If you are like most imperfect human beings, there has been a time in your life when you have said this out loud to others or yourself, as you pondered what you needed to do to make that improvement. All too often, I hear clients set a goal as the end-all be-all to their training, as in "I will do this one thing and I will then be the person I've always wanted to be!"
It doesn't work like that.
1. Precontemplation: "I'm allergic to exercise!"
2. Contemplation: "I need to do something about my health."
3. Preparation: "I will make a resolution to start exercising in the new year."
4. Action: "I try to work out 3 days a week and am preparing some meals at home."
5. Maintenance: "I am now involved in my local running club and haven't touched fast food in many months."
The biggest challenge I feel many people face is seeing #5, Maintenance, as the finish line. Sure, you have worked super hard to get where you are, but if there is nothing to work toward after that point, boredom and complacency can send anyone sliding backwards.
When someone makes a comment about my running, usually to the tune of I wish I could run that fast/far, I joke with them about how it's been a decade and counting for me to get to this point. Despite my background in track and cross country, or my return to running after a 6-year hiatus of drinking and smoking, part of me did not feel like a "real" runner. I was certainly in Maintenance mode, but somehow felt incomplete. Checking off distances as I climbed the ladder of longer and longer races was not making me feel any more fulfilled. I realized that as I progressed through the stages of lifestyle change, I needed to continue to adapt my goals to suit my abilities and desires. It was no longer enough to just run. For me, I needed to challenge my soul. Sure, I could continue to just run faster and harder and earn a podium position in races, but I would come to find that nothing would quite satisfy me like knowing I could go up against the mountains and their ever-changing elements and get through the run for the sake of doing it. No medals, no glory. Just me and the trail. My true measure of success was self-efficacy, but still, the journey would not end there.
This is where motivation meets drive, as they are not the same. Motivation is often extrinsic: An award. A raise. The number on the scale. Likes on Instagram. DRIVE is visceral. It's the dig to push across the finish line as hard as you can, even if you're DFL (for you non-runners, that's runnerd-speak for "dead f***ing last"). It's what gets you up at 5:00 AM to hit the books and get some studying done before the kids wake up. It's getting s*** done even when the motivation ISN'T there, because sometimes the thing you don't really want to do still needs to be done.
Motivation gets us to Maintenance, but drive is what takes us beyond that point. Because even when we accomplish the goals we initially set out to conquer, that does not mean we have finished evolving and learning. Which brings us back to our pool of willpower.
The more you dip into that pool, the more you will find. Drive is what gives you the will to push forward, even when you're uncertain about the results you may achieve. Drive gives you a purpose and sets into motion a path of continued progression, even after every goal has been achieved. It's like adding "and then," to everything you want to do --
I'm going to quit smoking and then...
I'm going to start eating better and then..
I'm going to get my degree and then...
-- leaving a world of possibilities open for you on the other end:
... see what I can do next.
To conclude my "Shifting Perspectives" series, let's take a moment to look at how we can put this all together: Training our brains, managing pain, and finding our drive.
Train Your Brain
- Approach a challenge with several plans of attack and consider more than one successful outcome. If you only plan to do one thing to achieve one result, odds of success may not be in your favor.
- Have a big goal with smaller goals along the way to use as stepping-stones. When each small victory is celebrated, you are more likely to keep moving forward rather than only focusing on the end-goal and fear of falling short.
- Visualize your willpower as a never-ending source. If you can find a little willpower to reach a small goal, you can find a LOT of willpower to reach the bigger goals.
- See a physician to properly address physical concerns and possible limitations in order to safely proceed with your fitness goals.
- Understand the work that will need to be done for the results you wish to see and feel. Safely establish your comfort zones so you can learn when it is OK to push.
- Use mental practices such as a mantra or counting and timing your breaths with your effort. These will help subdue the emotional reaction to pushing outside of your comfort zone.
- Treat your goals as open-ended books, looking for the new opportunities that will arise from every accomplishment.
- Success must be measured internally as well as externally. If reaching a goal does not fulfill you then take a look at your motivators and every aspect of your health.
- As you get closer to your big goal, determine your "and then" before you reach it!
Be well and stay tuned for my next series.