fighting Motivation Fatigue
How’s your New Year’s Resolution going? Just checking in. Has your hard-charging commitment stuck around, or have you found yourself falling off the metaphorical wagon? Even if you have a solid plan in place to keep your new fitness habit alive, you might eventually find yourself struggling to show up.
Maybe you skipped a day or two of going to the gym… then it turns into several days, and pretty soon your good habit fades into the background of your life. Work and kids and responsibilities take over. Suddenly that creeping feeling is back. The one that made you want to change in the first place—that feeling of not being the badass you know you can be.
The Keys to Fighting Motivation Fatigue
Inspired By Master Habit-Builder, James Clear
The decline in motivation is a common struggle. It’s easy to assume a law of equal return for your efforts, i.e. if you try your best and put in a lot of effort, you’ll get a lot of results.
But James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says, “Habits don’t really work this way. Rather than having some linear relationship with achievement, habits tend to have more of a compound growth curve. The greatest returns are delayed.”
A lot of people slip into this gap between what we expect and what we experience. Their motivation trickles away as they see little immediate return on their daily sweating.
“It’s all effort, and no reward. This can be a frustrating experience, and you need something to help you stick with it while you’re waiting for the long-term rewards to accumulate.”
So how do you hang onto your workout habit when your motivation fades? When you know consistency is key to getting results and showing up is essential, but the excuses come easily?
While it sucks that we have to find ways to game the system a little (that system being your own brain), we’ve got two strategies from the habit guru himself to help keep you on track to actually seeing progress.
Key #1: Use Temptation Bundling
Temptation bundling means combining something you enjoy with the sticky habit you’re trying to solidify. Allowing yourself to do something you want to do alongside the thing you have to do. This is a way to game the system so that you associate the difficult thing with the enjoyable one, like an immediate reward.
If your goal is to lose weight, try not to use food (treats) as a reward. Maybe you’ve got a juicy podcast or book you’re addicted to—temptation bundling would look like only hitting play on Audible once you’re in the car on the way to the gym.
It might seem easy to skip the “have to do” part when thinking about this strategy. Like, I know I can listen to my murder podcast whenever I want, why would I bother to wait until I go to the gym? The point here is to make your workout habit more attractive by coupling it with something you enjoy.
James Clear says, “you can also use temptation bundling to make the process itself more enjoyable.” Listen to that podcast while working on your 30-minute zone 2, engine-building cardio sessions. (Pretty sure hearing about murder mysteries makes those go by quicker anyway.)
Here’s his formula for this strategy:
“I will only [HABIT I WANT TO DO] when I [HABIT I NEED TO DO].”
Caption: I will only make eye contact with my gym crush when I’ve done a proper warmup.
Key #2: Try a Commitment Device
A commitment device helps keep your decisions for the future non-negotiable. It’s a choice you make now so that future you can’t skip out on doing the thing you need to do. This can take a lot of shapes for different habits, but for fitness it’s often a social or financial obligation.
If you’re trying to get in the habit of doing more yoga, a commitment device might look like signing up and paying for a class online, then adding it to your calendar for later this week. If you don’t go, you just wasted that $20 and there ain’t no motivation quite like one that takes your money.
Similarly, making a plan to meet your friends at the gym around the same time for a class or workout is like a social contract. If you flake out often, the crew might see you as unreliable and won’t invite you to other fun things. Cut to you being a lonely, sad panda.
This one might be a weird cooking flex, but: set your chicken out on the counter so it gets to room temperature as a commitment device for meal-prepping. Meat cooks more evenly at room temperature, and you can’t put it back in the fridge once it’s been out, so you’re basically on lock to cook it.
“A well-structured commitment device requires you to put in more work to get out of the good habit than to get started on it.” (You’d have to buy more chicken if you let that package go bad.)
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Little tactics like these make all the difference, especially if you’re at risk of giving up when you fail to repeat your healthy habit. Trick your brain in just the right ways so you keep showing up for your stronger, leaner, faster future self.
Lily is TrainHeroic’s Marketing Content Creator and a CF-L1 with an English background. She was a successful freelance marketer for the functional fitness industry until being scooped up by TrainHeroic. An uncommon combo of bookish, artsy word-nerd and lifelong athlete, Lily is passionately devoted to weightlifting, CrossFit, yoga, dance, and aerial acrobatics. Find her showcasing her artist-athlete hobbies on IG @lilylectric.
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