On one random spring Wednesday I got a call from my Dad asking me to come and help him. My mom had fallen down and she was having a hard time getting back up. My dad wasn’t able to help her up by himself.
I didn’t think too much of it at the time. He had given the phone to my Mom and I talked to her to see what had happened. Apparently she had fallen down the day before when she was coming back in from getting the mail.
She sounded really tired and exhausted, and seemed to be in physical pain. I immediately left the house and drove 15 minutes to go help out. But when I got there, it was a completely different scene than I had imagined.
My mom seemed kind of out of it. She was talking to me and mumbling and her thoughts didn’t make much sense. I scooped her up and laid her in the bed that was right next to where she way laying.
As I talked to her, her speech was getting more and more slurred. And it almost seemed as if she was about to fall asleep right there and then. It was at that time I realized what really was going on – she had a stroke the day before when she fell.
We called 911 and an ambulance took her to the hospital. It was confirmed. She had a stroke. A piece of cholesterol had broken off and blocked several parts of her brain.
Interestingly enough, I came to visit her in her room later that day once she was settled in recovery. We were talking. Her speech was a little slurred, but nothing too crazy. But the whole left side of her body could barely move.
We both laughed about the situation as we tried to cope, but spirits were still high, as she was going to be starting rehab, and most people improve at least a little through the process.
But that’s not what happened. Over the next 3 months my Mom never left the hospital. She stopped eating. She lost all functionality on her left side. And slowly but surely she lost who she was as a person. Then, she passed away.
I was devastated. I was extremely close to my mom. She came over every Wednesday night to watch my then 8yo son so that Deanna and I could have a date night. And she watched him for an entire weekend every month so we could have a kidless weekend. That doesn’t even include the weeklong vacations we’d take a couple times a year.
She was a fully independent person… until one unexpected day she wasn’t.
I tell you this for two reasons – one, tell the people you love that you love them. Life is short and you never know when you won’t get the chance to do it again. And two – this experience completely changed my life.
Her death was a wakeup call for me. Over the next year I gave up a 20+ year near daily marijuana habit, learned a foreign language, learned the piano, started meditating daily, picked up running, biking, and swimming, stopped binge eating, and wrote this book, among other things.
These were all things I always wanted to do but either I tried them and didn’t stick with them, or they just remained a desire or wish in my life to accomplish before I died.
This experience taught me that I didn’t want to live a life of regrets. I didn’t want to be in the hospital wishing I had done all the things I wanted. I had a moment of instant transformation – an inflection point in my life that changed the trajectory of it forever going forward.
This kind of thing happens all the time with people when they go through a traumatic experience. Someone has a heart attack and they quit smoking, start working out, and get healthy. Someone loses a loved one and they a have a wake up call that they could be next.
But you don’t have to experience the trauma that I did to feel motivated to achieve the things in your life you’ve always wanted. All you need to do is gain perspective on life and what’s important, and then live as the identity you want to be in the future – today.
I became someone overnight. My behaviors hadn’t even changed yet, and the new outcomes certainly hadn’t manifested yet. But as I’ve said many times, behaviors and outcomes are just lagging indicators of your identity. And your identity can be changed in an instant.
This is the kind of motivation you want. It’s pure. It’s you. And it makes it easy to act in alignment.
On the rare occasion I feel a desire to slack off on my healthy behaviors, I channel the strength of my Mom, which is essentially the new life perspective I created from the experience I had with her.
You need to figure out why you’re doing this. You need to go deeper than surface level weight loss. Generate a new experience right now by getting in touch with your purpose and how you want to live your life without regrets. And then start being that person today.
Too many people are trying to implement a healthy lifestyle while fighting unnecessary internal resistance. They take a behavior-centric approach that is rooted in surface level habit change philosophy, which creates a dependency on willpower for taking action.
When this scenario is present, everything you do feels like a grind. You’re always searching for motivation and inspiration because your willpower tank is always running on empty.
