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A simple 7-step plan for motivation

By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD

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Download the 7-Step Motivation Planner at the end of this article and try it out for yourself.

What's the secret to being motivated to eat well and exercise regularly I hear you ask. Well, it's not solely about willpower which is some good news. Here's a step-wise approach to building and keeping the motivation to make changes in your lifestyle.

I've used regular exercise as the example for this process, but you could substitute diet, smoking, stress or even a business goal if you like.

Step 1. Connect a threat

Linking a clear threat to your health, wellbeing or lifestyle that will result from you not taking action can provide a big stick for change.

Example: If I don't exercise regularly I will get diabetes when I'm older and I don't want that.

Step 2. Create a benefit

Next, establish a real benefit for making changes both in the immediate term and the long term. This gives you some juicy carrots for change.

Example: When I finish my exercise session I feel energised and refreshed. I know that being a regular exerciser will also make sure I have the energy to run around with my grandkids when I'm older.

Step 3. Conceive a plan

Now, work out the specifics of the changes that you will make to help you reach your goals. Will you exercise more, eat more fruit or join a gym?

Example: I have written in my diary the days that I will go for a walk and also go to the gym this week.

Step 4. Commit to targets

You may have a specific weight or fitness goal from your program, but these only result from you meeting your daily or weekly targets. You'll need flexibility here, so although you may not always hit your target, you'll stay committed to aiming for them.

Example: My minimum target is to walk twice a week and also go to the gym twice a week. I might get more sessions in, but when I achieve these targets I know I'm still on track to reach my goals.

Step 5. Construct a picture

How will your work, home and other physical environments look if they are to be set up to support you hitting your targets? You'll need to leave your walking shoes out ready for your morning walk. You'll need to pack your gym gear so you can stop at the gym on your way home from work.

Example: I've got some new workout gear, so I don't have the pressure of having to wash during the week.

Step 6. Compose a script

Each of the examples above is actually a script or the words you tell yourself to increase your chances of success. Start to replace negative thoughts with new positive scripts. You should also have some fairly global scripts to play in your head until they become automatic.

Example: I'm a regular exerciser, so I can be proud of my progress

Step 7. Counter the excuses

If you've done all the previous steps, they'll be working for you now. One vital step is left and that is to counter the range of excuses that can emerge as you progress towards your goals. Common excuses include; lack of time, boredom, no time or no energy.

Example: Of course I have the time to exercise because I just need to shift a few priorities to fit a session in.

If excuses or setbacks come along, you'll be in a stronger position to deal with them. If times get challenging, it may be useful to go back over these seven steps, one-by-one again. This will remind you of your commitment, and refresh your resolve.



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