Edited: October 19th, 2019
I just need more willpower. I just need more motivation. I need more time. Today I’m talking about why you may not need any of these to get healthier and build a body you’re proud of. Plus, you’ll get clear action steps for what you can do to be successful.
#1: MORE WILLPOWER AND MOTIVATION… “WILLVATION.”
Before I jump in I’d like to introduce you to a word that I just created. It’s called Willvation. It’s a combination of willpower and motivation… I know, genius, right?
During coaching consultations, one of the first questions I ask is, “what’s keeping you from building a body that you’re proud of?”
To that, the two most common answers I get are “I’m just not motivated.” Or, “I just don’t have enough willpower.”
After conducting some research on the two I found that improving motivation and willpower are one in the same. So rather than separate them from one another it made sense to create a new word that combined them (basically for the sake of this article).
And there you have it… Willvation was born.
But what exactly is “willvation.”
In his book the War of Art, Steve Pressfield defines motivation as “the general willingness to do something. When the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”
In his book the Dictionary, Websters defines willpower as the control exerted to do something or restrain impulses.
Let’s combine those two and define Willvation as the ability to do something you say is important to you and the ability to not do something that you feel you should not be doing.
When it comes to willvation there seems to be a belief that we need to become willvated (I’m loving this word) to do something. We need to willivate ourselves to go to the gym. We need to willivate ourselves to eat healthier and resist junk food. We need to willivate ourselves to work on that side business.
But willivation doesn’t get you to go to the gym. Going to the gym gets you willvation to keep going to the gym. So the key to become more willvated is to take action. Any kind of action.
Then why is it so hard to get yourself to take action? This is because most of us only take action when we’re hit with emotional inspiration or deathly afraid of the consequences of not taking action.
You go to work each day because the consequence of not going to work is chowing on half-eaten sandwiches and take out Chinese out of a trashcan in a seedy back ally somewhere.
Another large problem around willivating yourself is that it’s usually associated with difficult emotions. The pain and struggle of going to the gym. The boredom tastelessness of a healthier diet. The possible rejection of introducing yourself to that cute girl you saw in Target… not that this happened to me the other day.
Finally, we struggle with willivation because we do the same thing over and over again. We tell ourselves that to accomplish X we just need to do it – to display more willivation. We never create an action plan that focuses on our behaviors and addresses our current habits, past failures, and the environment that influences us.
Ok, now to the good stuff. How to get willvated to do or not do something.
MAKE GETTING STARTED EASIER
Using exercise as an example. Instead of trying to commit to making it to the gym 6 days per week for 60 minutes. Remove some of the steps that you need to take to do this. Forget trying to go the gym – instead, focus on a 5-minute workout you can do at home.
Instead of downloading a complicated meal plan off of the internet that restricts what you can and cannot eat and requires you to make complicated recipes every single day. Simplify the process by eating the same healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
BUILD A SYSTEM, SCHEDULE, AND PRACTICE INTENTION
Instead of telling yourself you need to work out more and eat healthier, take action and commit to it by practicing the art of intention.
Use this intention cheat sheet or set up an alert on your calendar that tells you exactly the time, day, and place you’ll be exercising. Try your best to keep the time, day, and location the same as a way to strengthen the habit.
PLAN AHEAD OF TIME. ALREADY KNOW WHAT YOU’LL BE DOING.
Don’t go to the gym and just try to figure it out when you get there. Know exactly what you’ll be doing beforehand. Forget trying to eat healthy on the fly as the week goes on. Take a Sunday to plan your meals for the week and actually make them.
BUILD A ROUTINE AND STICK WITH IT FOR A WHILE
Remove the need to make more decisions by creating a routine. Workout on the same days, time, and place. Eat the same healthy dinner every day this week. Go to bed at the same time each night.
If you’re not assessing what you’re doing you’re just guessing at whether it’s working or not. There are tons of ways you can measure progress but I like the Seinfeld strategy. Whenever I’m trying to establish a certain behavior I gr30-day0 day calendar and simply X off each day I practice that behavior. If I don’t practice, I leave it blank.
