When motivation is high, taking action can be easy. Whether you want to lose weight, reduce your stress levels or learn a new skill, getting started is less of a problem for most people.

Our body and mind provide us with notifications when we reach our heaviest weight, or when our stress levels are through the roof. We get fed up with a plateau in our performance which motivates us to approach things differently; learning a new skill, training smarter, or working with a different coach

A change in our circumstances may remind us of our vulnerability, which motivates us to become more connected and grateful. We might read, watch or learn something new which inspires and gives us hope, opening our eyes up to the possibility of positive change.

Whatever the trigger, we usually start our change with a high level of motivation and focus, we know what we want (or don’t want) and have the energy and drive to get started. We surround ourselves with people who can help us to get it and positive role models who inspire us. We access the resources, gain information and take a deep interest.

The newness and novelty can feel interesting and exciting as we notice some initial benefits and quick pay offs. This motivates and encourages us to reinforce the behaviour- and put up with the pain, embarrassment or discomfort which we sustain through the process of making the connections, learning and “failing.”

For example, you feel a sense of satisfaction from attending the gym, even if you don’t enjoy it. You feel good about the 2 steps you took on your hands- before you fell on the floor. You notice you feel more at ease or sleep better having taken the time to meditate. You might gain pleasure and attention from talking about your new interest, or moan about your new eating plan with your friends and work colleagues.

Even if you’re not enjoying it, at first you manage to keep up your new behaviours with simple determination and discipline, but why is it so hard to keep them going?

Think about the last goal you had, why did you stop working on it? Did you get bored or distracted? Did you loose heart? Many people say lack of time, work or family commitments as the reason for stopping, but most of us have these challenges, so why is it so hard to stay focused? And how can we make new behaviours sticky and habitual in a way which leads to progress.

There are many complex reasons why new behaviours can be difficult to sustain, for example the reasons behind the goal- why do you want to lose weight or learn that skill? Is it driven by yourself or done to please others? A clue to this might be that you require an external source of motivation, you can’t seem to do it by yourself.

Are you specific enough about your goal? When we lack clarity and focus its easy to get disheartened and fall off track- what are we doing anyway? It can be easy to forget with everything else we have going on and if your pretty distractable, you can find yourself a little lost.

Other times it’s about simple convenience and the new behaviours fitting in with our lifestyles and our normal routine, for instance, our work and family commitments and our social circle – where we go, who we go to these places with and whether we enjoy it.

Did this get you thinking? Want to know how to strengthen your commitment?

Read my next article which talks about how to improve commitment through creating habits which enable you to sustain change, even after your initial motivation has faded.

A version of this article was also featured in Thrive Magazine.

Photo credit : Dave Shenton

Event: FRFUK