Today marks the the shortest day of the year.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re currently dealing with minimal daylight, decreasing temperatures, crappy weather, and probably a strong desire to channel your inner brown-bear and just hibernate until Spring. Some of you might think this is due to stuff like “seasonal depression” or the “winter doldrums” or whatever.
It’s all the Motivation Monster’s fault.
What the hell is a motivation monster, you ask? It’s this tiny little monster that lives inside of you, surviving only on your wasted motivation. He gets hungry early in the morning, after long days of work, definitely on weekends, and especially during the winter months. Want to know the worst thing about him? Feeding him only makes him stronger and hungrier. Skip a workout here, take a few days off to stuff your face there, and suddenly that little monster is all grow’d up and hungry for more. Next thing you know, it’s March, you’re up 30 pounds, and in even worse shape than when you started.
Yep, he sucks.
Luckily, I’m going to arm you today with so much freaking motivation and determination that you’ll be able to kick the Motivation Monster square in the crotch and keep the “level up my life” train a’rollin! Here’s exactly how you do it:
Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to
Want to know the greatest anti-”motivation monster” movie ever? The Shawshank Redemption, hands down. If you’ve seen it then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about: Andy Dufresne spent 20 years in jail before finally breaking free, moving to a beach in Mexico, fixing up an old boat, and filming Corona commercials (I imagine). I’ll never forget what Red (Morgan Freeman) told Andy earlier in the movie:
“Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
You see, at this point in the movie Red’s motivation monster had already got the best of him. Luckily, by the end of the movie Red got his ass in gear, made it out of prison, and found this note from Andy before joining him down on the coast:
“Remember Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Motivation Monsters HATE hope – it’s their kryptonite. Andy never lost hope; he had a distinct future in mind that he fully expected to live, and then spent every day working towards that future. It was his incredibly strong willpower that allowed him to survive all the bull**** and eventually get everything he ever wanted out of life.
As Jimmy Valvano famously once said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
What specifically do you have to look forward to? What do you hope will happen in your future? Do you have a vacation coming up in February? How about a 5/10/20-year high-school reunion to go back to where you can show all of your classmates how much weight you’ve lost?
Whatever it is, paint a picture of your future and be as specific as possible. David Turnbull wrote a great post last week on how to design your future and work towards it. You’ll be surprised how effective this is at keeping your motivation monster at bay. Visualize this future, and find a way to do one thing every day to get closer to it.
Form New Habits
Humans are creatures of habit. These habits can be positive or negative, pushing you closer to the life you want or holding you further back. It’s your job to determine which of YOUR current habits are beneficial and which ones are feeding the monster. Once you know which ones you need to change, it’s your job to get started.
Luckily, Leo over at Zen Habits wrote a great post on 29 ways to successfully ingrain a new habit. Here it is in a nutshell:
- Write down your plan.
- Identify your triggers and replacement habits.
- Focus on doing the replacement habits every single time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.
Although Leo’s plan will work for ANY habit (and I encourage you to use it as a guide for whatever you need), I specifically want to discuss exercise in this post – I know for a fact that once exercise becomes a regular habit for you, the rest of your life will start to fall in place as well: you’ll have more energy, you’ll have a better outlook on life, and other habits will start to change more quickly.
Keep Your New Habit Rolling
Every single day for the next month, you’re going to schedule a 30 minute block of time for exercise and NEVER MISS IT. I don’t care that Christmas and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner: use those 30 minutes to sweat out the gallons of Bud Light you drank. Your body will thank me later.
Newton taught us that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. If exercise is a brand new concept to you, it’s going to be a pain in the ass to get the ball rolling and keep it rolling – you’re so used to feeding the motivation monster that it won’t go quietly. However, put in a week or two of consistent exercise, drop a few pounds, and that inertia that once kept you stopped will keep you going. Science ftw!
