I am a pretty healthy eater, which is a good thing. However, I am also a self-sabotager, which is a bad thing. One little game I like to play with myself is the “I don’t need to work out today because I had a sensible day eating-wise” game. The way you play the game is right at the moment your little Jiminy Cricket conscience tells your body you should probably get up and do something active, you listen to the little guy on your other shoulder who says, ” You don’t need to work out today because I had a sensible day eating-wise.” It’s not a complicated game, but I have mastered just about every way you can convince yourself not to do something you should.
For me it’s usually exercise. Sometimes I’ll kind of play the game in reverse and say, “well, since you ran this morning, this 730 calorie Cold Stone milk shake craving that is coming on strong is kind of a wash. Not to mention, yesterday I had a sensible day eating-wise, so at the end of the day, I’m still probably coming out ahead.”
The point is, we all have something in our lives that we struggle with and we all can be pretty good at convincing ourselves to stay in bed, or spend the money, or DON’T spend the money (see: me, shopping). There is always going to be that voice inside of us who will tell us to take the easy path, or accept the temporary pleasure despite the long term consequences. I can have the milkshake now, and my body will not look any different tomorrow. But if I have the milkshake now, I am probably going to have the milkshake the next time the craving comes, and eventually the series of short term decisions that seem harmless in the here-and-now add up to some pretty serious problems that become a whole lot harder to remedy over time.
Motivation means seeing past the present and focusing on the long-term. If you’re in school, it means you might be bored studying for the next hour, but when you’re ACTUALLY prepared for that mid-term in a few weeks, that gratification will outweigh your temporary laziness.
Motivation means getting up when your alarm clock goes off 45 minutes before it normally does (remember how ambitious you were last night when you set that alarm?) and putting on your running shoes and going outside (take your dog, he is always motivated and will thank you by not tearing through the recycling while you’re at work).
Motivation means the next time I have that craving for a milkshake, I will remember that the brief satisfaction I get in drinking it does not make up for the long term damage I am doing to my body.
Now I don’t want to say you can’t ever have an extra drink when you go out on the weekend or you should never touch chocolate again, but the key is recognition. Recognition and motivation are key building blocks to long term success. Recognition means knowing that once-in-a-while is not a reoccurring pattern; it is being able to sleep in one Saturday because you genuinely have put in the time over the past few weeks or months and your body needs it.
I guess the devil is in the details, but what it all comes down to is being able to be honest with yourself and not making excuses. If you have to make an excuse as to why you did something, it probably was the wrong thing to do.
So the next time that little voice tells you to stay on the couch, stay in bed, or reach for that doughnut in the office kitchen, remember the difference between what you want now, and what you want for the rest of your life. Rewards don’t come in sugary calorie-bombs or another 15 minutes in bed, they come in the satisfaction of improving yourself, little by little, one decision at a time.