We think of motivation as this force that pushes us to our goals. But that’s not the kind of force we want. That kind of motivation makes our journey feel like an obligation and all our behaviors feel like mandatory errands we need to take care of.
This kind of motivation requires an over-reliance on willpower and discipline to get you through the day. And make no mistake, that’s what it feels like – a daily grind to just make it to the next day, the next week, or the next month.
No one can live like that. No one can sustain that kind of energy long enough to fully realize their true potential.
The motivation we want doesn’t push us to our goals. It pulls us towards them. You’re no longer pushing the snowball up the mountain. You’ve reached the peak and the momentum pulls you down the other side.
This kind of motivation is born from identity and healing your relationships with food, body, exercise, and mind. When these underlying relationships are healed and you’re at your Ideal Body, healthy behaviors come to you.
When you have an unhealthy relationship with exercise, it’s really hard to implement a daily workout habit. Yet that’s what everyone tries to do. When you think of exercise as a tool to manipulate your body and self-worth, or you don’t enjoy it, or you only do it for a future outcome, it’s extremely difficult to push yourself to exercise.
You end up relying on willpower and little tips and tricks to get you to work out. You lay out your clothes the night before to make it “easier” to work out. You talk yourself through taking things one little step at a time. And you put all kinds of accountability strategies and rewards in place to ensure you take action.
Look… if that’s what you have to do to get yourself to work out each day, you’re going to struggle. If laying out your clothes the night before is the thing that makes or breaks your decision to work out the next day, you have bigger problems to solve.
Don’t get me wrong, these tips and tricks can be useful, but only when they are layered upon a healthy relationship with exercise. And only if they are used to get you over the occasional hump of resistance. When the occasional hump is a permanent fixture in your life, there are underlying issues with your relationship with exercise that need your attention.
This goes for all 4 relationships – food, body, exercise, and mind. The surface level tips and tricks are only effective when layered upon a healed relationship. Otherwise, you end up relying on willpower to get you meal to meal, pound to pound, workout to workout, or happy moment to happy moment.
That kind of motivation is fleeting. It comes and goes and requires constant renewal.
But the motivation that is naturally born from you being healed and at your Ideal Body is a force that attracts your desired behaviors like a magnet. The force is always present, always pulling aligned outcomes to its source of attraction – you.
Once you realize what you really want is a full life experience, that will be the moment that momentum shifts and you see the light at the end of the tunnel. You won’t feel this overwhelming motivational force. Instead, you’ll feel a sense of peace, calm, and acceptance. Motivation will now feel like a habit that happens on autopilot. You’ve finally figured it out. And a new exciting journey is just beginning.
If You Were the Only Person In the World
What is currently motivating you? What is making you get up in the morning and take action towards your goals? Are you being driven by internal desires? Or are you being forced into action because of external pressures?
There’s a question I like to ask myself and my clients to help them determine the kind of motivation that’s part of their journey. It’s a sort of filter that shines a light on whether the actions you take will be enjoyable, sustainable, and thus – effective.
The question is – “if you were the only person in the world, would you still want to ______?”
The blank could be anything. For many people it’s lose weight. But it goes for everything – what you eat, what you choose for exercise, how you view your body, etc.
What this question does is it removes one of the biggest external variables from your motivation – other people. It gets you thinking about whether you’re taking action for you because you want to, or for other people because you feel like you have to. It helps separate your internal desires from external pressures.
If being the only person in the world means you would no longer want to lose weight, what does that mean? It means you’re currently being driven mostly by pressures to change your external appearance in order to conform to societal beauty standards.
Is that bad? Not necessarily. It’s not so black and white. We do live in a society, as opposed to a deserted island, so there will also be some pressure to conform. But when that conforming is your everything, that’s when bad things start to happen.
You start living for the future. You hate the process that is supposedly going to get you to your desired outcome. You focus on aspects of your journey that actually take you further from your goals. And your consistency and adherence suffer because every behavior you engage in is only contingent on what it will do to your body.