A lot of people ask “when’s the best time to work out?” And my response is always, “whenever works best for you.” If you want a more specific and personal answer however, I would go with first thing in the morning. At the end of the day, it seems like there are ten times the number of obstacles and distractions trying to drag you down:
- Traffic jams
- Staying late at work to finish a report
- Problems with your kids’ homework
- Wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend wants to go out to dinner to celebrate some anniversary that you probably forgot (whoops)
For these reasons, I’ve found that exercising first thing in the morning works best. Obviously, this requires waking up at least 30 minutes earlier which probably sounds like the worst effing thing in the world to you right now. You know what? For the first few days, yeah…it is pretty crappy. That monster is extra hungry, your bed sheets are extra nice and warm, and forgoing sleep for sweat sounds stupid.
For all of you saying “I’m not a morning person,” when was the last time you gave it a shot? I’m not talking a day or two of “early rising” and then calling it quits either. Give yourself a full week of waking up early before you give up.
Now, if you’re willing to give the morning thing a shot, there are a quite few tricks to getting up earlier that help a whole lot. Medhi over at Stronglifts.com has written an incredible post on how to wake up early – I highly recommend you read the whole thing. If I had to single out one tip that has saved my ass more times than I can count, it’s this:
Put your alarm clock ACROSS the room.
Ever since high school, my alarm clock has been as far away from my bed as possible. I can’t reach up and hit SNOOZE so I have to physically GET UP and out of bed to go turn it off. If you’re a snoozer and you want to start waking up earlier, this will probably change your life.
Now, let’s say you’ve managed to crawl out of bed 30 minutes early…what the heck do you do now? Get your heart pumping: jump rope, do the Nerd Fitness beginner body weight workout, walk the dog, go for a run, etc. Whatever it is that gets you moving, do it.
This is now your new habit, and soon enough it will become part of who you are.
Once you have something to hope for, something to look forward to, and a habit you’re going to fix, the next thing you need to do is find a way to STAY motivated. The monster inside you never sleeps and is always hungry, so you need to constantly fill yourself up with motivational awesomeness so the well never runs dry. I’ve found that the best way to stay motivated is to have a “go-to” library of quotes and videos for whenever the situation requires it. Here are some of the quotes and videos that keep me going:
- “Get busy living, or get busy dying” – I have this quote hanging on the wall in my bedroom. It’s the first thing I see every morning before going to work and it’s the last thing I see at night before going to bed. It reminds me to be thankful every day for what I have, but to constantly strive for more. It’s this quote that keeps me writing for Nerd Fitness, and it’s this quote that helps me push myself beyond my limits.
- Where the Hell is Matt? – I watch this video on a weekly basis. There is a whole world out there for me to see, and that working as hard as possible at Sixthman (my day job) and working as hard as possible at Nerd Fitness will eventually allow me to see these places and have stories of my own. If you have any desire to travel and/or start a small business, I also HIGHLY recommend reading Chris Guillebeau’s blog as he is one of the best in the business at travel-hacking and inspiring people (myself included) to create legitimate small businesses.
- 300 – If I have time, I’ll watch the movie. If not, I’ll just watch the trailer. These dudes are in such peak physical condition and kick so much ass that after watching, all I want to do is lift weights, train in the wilderness, and yell things like “THIS IS SPARTA” when kicking people into bottomless pits. This movie has shown us what’s possible in terms of human physical perfection if you’re willing to work for it. As they say, “appearance is a consequence of fitness.”
- 40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes – If there were an Oscar for “editing awesome movies into awesome YouTube clips, Matthew Belinkie would have my vote. This video is guaranteed to immediately inspire you while simultaneously beating down the motivational monster in you.
Remember folks: there’s more to this life than sitting behind a desk until you’re 65. Life is happening right now, not tomorrow. Life doesn’t care that it’s cold, or dark, or rainy. Therefore, you can’t either.
How do You Plan on Winning?
What’s your defense against the motivation monster? What do you do to make sure you get your exercise in every day? Care to tell me that this is the corniest thing you’ve ever read?
Whatever it is, let’s hear it.
photo from: Jelene