We all have things that we know we “need” to do, but never can quite find the right time, energy or motivation to do them. For some of us, that might be going for a walk even though it is cool or rainy outside. For others, it is creating some kind of plan for our meals to reduce how often we order in. It could be limiting night-time snacking or mindless munching.
You likely have one thing in your life that is hard for you to do. Yet you know that if you did that one thing more often, you would close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be (your goal). For me, my hard thing is doing interval training (where I purposefully and intermittently run or bike really hard and fast to get my heart rate higher – it is a form of training that helps you run faster).
You may already know that this type of workout is hard for me based on my rants on social media. Interval training is physically hard, it makes me uncomfortable, it is mentally hard to engage myself to do this, and no amount of information about all the benefits of intervals inspires me to do this kind of workout.
Goal setting and behaviour change is difficult. Yet we can conquer change with different behaviour-change strategies.
In this post I share 11 strategies that helped me get my butt in my interval run and do what is hard for me. These motivational strategies might help YOU to take action on the behaviours and areas that are hard for you.
It takes effort and commitment to change your behaviours. You might be more willing to invest in this behaviour if you knew there was some kind of pay off. What about this action is important to you? Why does it matter? What would be different in your life if you kept doing this thing that is important to you? What purpose does it serve? How does the hard thing help you move to your goal?
For me, I want to run faster, for my own self. I would eventually like to accomplish a new personal best running race. I value the process of over-coming barriers, and doing things that I didn’t think I could (I love seeing this kind of personal transformation in my clients). So far, doing my same pace of run isn’t proving to be effective in getting me to run faster.
For me, interval training helps to build strength in the specific muscle fibers that allow me to run faster. There is clear science supporting that if I add in interval training (somewhat) consistently, I am likely to see the results of running faster.
Adding in a planned afternoon snack might help give you energy to power through your afternoon, and then arrive home with enough energy to put together supper.
For me, running with music makes interval runs way more enjoyable. I have my Spotify playlist that my kids helped me build. To listen to what gives me fuel to run, check out my Spotify playlist (profanity warning).
Meal prepping on Sunday could be made more enjoyable with music, with Netflix on in the background or by starting with a clean kitchen.
Which of your core values can you bring into this tough area of your life?
For me, being outside in nature helps me feel alive and grounded. Running hill repeats outside helped to make it more enjoyable. Running with my son is another way to make this more aligned with my value around family.
Find people in your life who are in your corner and who want to see you succeed – family, friends, or a specific community. Support could be in person or online. Support could be that someone does that tough behaviour with you. Support could also be accountability, meaning that someone wants to know that you did the hard thing. For me, when I actually do an interval session, I tell my hubby Mr Energize. And he usually gives me lots of kudos and encouragement on this achievement.
My minimum was to do one hill repeat. If I just get the minimum done, then I can quit. It is a win either way – if I do the minimum, it is still more than what I did before. If I overshoot my target, bonus. Of interest, once I got to the hill, and finished my first hill repeat, I thought, I can do that again. I ended up doing 5 repeats.
No one wants to plan their life away. But when it comes to doing the hard behaviours that are important in our goal, pre-planning is helpful. If it is hard to stop snacking at night while watching TV, pre-plan ahead of time what you will do instead. Maybe you will find something to keep your hands busy – coloring, knitting, sudoku, stress ball…Maybe you will skip the TV all together and read by the fire.
For me, I pre-planned a route of where I would run to do my intervals. I chose a hill segment and committed to running at least one hill segment.
If it takes 100 steps to get somewhere, what are the first one or two steps you can take?
If you want to add in more veggies to your plate, you might think about what kinds of veggies you actually like to eat. Then you might find a recipe that looks like it tastes good and is within your cooking skill. Then you might put those ingredients on your grocery list if needed.
For my interval example, it might be choosing to sprint for 5 seconds once. Start to break down the goal into smaller tasks. And start with those behaviours. Some is better than none.
The mental hurdle to do hard things gets easier to cross. The key is to notice the catastrophic thoughts that something that feels hard will always feel hard. With time and consistency, you will likely find that it isn’t always as tough as it was at first. It does get easier.
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” M Twain. Just do it. Get “it” done. For me, this means getting the interval run first thing in the day. Within the first hour of my day, I felt accomplished, energized and more importantly, I felt like I had overcome a mental hurdle that continues to come up for me.
There is a big difference between interest vs commitment. People who are interested in a goal will do something only when it is convenient. But when you are committed, you will accept no excuses.
In between your goal and the end-result you envision is a big gap consisting of hard work and consistent (not perfect) commitment required to get to your endpoint. In our world of instant-everything, it is often surprising for people to learn what it actually takes to achieve their goal. Often that achievement includes getting uncomfortable and doing hard things. Doing hard things is a bit like spring cleaning your house. Once you get started, you’re usually glad you did.
What strategies do you use to overcome mental blocks and do things that feel hard for you? I’d love to hear your story.