That’s what the question helps you figure out. It allows you to take a quick glimpse into the future to determine whether what you do now is actually going to work out in the end.
The same goes for the exercise you choose to do or the food you choose to eat. If you were the only person in the world, would you still do the exercise you do? Would you do any at all? What about the food you eat? Would what you eat change? Why or why not?
The question shows you whether you’re exercising for enjoyment and experience, or for body manipulation. It shows you whether you’re using food as a tool to change the way you look, or whether it’s a resource to feel your best. It shows you what matters to you.
Vanity goals are extremely motivating for people, especially at the beginning of a weight loss journey. But they are extremely hard to maintain. It takes a long time for visual changes to appear – usually longer than you can sustain the willpower to keep taking action. And that’s what you’re relying on when you don’t enjoy the process. So willpower runs out before you get the future payoff of body change that you are expecting. When that happens, you get to the place most people find themselves in and you start to question whether all your hard work is worth it. You start asking “What’s the point?”
If that’s the question you’re going to end up asking yourself, you might as well ask yourself it now – before you even get going. What is the point? Why are you doing this? Would you be doing this if you were the only person in this world? Why or why not? What will keep you taking action regardless of what you look like or weigh?
For me, my motivation is now born out of the desire to live my full life experience. I got fed up with devoting so much time, thought, and energy to molding my body into something that would appeal to others so that I could feel better about myself. I got tired of obsessing about calories and my next meal before I had even finished the one I was on. I hated the body insecurity I lived with that kept me from pools, beaches, and friends.
I just wanted to live my life to the fullest. I wanted to be able to physically use my body in a way that gave me amazing experiences from life. And I wanted to stop letting my perception of my body hold me back from putting my authentic self out into the world without fear of judgement and rejection. I was tired of playing small. I knew my life could be so much bigger. And ever since I found my real “why”, not only has my fitness changed, but so has my business, my social life, and every single thing my self-image had held me back from accomplishing all my life.
Take action for you because you want to instead of feeling like you have to. Take action because your “why” feels like a purpose instead of pressure. Purpose is infinite energy and potential. When you find your purpose, aka your “why”, there will always be wind at your back and momentum pulling you forward. This kind of motivation doesn’t expire. It is a part of you.
Setting a Thrive Floor
You’re not always going to have sky high motivation. That initial spark and drive you typically have when starting on a new goal is going to wear off. When that happens you’re going to have to find other ways to stay motivated. And as I discussed earlier, the purest source of sustainable motivation comes from cultivating an identity whose focus is on purpose and healing.
But even with an optimized identity, there are still going to be ebbs and flows in your drive, attention, and intention. You’re not always going to feel like devoting the same amount of emotional energy and time to your health and fitness goals.
This is normal. It happens with everything we pursue, whether it be goals, hobbies, or general interests. We have seasons of life that can last months or even years. And we have other parts of our life that we’d like to move up the priority list either by choice or by need.
The key to navigating these seasons is to have what I call a “thrive floor”. This is the minimum amount of time, effort, and emotional energy that you personally need devoted to your specific goal in order to not just survive – but to thrive at it.
Obviously this thrive floor is higher than zero effort. Unfortunately, zero is where most people in Diet Culture end up reverting to, and it happens shorty after that initial spark wears off – well before they ever cultivate an identity that will sustain and motivate them for life.
Your thrive floor is also obviously lower than your thrive ceiling – the maximum time and energy you are able to devote to any one goal at a time. Your goal is to stay fluctuating between your thrive floor and your thrive ceiling for the rest of your life.
You’ll likely be at your thrive ceiling when you’re first starting out on your Ideal Body journey. This can last quite a while – months or even years. But there will come a time when it isn’t so high up your priority list. Maybe work is getting really busy, or the kids need more of your attention lately. These things get bumped up your priority list, and your Ideal Body journey gets pushed down a little. It might go from number 1 down to number 3 or 5, but it doesn’t drop off your list altogether. It stays high enough on your priority list that you still thrive as an individual.
