There are three insidious myths about exercise and good nutrition — and good habits in general:
Lie #1: You have to be “inspired” to do good habits.
Lie #2: You should always be “motivated” to do them.
Lie #3: “Experts” are always motivated to do them.
Even for fitness pros, there is no such thing as permanent motivation. You will not always be “motivated” or “inspired”. You will not always feel “flow”. Motivation comes and goes. Some days that motivation will be totally MIA. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t need motivation nor inspiration to have good habits. In fact, what differentiates an “expert” from an “amateur” is not motivation . . . but action. “Experts” hunker down and find ways to get the job done, regardless of how they feel.
Action before motivation
We assume that motivation and inspiration — in other words, a particular mental state — come before action.
Sometimes that’s true.
Most of the time, it’s not.
Action usually comes before motivation and that desired mental state. For instance, let’s say one day you decide to go for a walk. You’re not really inspired per se, but your brain feels fuzzy and you want some fresh air. At first, you just sort of clump along, staring at the ground. After 5 or 10 minutes, the brisk breeze starts to clear the cobwebs. You stand taller and breathe more deeply. Your stride lengthens and your hips loosen up. Now you’re walking proudly. You have direction. The movement is actually giving you energy. After 20–30 minutes, you finish that walk on a high. Your brain fuzz is gone, replaced by crystal-clear thoughts. Your body is energized. You feel re-engaged with life and the universe. Now you’ve found that motivated mental state.
You acted first.
The 3 “Ss”
Motivation and inspiration are like cats: They’re fickle in their affections, and they tend to disappear when you want them around. You can’t depend on cats. Nor can you depend on motivation and inspiration.
At CFTR, we depend instead on the 3 Ss:
Structures are the things and environments that surround us, and the things we put in place to ensure that things get done.
Have a daily or weekly routine that helps you stay organized.
Look for a gym that is convenient and on your way home from work.
Make sure your kitchen is full of healthy food.
What needs to be around me in order to help me achieve my goals?
Then build those structures.
Systems are the processes and practices we use to make things happen.
Have an evening ritual of packing your gym clothes.
Or have a morning ritual of making your food for the day.
Start your workout with the mobility warm-up routine that prepares you to move comfortably and effectively.
What needs to happen for me to be effective?
What processes and practices need to be in place?
Then create and do those things.
You don’t just wait for the morning when you feel like going to the dentist. You book an appointment.
Likewise, we don’t just wait till inspiration strikes — we book a time to hit the gym. We know that at 5 p.m. on Monday, we should be pumping some iron or pounding out the miles at the track.
Book your fitness and nutrition just like you book any other appointment.
Make it a time priority, put it into your calendar, and stick to it.
Habits and the 3 Ss
You may notice that the 3 Ss are just habits. Gee . . . where have you heard about habits before?
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
— Football coach Vince Lombardi
Today, think about at least one of the 3 Ss.
How could you make an “S” — some kind of structure, system, or scheduling — work for you? How can you make “winning” a habit?