TREAT YO’SELF EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE
Stop treating yourself so shitty. If you’re tracking your progressing and being consistent make sure to reward yourself for a job well done. Treat yo’self!
MAKE IT HURT… SORT OF
We’re motivated because we know the consequences (don’t got to work.. No home, etc.. and it’s painful). It’s counter intuitive but I say make it hurt. Make a list of the possible consequences for not following through on the behaviors you’re trying to establish.
JUST DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING!
If you lack willivation… do something… anything. (So what’s really keeping you? What negative emotions? Body shame, fear of rejection, etc…)
We want the final results but not the steps and time needed to get there.
This is just life…
Keeping fucking up until you get it right.
#2: MORE DISCIPLINE
A few months ago I spoke with a psychic. Whether you believe in that stuff or not doesn’t really matter – to be honest – I just wanted to have the experience. During the call, we dove into romantic relationships. Something I’ve really struggled with my entire life. The gentleman I was speaking with asked me one very simple but powerful question that I had never thought of asking myself.
“What do you want in a relationship?”
I couldn’t answer it. If he would have asked me what I want out of a career, health, or anything else for that matter I could have rambled for days. But relationships… I had no clue.
Developing more discipline is about creating a long-term vision of what you want. So the first step in getting more discipline is getting a clear vision of what you want long-term.
For example, the long-term vision for my health and fitness is to build a body that I’m proud of without the gym or kitchen taking over my life. I’ll spare you the details but this means moving my body in challenging ways every day. Eating real food for 90% of my meals. Participating in fun and social hobbies that emphasize health and fitness (rock climbing, dancing, gymnastics, hiking, and parkour.)
Discipline is overrated.
It’s overrated because we think discipline is something that we control. If I asked you how you would go about becoming more disciplined you’d probably give me an answer like this.
“I just have to do it.”
Well yeah, if you want to achieve something you have to “do it.” But why aren’t you?
Instead, lets start thinking about the things you’re actually in control of that can help you display more discipline.
CONTROL YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Planning and knowledge don’t always work. I’ve laid out detailed nutrition plans for myself and for others, outlining exactly what to eat and when to eat it. However, they only ever work if the environment was changed.
Make doing the good things easier and the not so good things not so easy.
Lets say you’re really stoked about trying to eat healthier and improve your fitness. You’re totally motivated and committed to making some big changes but have you made these changes easier on yourself to carry out?
I have a rule, if there is food in my house, desk/work, etc… then it will eventually be eaten. Remove temptation by performing a kitchen makeover. If you know the break room is where all of the donuts and candy is steer clear (or secretly throw it away ? ). If you’re often tempted by the vending machine don’t keep dollar bills or change on you.
Try these things instead:
- Perform a kitchen makeover.
- Keep healthy snacks in your car or at your desk if you get hungry.
- If you have to, hide junk food in hard to reach places (like the garage or the top shelf).A friend of mine once froze her credit card in a block of ice in her freezer.
You can also start using smaller plates or Tupperware. Research has shown that we will eat what’s put in front of us.
In his book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansik addresses this exact issue, It’s scary to see how small cues can greatly impact our behavior:
If you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more. If you serve yourself on a big plate, you’ll eat more. If you move the small bowl of chocolates on your desk six feet away you’ll eat half as much. If you eat chicken wings and remove the bones from the table, you’ll forget how much you ate and you’ll eat more.
CONTROL YOUR BEHAVIORS
Whatever it is you are looking to do break it down into small action steps that you can take part in daily and build momentum with. Set specific goals for each action step and practice in a low-risk environment that features social support and influence from those that have achieved what you are looking to do.
You already have discipline. Think of ways that you currently display it.
Have you cheated on your wife or husband? No? #discipline
Do you go to work when you’re schedule too? #discipline
Do you brush your teeth every night? #discipline.
