It’s spring and suddenly fashion magazines are filled with pages about how to get a bikini bod in time for summer. The headlines make it seem so simple: 3 Minutes to Better Abs! 5 Superfoods for Weight Loss! If were that easy, you wouldn’t have to buy the magazines in the first place because you would already be there.
It’s not easy. It might take a lot of work to get your body to look the way you want it to. And more than that, it takes a lot of work just to get yourself to commit to the work it takes. Sometimes our goals feel completely out of reach.
I like to look my best, but I also believe that women of all weights are beautiful and our cultural obsession with being skinny is both dangerous and unrealistic. Now, I know very little about juicing and even less about the best workout for your behind, but as YouBeauty’s Motivation expert, I do know this: If you want to love yourself in a bathing suit, you can. And if you believe that you can, you will.
You know you should eat more greens and exercise 30 minutes a day, but it takes more than knowing facts to meet a goal. It takes motivation. It takes inspiration. It takes commitment. Habits are firmly cemented neural pathways in your brain, so to create new habits takes great effort. You have to want it—badly. Let’s say you want to lose weight, but find yourself hitting the vending machine at work by 11 a.m. Then you’re likely not inspired by your goal. Rather, you are probably committed to a competing goal. It might not be a goal you consciously set, or are even aware you’re striving for, but it’s working against you.
One of my students wants to spend less time checking email at night and more time with her kids. Investigating her behavior, she realized that when she checks email at night, her colleagues perceive her as hardworking, and she likes this superior status. In her book “The Right Questions,” the late Debbie Ford calls this an “underlying commitment.” My student is committed to her kids, but deep down, she is more deeply committed to her reputation at the office. Her goals are competing against each other (and work is winning).
Similarly, one of my coaching clients told me that she wants to lose weight, but finds herself choosing TV instead of exercise and chips instead of salad after a long day of work. When investigating, we found that she spends so much of her time pleasing other people that in her free time, her number on priority is doing “whatever she wants to,” which translates to, “No one is going to tell me I have to go to the gym!” Indulging herself is her deep underlying commitment.
We had to find an even deeper motivation to which she’d be more committed. I asked her about her deepest desires, those secret dreams she desperately wants to do but hasn’t yet. She paused. And then she quietly said, “I want to ride horses.” I then asked her to close her eyes and visualize being out west in the mountains, feeling the warm air on her skin and the muscular animal beneath her. I asked her to imagine her hair flying in the wind as the horse began galloping. “How does that feel?” I asked. She started giggling, “It feels amazing.” I asked her to do this visioning every day for a week. The next time I saw her, she had exercised twice.
Do you really, really, really, really want this thing you say you want? To truly find the answer, ask yourself these questions:
- On a scale of 1-10, how badly do I want this?
- What good will come when I make the change it requires?
- If I do make the change, what harm might come? (In other words, do I have an underlying commitment that conflicts with my goal?)
- Be honest…what good will come if I stay the same?
- What will happen if I don’t make the change?
This helps you get to your intrinsic, internal motivation. Why you want it. Once you realize that, yes, you really, really want it—and why—the next question is how confident are you that you can do it? Usually, the gap between motivation and confidence is what leads to inaction. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “no change, no change.” To act, increase your confidence in your ability to achieve your goal.
So how do you make it happen? A few tips based on the science of motivation:
1. Change your language. Wanting to “lose weight” focuses your brain on the weight. Plus, we know that negative motivations (like “losing” weight, “stop” nagging your husband, “quitting” your job) don’t work as well as the positive ones. Instead, focus on loving your body, loving your relationship and finding the career of your dreams. Doing so puts your brain in forward positive motion.
2. You must want this thing for you—not for your boyfriend, your kids, your boss, to fit in or because society says you should. Intrinsic, or true autonomous desire will always win over external pressures.
3. Set goals that are a challenge and achievable. If you set the goal to look like a Victoria’s Secret model by June, there is little chance you’ll accomplish it. The vast majority of women have more voluptuous body shapes, and you don’t want to do anything drastic or unhealthy to make big changes too quickly.
4. You must be confident you can achieve the goal. To bridge the gap so that your confidence matches your motivation, first remind yourself why you are somewhat confident and then ask yourself what would make you more confident. Would having a calendar, a workout buddy or a positive affirmation help you? If so, adopt it!5. Then act as if it has already come true with fully embodied visualizations. What will you look, feel and act like when these dreams come true? How will you carry yourself when you are healthier and love your body? How will you feel when you’re blissfully in love? Then do one thing that assumes these feelings are real. This tricks your brain into believing your achievement has already happened! Years ago, while still in corporate marketing, I had dreams of being in the media, so I bought a gown for the Emmys. I don’t yet have my own TV show, but I am now doing this column and I am a regular on SiriusXM. My brain is creating the new neural pathways to make my vision a reality. One day, I’m going to wear that dress to the Emmys.
So whether you want to get bikini ready or become a savvy business woman, find your true motivation, become inspired and then do one thing. This way, you follow your own dreams and love yourself in the process.