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Action Leads to Motivation

Every year millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions. By the end of January, however, most of them have already lost their momentum and have given up on their goals. In the fitness business, we called these people the “30-day wonders.” People would tell me that they just weren’t motivated to exercise or to stick with a healthy diet. What they didn’t understand was that while motivation can lead to action, the opposite is also true. If you want to be motivated, take action first.

Action takes energy, but you should not wait around until you feel like doing something because that might simply never happen. Mark Manson, best-selling author and entrepreneur, writes that action isn’t just the effect of motivation but the cause of it and that people tend to wait until they feel inspired before they are actually motivated. So, in this scenario, inspiration fosters motivation, leading to action, but if you don’t feel inspired, you ultimately never take action. With that sort of attitude, it’s remarkable that anyone ever gets anything done at all.

What if, instead, we just took action first? We shouldn’t wait around for some sign from the universe; instead, we should just do something, anything. This sounds simple, and it fundamentally is, but there is a reason few people take this approach. We have to overcome negative expectations. We think to ourselves, losing weight is hard and not fun, and I’ll have to eat a bunch of food that tastes bad, or I don’t like to exercise because I’m embarrassed to go to the gym. Ultimately this is just fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of looking foolish, fear of failure — take your pick.

This is when we need to stop and take a deep breath. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step or something like that. Think about the goal you want to accomplish and break it down into its smallest component. If you want to lose 30 pounds, start by drinking an extra glass of water each day and aim to lose one pound. If you want to start an exercise program, walk to your mailbox, then go a little farther the next day. Take action first, then become inspired and motivated by each little thing you achieve. Build on these small, frequent victories.

Understand there will be failures and setbacks, but should you choose to reach, strive, and extend yourself, you will eventually also have some successes. I truly believe that a single success is worth a pile of failures and that if you never fail, you are never actually achieving anything truly great anyway. So, put yourself out there, improve yourself, seize the day — carpe diem, blah, blah, blah. Keep pushing forward.

Somedays, you will feel like it is January 1st, and you have all the motivation and energy you need to take on the world. On these days, finding motivation is easy. There will be other days, however, that you will feel that you can barely manage getting out of bed. It is on these days that you need to take that first small step, then the next, and so on. If you stick with your plan, eventually, you will actually “feel” like doing it and will be on your way to reaching your goals.