I’m so sorry to tell you this but discipline must be practiced. It might take a while and is probably going to include a lot of fuck ups.
Note: Discipline isn’t all or nothing 100%. Discipline is about doing something most of the time. Enough so that you get the results that you want. Discipline requires days, months, weeks, and sometimes years of consistent action.
What you’re doing is creating a new normal. It’s not about giving up stuff but taking on more good stuff. Simple lifestyle changes that are sustainable.
#3: MORE TIME
This is a personal one for me. I use to… ok, still do a little but it’s a work in progress – wear being “busy” as a badge of honor.
Brene Brown, the author of one of the most important books I’ve ever read in my life says that being “crazy busy” is a numbing strategy similar to drinking and doing drugs. When we have time often what we’re left with is an up close look at what’s not going right. Numbing ourselves with busyness may be a sign that there is a problem on a deeper level.
If we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.
I know during the most difficult periods of my life I’ve defaulted to becoming a work-a-holic. This is how I’ve avoided relationships. I keep myself so busy with work, hobbies, and other self-interests that I never have to fully invest in a woman… because I can’t. I’m sooooo “busy.” (cough) (cough) bullshit! (cough)
If you’re too busy there’s a good chance you have poor boundaries. Setting strong boundaries means taking responsibility for your own choices, actions, and taking care of your needs before the needs of others.
I’m sure most of us can agree that health is a big priority – or at least we say that it is. But then we set shitty boundaries around that priority. We blame other people for pressuring us to drink 8 beers, stay out until 3 am, and eat shitty food. We blame work for keeping us late. We blame our kids for having to take them to practices. We blame our significant others for not supporting us. We blame the vacation we’re going on. We blame everything but the kitchen sink… oh wait, I had to fix the kitchen sink last night and that kept me from working out… so I blame the kitchen sink.
All of these examples are choices that we make to product our own ego so that we don’t have to do the hard work. So we don’t have to have the difficult conversation. So that we don’t have to tell our boss we need to leave at a certain time to make our training appointment. So that we can convince ourselves that we’d change only if we had the opportunity.
You have the opportunity EVERY single day to change your health. Your life. Most of us just choose not to because the pain of not changing isn’t greater than the pain of staying the same… yet.
Setting better boundaries isn’t as hard as you think. You just have to be ok with the tradeoffs. Whenever we make decisions we have a tendency to go into them with an all or nothing mindset. Sometimes that’s needed but with boundaries, it’s not.
Making your health a priority doesn’t mean that you need to completely neglect your work, family, or relationships.
Priorities shuffle all the time. They work in intervals. Your health may take priority over your work for a short period of time. Your relationship may take priority over your health for a little bit and this is all ok as long as you’re ok with the tradeoffs that come with prioritizing one thing over the other. Shuffling priorities doesn’t make you a bad parent, employee, or significant other.
Your ego and identity will be tested as you make these decisions. Recently I set out to become conversational in a new language before a trip I’m taking in July. In order to make this a priority, I had to create more time to practice. I chose to shorten my workouts and to train less frequently. I also decided to adjust my coaching schedule and this meant less income.
This is only temporary and I’m ok with the tradeoffs that I’m making in order to pursue my goal.
You may have to do things differently (instead of trying to do what we’ve always done) This may mean doing things you don’t like… gasp!
#4: TO BE PERFECT
Perfectionism is something I have always strived for and thought of as a noble cause. I use to live on the theory that if something can not be done right then it’s not worth doing at all.
Often times when striving for perfection we hand-cuff ourselves and never get started. Action ceases to exist and our goals, ambitions, projects, and dreams get put on the back burner. Instead of enjoying the excitement of the process, we dwell on the prospects of being let down by results not being perfect.
We sit back and analyze every piece of information and detail. Convince ourselves that we do not have enough skill, know-how, or resources to do a good job. Learn the skills on the fly, the know-how will come once you start; you will adapt…. trust me. The only resources you need are the commitment to get started and to simply TRY.
