How to Find MotivationAlways concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go. ~Unknown
The first time I attempted running as a form of exercise, I huffed and puffed my way out of my apartment complex, made it approximately one block and stopped out of fear that my heart would beat out of my chest and my lungs would explode. I promptly turned around hoping that no one noticed how out of breath I actually was.
A few years later, despite the memories I harbored of previous failed attempts, I tried it again. This time I made the not-so-smart decision to run in 100+ degree heat. I made it approximately half a mile before my head started spinning and my vision blurred.
Even after that incident, I was still inexplicably drawn to the sport of running and the breed of people who become dedicated runners.
I loved how running relied on the body in its purest form — there were no weights or gym memberships needed. I appreciated the stamina that someone could build over time simply by committing to a practice and seeing it through to the end. I was fascinated by the focus and dedication it took to lace up your sneakers and venture out day after day.
I wanted the practice, the routine and the identity that came with being a runner. The problem was I never pictured myself being on par with those who lived and breathed the sport.
A few weeks ago, after declaring to the world my intent to begin an exercise routine in this blog post, I began planting tiny seeds of change. I made a plan I could stick to — mostly because it involved a few of my closest friends — and began changing the way I utilized and viewed my body.
And yes, I started running.
This time the progress has been slow — I haven’t made any plans to run a marathon like I might have boldly done in the past. It’s been a steady increase from walking to running and back to walking as my body sees fit.
But yesterday, as my head began pounding and my stomach wrestled with a cramp, I started eyeing the runners passing by me with some envy.
Their breath was even and measured, their legs toned and their face noticeably free from sweat. All this on their second or third loop around the park.
I started cursing their progress and my lack thereof. But mostly, I started to return to that place of feeling like this task would never be an easy one for me.
Frustrated, I began entertaining the idea of hanging up my running shoes and trying something easier, something less cardio intensive and a little nicer on my ego. Something I could quickly take to and feel like a pro.
Ironically, choosing something easier would mean forgoing the results that the challenge of running was offering to both my body and mind. Returning to comfort might actually mean erasing some of the key changes I had already made.
In this empowering yet slightly irritating moment of reflection, I began to take stock of my progress — where I am compared to where I’ve been instead of where I am compared to where everyone else currently is.
If I was willing to shift the way my mind was reading the situation, I could see that the progress I had made was significant and noticeable, if only to me.
I can now run for longer distances without feeling like I might collapse, my legs have stopped constantly aching and I can find a rhythm with my movements much quicker than before.
All of these are milestones for me.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of us have our eye on goals and accomplishments off in the distance, which means we completely lose sight of how far we’ve come in this very moment.
We compare our present selves with our future selves, when our future selves have the unfair advantage of more experience and more time for growth.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that I’ve learn in finding motivation:
Tip #1 – Break Goals Down Into Small Steps
If you create a massive goal for yourself and don’t stop to pat yourself on the back until you’ve reached the finish line, you’ll likely have that feeling of, “ok, now what?” Plus, the goal may seem so big that you can become overwhelmed and more easily give up.
By breaking down and celebrating the smaller milestones, you can start to notice your progress as you move forward which, in turn, will increase your motivation.
It will also help you to make adjustments when necessary — changing the things that aren’t working and doing more of the things that are.
Tip #2 – Erase Your Comparison List
We all have vastly different skill sets and life experiences, so comparing what you’re doing to what someone else is doing is comparing apples to oranges.
More importantly, we tend to be so hard on ourselves that the chances of us being on the winning end of those comparisons are slim to none.
If you must compare, only think about you in the past and you in the present — this is the only clear indication of your own progress.
Tip #3 – What You Resist Persists
Know that avoiding a challenge now will only encourage it to show up later.
I could have easily given up running and working out all together by now — I’ve certainly had a few legitimate (in my mind) reasons to — but no one ever gets away with avoiding things simply because the going gets tough.
Eventually the lessons intended for you to learn in completing one task will show up in another way, in another form.
Challenges only become less challenging when we face them head on, as painful as that may be.
Tip #4 – Embrace Slow Progress
Slow movement in the right direction can be more exciting than giant leaps.
If, by some miracle, I was able to run ten miles nonstop on my first attempt, chances are I would have become bored quickly and moved on to something else.
It’s in the slow and steady progress that we can find the most excitement. Why? Because we can see a much more expansive room for growth.
The key here, as mentioned in tip #1, is being able to recognize the progress for what it is — no matter how slow moving it may be.
Tip #5 – Lighten Up!
Don’t take everything so seriously. Period.
I am a perfectionist by nature. So when I have one bad day where I don’t reach a level that I believe I should be at, I cite that as a good reason to quit and move on to something else.
The truth is, it’s not always that serious.
You might not be quite up to par today, but tomorrow you might be an extraordinary day for you. Let yourself go through the ups and downs so you can really savor the moment when you reach that next level of greatness.
I’m making a choice in this moment to get up, dust myself off and go for another run — no matter how out of shape I might actually be.
Now who’s coming with me? :)
> How about you? Running was my challenge. What’s your challenge? What small steps can you take to move ahead? Share your thoughts with us in the comment below. See you there!