This is a transcribed version of the podcast episode
I guess I chose this topic because I am very often asked on my fitness Instagram account how I keep motivated to work out. And what’s interesting in this is that you might think that if you’re not into fitness, this isn’t for you or won’t help your particular case.
But trust me finding and keeping motivation whether it is to work out, or to start a business, or to study or to go walk your dog it’s all one and the same thing. Same process. It’s about how you tackle the situation. Once you’ve got the hack, you can use it in all aspects of your life.
First of all, the biggest problem we need to deal with is that we wait for motivation to come to us. Like I know I want to go to the gym after work but right now I’ve just finished work, I’m sitting in my sofa, watching TV and I’m hoping that by magic somehow motivation will just come to me, turn off the TV for me, get me changed for the gym and kick me out of the house.
Well we seriously need to wake up because this is never going to happen. This is not how it works. And a big mistake that we make or that people think is that motivation is in our head or that it’s a part of us. And I can see that because when I am asked how I keep motivated, I can feel the envy in the way people ask me. Like I’m very lucky to be motivated all the time and to make it to the gym 4-5 days a week after work. I can really feel the “wow you’re so lucky, I wish I had the motivation like you”. Almost meaning I wish I was born like you!
But motivation is not a personality trait or a genetic thing. Some people are not born with more motivation than others. The difference between motivated people and the others is that motivated people do. They act. They break patterns. They don’t sit there waiting around.
Motivation is in the doing. Most of the time what happens is we’re sitting there and we’re thinking to ourselves, how am I gonna find the motivation for this. And it starts to become a problem when all we do is think about it, think about how we’re gonna find the motivation, when the motivation is like I said in the doing. It’s in the action.
If you want to have motivation you have to fake it till you make it, like they say. You have to fake the motivation to be motivated. And when I say fake it I’m not asking you to jump around and pretend you’re super motivated, happy or whatever, you can actually be motivated and tired about it. It’s tough being motivated, it’s not an easy thing but it’s about doing anything you can to get you into the position where you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say that the secret to find motivation is to start. Anything. For one minute.
If you have to study, work for just one minute and motivation will start kicking in by itself. And there’s a lot of science around this. Research shows that 80% of the time, once you get started you’ll keep going. I don’t know if you know much about CBT -Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but it’s a very used method by therapists to deal with depression. I’ve been there so I can tell you I’m not telling lies. I think being depressed must be on the lowest ever possible level of the motivation scale. Being depressed means you don’t have motivation for the simplest things; to get up, to make your bed, to brush your teeth, to take a shower, to eat, to dress, to talk or to do anything. Everything is too much to ask.
So what CBT does is that because your mood is so low, to make you regain that, therapists will try and make you do things that usually make you happy or feel accomplished or give you some sense of achievement.
And then you’re asked to do whatever that thing is, which in the beginning sounds like a mountain to climb. For me it was for example playing the piano, which I loved but completely lost the passion for it when I was depressed. No need to say getting me back to it was a challenge. But I was still willing to try the therapy, I just wanted to get myself out it. I would do anything at the time.
So I started. I started sitting on the chair. At first, I’d just stare at the keyboard for a very long time, without doing anything but that would be a start. Then without having any song in mind, I’d just play a few random notes. For 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes and before I knew it I’d be spending hours on it. No joke. Read my post on how to achieve your goals.
Same with running. My passion for it, completely gone at the time. If I lose passion for running, I’m telling you there’s definitely something wrong with me. It’s a big deal. So how did I get back to it ? I started putting my running shoes on. Just this. Then I’d go out, I wouldn’t necessarily be running, but I’d still go for a walk. Then the walk turns into a jog and the jog turns into a run. And the run turns into achievement and happiness. That’s all it is.
That was also the time when I started my Youtube channel. The therapist asked me about my hobbies and I told her about this. So she was like great, we’re gonna get that back and I remember being like are you kidding me, I currently can’t even feed myself and you’re expecting me to make youtube videos. I was even angry I remember. I was thinking they were such a failure but again I was willing to get myself out of it so I couldn’t say it doesn’t work if I didn’t even try.
So I did what she said. Started turning on my laptop and working for one minute. Then the minute turns into an hour, then into a whole afternoon. Next session, she asks me where I am at with the youtube stuff, and I told her I’d finished the episode.
This stuff works. It’s about starting whatever you’re supposed to be doing. And if I could do that being depressed, if I could find the motivation, there’s no way you can’t do that in any situation. And the beautiful thing about it is that it’s not that it only gets you do what you need to do, it also genuinely lifts you up. The sense of achievement does.
Don’t wait for things to be how you want them to be before you start. There’s never a perfect time for anything. I never waited for the weather to be as I wanted it to be when I was putting my running shoes on and going for a walk. I didn’t wait for the sun to show up. I just went.
I also get that what often stops us to get started is that we expect ourselves to know what we are about to do. We expect ourselves to be experts. So when we find ourselves not knowing, a natural reaction is to step back because we don’t want to be in a place we’re not comfortable. We want to stay in our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s not a lack of motivation. Sometimes it’s just us not wanting to be ignorant or to struggle, sometimes it’s just our ego, it doesn’t have anything to do with motivation.
Let me explain like I don’t know you might be someone wanting to start going to the gym, and you might be thinking okay I can find the motivation but once I’m there what do I do? So although you made an effort, the process is easily broken if you expect to know everything in whatever you do. The question and the focus shouldn’t be there. The focus is on getting you started.
Don’t worry about how slow the process is, when I was sitting in front of my piano staring at it, I didn’t care about how long I was staring at it, what matters is that I was staring at it. The process might be slow but discipline and direction are more important. And sometimes you really have to talk to yourself. Talking to yourself is so underrated. Sometimes the difference between you going to the gym and you not going to the gym or not writing your blog or whatever is you not talking to yourself.
I’m 100% sure there are many times I would have stayed home if I didn’t say to myself Zinab get up, Zinab put your running shoes on, Zinab turn off the TV, literally. You have to break the patterns yourself. Bad patterns and habits are not gonna get fixed by themselves. Remove the distractions.
And everyday, you can make things easier for you by deciding who you want to be and how you’re going to spend your time. In another episode I talked about how important baby steps and little things are. Well everyday and every morning, you can decide what mood you’re going to be in and how you’re going to behave. You can decide how to talk to yourself when you start diving in the sofa. That’s how you make it. When you name things, the brain starts to make them real and therefore you have more power to act on your thoughts. But you have to want it because no one is going to do it for you.
To finish off and to come back to the people who specifically asked about the gym, well there you go. I set this mindset in the morning. Then I make my life easier by making my bag ready for after work. When I finish work, I say to myself, Zinab get up it’s time. So I get dressed and when I get dressed I’m not asking myself where am I going to find the motivation to work out. I just get dressed. The motivation will come later, when I get to the gym start lifting a few dumbbells or warming up on the treadmill.
Same applies to everything in life. I don’t think I mentioned this word enough along this episode but I guess the key word is DISCIPLINE. You probably came across this quote a lot in social media, discipline will take you places motivation doesn’t. There you have it.