In psychology, all-or-nothing thinking is known as splitting. Splitting is the inability to have both positive and negative views of yourself or others. It also involves thinking in extremes – either everything is perfect and all good or everything is a mess and all bad. No gray area whatsoever.
All-or-nothing thinking is rooted in an addiction to perfectionism. Your self-worth ends up being tied to whatever it is you want to accomplish, be, or do. You end up judging yourself based on how quickly, how accurately, and how precise you can be. For some, they may even believe that others may judge them on this as well.
David Sack, a board-certified addiction psychiatry specialist says that perfectionism can be at the root of both great struggle and great success depending on how you cope with it.
In an article that he published on psych central, he ties together perfectionism and addiction in the following ways.
Perfectionists with an all-or-nothing mentality also often compare themselves with others and how they’re doing. As stated on this site before, trying to keep up with the Joneses is the fastest way to anxiety and stress. Staying away from the trap of validation is vital for your sanity.
Even if life is going amazingly a perfectionist is never really happy. For you, being perfect in all areas of life might not be necessary. Maybe, it’s just one specific role that you play that has to be perfect.
For me, I have to eat perfectly but having a perfectly clean room doesn’t matter much to me. I also have to be the perfect significant other but wearing the perfect outfit when I go out doesn’t mean a lot.
For you it may mean:
- Being the perfect husband or wife
- Being the perfect boyfriend/girlfriend
- Having the perfect job
- Making the perfect amount of money
What ends up happening is all of your energy gets focused on the pursuit of perfection in this one small area of your life. Everything else is going “smashingly darling” but one little hiccup here and you lose your shit.
Other ways all-or-nothing perfectionism may show up in your life:
Jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and passing judgments based on insufficient experience and evidence. You slip up one time on your diet, therefore you don’t have enough willpower to stay with it so why bother.
FILTERING OUT THE POSITIVE
You just turned in a project at work and received positive feedback except from one person and it is all you can think about. Therefore, you should have done better.
ASSOCIATING FEELINGS WITH THE TRUTH
I’m currently participating in a coaching course with Martha Beck and I’ve learned that our circumstances or facts drive our thoughts. Our thoughts drive our feelings, and our feelings drive our behavior.
Circumstances —> Thoughts —> Feelings —> Behaviors
- Circumstances: Situations where you have little to no control over at that moment. An example would be you just got paid and your check is only $200. You get to a party and the only food available is chips and dip.
- Thoughts: The way you interpret your circumstances and the meaning you give to them. My check is only $200, therefore I’m going to be broke. There’s only chips and dip at this party so there is no way to be healthy.
- Feelings: You received your check for $200 and now you’re mad, upset, or nervous. You only see chips and dip and are anxious and confused.
- Behavior: You get to the party, see the chips and dip, are confused about how to stay healthy and chow down a couple of handfuls and wash it down with beer (there was nothing else you could do).
We often have little control over our circumstances. But you do have the ability to change your feelings and behaviors by reframing your thoughts. A good way to do this is by coaching yourself. Let’s use the party example.
You get to the party and only see chips, dip, and beer. You think there is no way you’ll be able to stick to your nutrition plan. There are no options here for you.
You’re anxious about your ability to stick to your nutrition plan and confused about what you can do so you just say forget it. There’s nothing you can do so I might as well indulge.
For those of you that continue to use all-or-nothing thinking and are addicted to perfection like me, know all to well that when you do screw up you inner Siskel and Ebert comes out. Self-criticism runs ramped. You may even feel like you’ve let others down. Sometimes I feel like I’ve let the world down when I screw up.
One of my favorite authors is Dr. Tal Ben-Sharar. I recently started flipping through a book of his titled “Pursuit Of Perfect.”
In it, he discusses the difference between perfectionism and optimalism. The main difference between the two is how you choose to deal with reality when events occur in your life.
The good Dr. breaks it down like this. You’re either maladaptive or adaptive.
