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Why motivation isn’t about shooting for the moon

When lockdown hit last March and we were homebound and rudderless, many of us thought we’d use the opportunity to start a new project. Train for the marathon we always thought we should run, redecorate the living room, learn a new language (parlez-vous français?), knit ourselves a new wardrobe, build a shed.

And some of us did start our projects (well done!), but how many of us found our pre-pandemic routines falling apart? Realising at dinnertime we’d not gotten dressed all day or had forgotten to brush our teeth. Binge-watching The Crown, instead of going out jogging. Serving up ready-meals because we just couldn’t face attempting another Jamie Oliver recipe (that’s really supposed to take 15 minutes, Jamie?).

Motivation isn’t something we can muster on command. As human beings, we follow the law of the least effort! We just do the easiest thing. That’s because new behaviours tend to need an awful lot of work and because change is hard! Motivation is even harder in a worldwide pandemic.

And that’s why we should stop setting ourselves up to fail. Stop setting ourselves huge goals. Stop telling ourselves we “should” be motivated. Granted, adopting little habits is so much less exciting than embracing a big, juicy goal but they’re much easier to manage and maintain.

“Minimal effort is better than doing nothing” Christine Carter

Christine Carter, PhD, is an author, speaking, and coach. In her TEDx talk Confessions of a Bad Exerciser, she talks about running every day for JUST 1 minute!

“A ‘better than nothing’ habit is easy for you to repeat, again and again, until it’s on autopilot. You can do it even when you aren’t motivated, even when you’re tired, even when you have no time. Once you start acting on autopilot, that’s the golden moment that your habit can begin to expand organically. After a few days of running for one minute, I started feeling a genuine desire to keep running. Not because I felt like I should exercise more or I had to do more to impress people, but because it felt more natural to keep running than it felt to stop.” Christine Carter

What small things can we do today? We don’t need to move mountains. How about trying one of these things for just one minute:

  • Making a start on the project we’ve been putting off.

  • Spring cleaning the wardrobe.

  • Playing with our kids.

  • Putting on our favourite song and dancing like our Dads!

  • Going for a brisk walk.

  • Repotting that sad-looking plant.


Remember: Let go of trying to be motivated and let’s just do what we can for one minute.

P.S We're not condoning smoking, we just really like this pic!




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