So you’re going to have to look at your journey and identify the key components that are driving the majority of your success – the 20% of thoughts and behaviors that are resulting in 80% of your desired outcomes.
Your daily focus habits are sure to be part of that 20%. And they very well could be enough for you to thrive during those lull periods. And when the spark to devote more of your time and energy to your Ideal Body journey arises again, which it certainly will, you have a solid thrive floor to build on. You’re not starting over from zero – trying to erase the last few months or years worth of neglect.
My thrive floor might be higher than yours, as I help other people do this for a living and prefer to have a higher floor than others. But to give you an example of what my life looks like during these periods, I always maintain my daily focus habits. These include my daily morning walk, my morning smoothie, and listening to personal development every single day (usually on my walk). In addition to these habits, I also write about health and fitness at least once per week. And in our Elite community, I show up every Monday to set my weekly intentions, and I show up every Friday to find and share my breakthroughs.
This is my bare minimum in order to still thrive. I hit this thrive floor maybe once or twice a year for a few weeks. Sometimes it’s for a few months. The year my mom passed away it was longer than usual. When things get busier at home with the kids for only a week or so, it’s shorter than normal.
So your goal is to know your own thrive floor so that you always stay engaged and moving forward with this journey. Because everything we do has ebbs and flows. And if you keep the ebbs above your thrive floor, then you can make huge leaps during the flows.
You Do What You Value Most
In any given moment you’re doing what you value most. That doesn’t mean the behavior you’re engaging in is a good one. Nor does it mean that particular behavior is what you want to be doing, or that it was even an enjoyable experience. It just means you’re doing what’s most important to you.
This can be a hard concept to understand, as many people will look at their life and assume they’d rather be doing other things – healthier things, more enjoyable things, or anything but what they’re currently doing.
But desiring to do something else doesn’t override your built in value system. You will always gravitate towards what you value most in any particular moment.
You could have the best of intentions and desires to get up an hour earlier to work out. But if when your alarm goes off you hit the snooze button and roll back over, there’s something you value more than working out – sleep. When you choose not to work out it’s not because you don’t see value in doing it, it’s because in the moment you saw more value in the thing you did instead.
You might desire to be on a vacation on the beach right now. You might think that has more value to you. But unless you’re on the beach right now, you are currently valuing something else more.
Maybe you’re valuing your bank account or maybe you’re valuing the comfort you’re feeling from not having to ask your employer for time off. Whatever it is, you’re valuing something else more than the thing you desire to be doing.
This is important to understand, as many people struggle with motivation. They want to improve their health and fitness and start implementing some new behaviors, but they really struggle to get and keep them going.
For a new behavior to be incorporated into your life, it means something else must be replaced. All 24 hours of your day are currently filled. Your hours might be filled with sleep, eating, work, TV, rest, phone scrolling, reading, staring into space, or anything else. But every last second is occupied.
Most importantly, every last second is filled with what you value most in that moment. So to replace a behavior, you have to understand what it is you’re valuing in that moment so that you can find other ways to meet that need.
Willpower can only override this value system in the short term. It’s a sort of value suppression tool. But unless the value in the new behavior outweighs the value of the old behavior before willpower runs out, you will revert back to the old behavior.
So what do you do? When you want to implement a new behavior, identify the behavior it’s going to replace, and the need it’s meeting that you are currently valuing. Then find other ways of meeting that need.
Sometimes this just requires shuffling your day around. For example, working out later in the day if you value sleep more.
Other times it will require you to in essence devalue the undesirable behavior you’re trying to replace by changing your perspective and limiting beliefs.
For example, if you want something from someone but are afraid to ask because you don’t want to be rejected, then devaluing your need to feel comfortable, by overcoming your limiting beliefs, can help you take the action you want.
Moral of the story – if you want to be doing something different with your time, you’re going to have to dethrone whatever is currently occupying that space. And for any new behavior to be implemented, it is going to have to hold more value to you than whatever it’s replacing.