We get it, working out daily or even going for a walk daily can be difficult. Or perhaps we skip breakfast or have a bowl of cereal for supper. Whatever the case may be, the reason that compels us to that is laziness. We’d rather do whatever else we want to do instead of cleaning, exercising or cleaning up the mess in the kitchen afterward.
We all know that eating healthy and exercising is good for us and is the healthy choice. And yet we still find ourselves lacking an ounce of motivation to go for that option.
Fortunately for those in that this boat there is actually a good amount of research out there. The research looks into a simple solution for even the laziest people to make healthier decisions.
The idea behind this research isn’t to be increasing our motivation so much as taking the time to leverage what motivation we do have in us right now. This is the belief of BJ Fogg, a psychologist as well as the director at the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford. In a 2013 interview, Fogg took some time to explain a simple thing that we all have in us. It’s called “motivation wave” which is essentially fluctuations in the levels of our motivation to do something.
As Fogg explained in the interview, motivation really only has a single role and that’s to lift us up so we can do the hard things. In other words, when you have high motivation, you feel like you want to do a very difficult and challenging thing. In terms of health, this means doing those hard things so your future healthy behaviors will be easier to develop. For example, if you want to be exercising more, this means you need to lift your motivation up to the point where you go to a gym, sign up, and even pay a trainer to help you stay on track.
On top of that interview, Fogg did a 2012 presentation on the subject as well which can help in making this clearer. He applied this motivation wave in terms of eating healthier. The strategy he proposes is again doing something hard and challenging first which helps in reducing the barriers to the behaviors we want.
For example, when you get home from the grocery store while your motivation is higher, take time right now to wash the vegetables and cut them up right then and there. If you are feeling especially motivated, cook up all or a portion of your meals right afterward and put them all in clear containers. The idea behind this is that when your motivation starts to lag, you’ll find it easier to stick to your habits because all you need to do is go to the fridge and open one of the containers.
Another strategy you can consider when motivation is higher is increasing capabilities to achieve your goals. This can be cooking a different dish you’ve never made before which will make cooking it next time easier.
Another thing to consider is knowing when your motivation is at its peak. Are you a person that is extra energized in the morning? Or do you find more motivation after a few hours at the gym? Incorporate that into your strategy to be doing harder stuff during those times or after those events.