Maladaptive folks are never ever, never ever, satisfied. They either dismiss imperfections or dwell on them. They often fear failure, are full of self-doubt, have a difficult time being completely happy, and see mistakes as unacceptable and associate them with who they are as a person. They reject the constraints of reality.
Adaptive folks are focused on progress and improving. Perfection isn’t something that they want, consistent improvement is. They view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. They embrace the constraints of reality.
Essentially, perfection is unattainable and those that are maladaptive reject this thought and let it beat them down while those that are adaptive accept it and appreciate the challenge of making progress.
AVOID AH FUCK IT SYNDROME
One of the most important things you can master when trying to do anything well is understanding that as humans we respond to our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of reality and not necessarily ‘reality.” The way you interpret events in your life will decide how you respond to them.
If you constantly view events and experiences in a negative light you will respond to them in a negative way. If you’ve been on your nutrition game for two weeks solid and out of nowhere ate a couple of cookies and view it as the end of the world all you’ll do is beat yourself up about it. Most likely adopting an “Ah F*ck It!” attitude, eating some more junk, and deciding to start from scratch on Monday.
Instead, take negative thoughts and spin them into positive language. Often what happens in instances like this (and I know cause I’ve done it too) is you start to think to yourself.
- I’m the worst
- I have no discipline
- I lack motivation
- I’ll never be able to do this
Your mind and body are one. If you keep telling yourself these things your body responds accordingly. Change your thoughts and your abilities will follow.
Responds to these instances with positive affirmations like:
- I am capable of….
- I have the ability to learn…
- I can strive to be…
- I can learn to…
#5: SETTING GOALS
Having goals are great but not as important as you think. The reason I say this is because most of us get so focused on the outcome that we entirely forget about the process it takes to get there. We forget about the habits, behaviors, and action steps that NEED to be done consistently to achieve the desired outcome.
We do this because goals are little hits on the dopamine pipe that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We set the goal of losing 25 pounds and then imagine ourselves wearing that new two-piece bathing suit on our upcoming vacation or owning a room as we give a presentation at work because our belly no longer hangs over our waistband.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not going to actually help us be successful.
When it comes to goals most people rely too much on motivation, willpower, and discipline to do them (hmmmmm…..) They’ll say things like I know what to do, “I just need to do it.” This can lead to trying to do too much at once, taking short cuts, and focusing on short-term success regardless of the long-term results.
Setting goals also can create the “I’m not good enough mindset.” I’m not good enough the way that I am but once I lose these 20 pounds I will be.
But the biggest issue I see with setting goals is that they have an endpoint and once we reach the endpoint than that’s it. We’ve accomplished it and can forget about what it takes to maintain it.
Most of the clients I’ve worked with have been very successful with 30-day challenges and 90-day fitness and nutrition programs they’ve followed to help them lose 20-30 pounds. The problem is that after they meet their goal they’re so burned out and happy to be done that they fall back into old habits and the weight comes back on. Exercise is non-existent (mostly because they hate it now) and nutrition is for shit because they felt so deprived.
Instead of setting goals, my suggestion is to focus on building habits that may lead to your goal. If losing 50 pounds is a goal of yours break that down into some of the most important habits you may need to establish in order to achieve it. Spend 2 to 4 weeks focusing on each step before adding another.
STEP 1: BUILD A BASIC PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ROUTINE
- Beginner bodyweight routine
- Intermediate bodyweight routine
- 10-minute workouts
- Kettlebell 20-minute workout
- Just start walking more
STEP 2: ESTABLISH BASICS AND BETTER NUTRITION HABITS
STEP 3: BUILD A GROCERY SHOPPING AND COOKING RITUAL
STEP 4: SET UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT TO HELP YOU SUCCEED
STEP 5: BUILD A STRONG SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND SUPPORT SYSTEM
STEP 6: ESTABLISH A PROGRESSIVE EXERCISE PROGRAM
STEP 7: ESTABLISH ADVANCED NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES
Instead of relying on more motivation, discipline, time, perfection, or setting goals. What CAN you do today?