Dad: My blood circulation is getting worse, seems like I’m getting old haha.
Me: Do you know how to fix it?
Dad: Yeah, I need to start exercising.
Me: So why aren’t you exercising?
Dad: I have no motivation.
One thing I’ve been beginning to realize is how much of an unhealthy emphasis we put on motivation, this internal force we believe we need in order to start doing anything. However, this mindset is burdensome because it requires us to be in a certain mental state before we can actually get anything done. Our moods and emotions are always changing too. You can have a newfound motivation to start going to the gym after making your New Year’s resolution in front of all your friends, but this resolution hype will only last you so long. So instead of the usual mental over physical mentality most people talk about, here’s a new theory I’ll go along with in this post.
Be physically present
That’ll get you halfway. Back in my junior and senior year of high school, I was commuting to San Francisco from the Peninsula almost every day to work. Everyday, I would leave the office at around 9:30pm and be pretty tired, definitely not in the right mentality to hit the gym to workout. My brain was tired, I just wanted to go back home and watch YouTube or talk to my friends before heading off to bed. So my mindset became sort of a pair of mental crutches I was trying to support myself on, and they sure as hell wouldn’t be able to bring me to the gym. After a couple weeks of going back in forth in my head, debating whether I should push off the gym or not (ultimately with nothing actually happening), one thing I started to do was just taking the BART (public transportation) directly to the gym, not stopping at home. I was tired as hell, but I walked into the gym. Bright lights shining at me, everybody else was working out. Well, I’m already here right? Being physically present is half the battle. Just being there was more than I could have ever done wasting time debating in my head whether or not I should just go home and rest. Just showing up there took away the “motivation prerequisite” that was holding me back so much. I thought I needed some form of motivation to get pumped and work out, but all I need to do was just show up.
Before walking into the gym, I would drink a cup of black coffee or a pre-workout juice to let my body know that for the next hour, I would be focused on working out. Having a ritual like this made working out into a sort of daily habit that I would do, sort of how many people in the military make their beds every morning as a way to feel organized and start their day. To post in this blog more frequently, I’ve started a ritual where I would take a shower before writing a post. Writing this now, I’ll try making my bed every morning starting tomorrow to start getting in the habit of meditating every morning I wake up. You should think of a good habit you want to get into too, and start to make your bed as a ritual to get into it together with me!
Setting a physical place is to do accomplish other things that don’t necessarily have a designated place (like a gym) also helps a lot. I know for doing work, I go to the common area in our Science Center on campus to get homework done. For writing blog posts at home, I sit on the couch in the living room.
Motivation doesn’t have to be a prerequisite for us to achieve our goals. In fact, thinking that motivation fuels action can be harmful because we can’t always rely on our mental states – they are always changing. The most reliable way to achieve a goal is through good habits, and the first step many of us forget to take in developing those habits is just being there.