Is your motivation hibernating for the winter?

Sometimes motivation is easy to come by.


We can get caught up in the excitement of an event, such as planning a wedding or organising a night out and find the desire to get moving and shaking with the planning comes easy.

Some days we just wake up ready and raring to go with no real rhyme or reason behind it.

Other tasks or projects, such as re-painting the hall, cleaning the windows or sorting through lots of old paperwork can be a bit trickier in terms of finding the motivation to get the task started and to keep going through what can be a lengthy, tiring and, for many, boring process.

For me, the motivation for these tasks comes when the stress of looking at the grubby walls and windows and piles of papers lying around is more unbearable than the thought of actually setting about the task of fixing it. That’s motivation.

Or when the deadline for a piece of work is fast approaching. The thought of the consequence of not doing it is more uncomfortable than actually getting it done. That’s motivation.

Some things in life can seem to need an endless supply of motivation. I have friends who find it difficult to keep on top of the clutter in their house, others find planning and preparing meals really challenging and others run out of steam when trying to stay active and fall away from the latest exercise plan they have tried to implement.

Finding motivation is difficult for most people at any time of the year, but for many the winter months, especially the lead up to Christmas, can be a particularly difficult time to stay motivated.

There are many reasons for this, The weather is colder so the temptation to stay in your bed a wee bit longer in the morning or curl up on the couch with a book or in front of the TV rather than go out for a walk or to the gym can be overwhelming.

Similarly, our healthy eating habits can be de railed by all the high fat, high sugar Christmas fayre that seems to hit the shelves earlier and earlier each year. Often we buy ‘Christmas treats’ early just ‘to be prepared then before we know it we have that box of Celebrations open and half the tub is gone. So we buy another.

With all the Christmas lunches and work night’s out, it’s easy to get into the mindset of “why bother trying” to set goals like becoming more active or eating more fruit and veg and doing more cooking.

And what about goals? I mean it’s December. The END of the year. Why START something now? Why not wait till the New Year when surely we will wake up 100% motivated for the year ahead?

In my opinion, there is NO BAD time to start making change or start setting goals and, for me, setting some goals over Winter helps me stay fit and active over the coldest, darkest months of the year which, for me, can often be the most difficult in terms of feeling more tired, sluggish and a little bit down.

The hard bit is finding the motivation to get started. 

Once you are on your way, it’s easier to keep going. It’s like that tyre we have talked about before. The big 60kg tyre that you can shove across the floor at the gym. It’s big, heavy and cumbersome and it’s really tough to get it moving. But once you get going and built up some momentum, the job gets a bit easier and you need far less motivation to keep going.

So, how do we get motivated?

Plan, plan, plan.

I know I’ve said it before, but if you want to do something, schedule it into your diary.

Want to be more active? Schedule in when you are going to go for a walk/run or go to the gym.

Want to eat more fibre? Plan your meals.

Want to improve your sleep? Plan your evening routine.

Need to re paint that hall? Schedule it into your diary.

Want to write that article you have been thinking about for weeks? Set aside time to write it and put it in your diary.

Planning slows us to rely less on MOTIVATION and WILLPOWER, 2 things that we do not have an infinite supply of and 2 things that are harder to come by when we are tired, stressed or busy.

If you have limited time, resources and energy, why waste time deciding what and when to do things each day? By the time you have done that you could have checked off the first 2 things in your diary for the day.

Having something written down and scheduled into your day also makes it much more likely that you will actually do it.

There are lots of studies on will power and motivation that back this idea.

Likewise, doing something with someone else (eg going to the gym with a friend) makes you more likely to finish the task.

Pre booking a personal training session, cookery or music lesson makes it much more likely that you will go to the class than if you just reply on being motivated enough to go along on the day.

On a personal level, I know that things that I have planned into my week will almost definitely happen. Sometimes the kids get sick or I have to change my work schedule but, more often than not, if it’s in the diary its going to get done. 

If I decide to do something ‘when I have time’ or ‘when I can fit it in’, more often that not, it rolls over to the next week. 

I like having set routines. My job involves me making lots of decisions every day. As a mum, I have to make decisions for the kids and family as well as for myself. 

Having a routine for various things such as sleep, exercise, shopping/cooking helps reduce the number of decisions I have to make in a week and frees up some much needed thinking time. It also makes it much more likely that I’ll eat a varied diet and get organised for the next day the night before than if I just ‘wing it’ throughout the week.

With various things happening at home right now, I’ve not been able to plan my usual gym sessions into my diary for the last few weeks. Instead, I’ve been thinking that I’ll just go for a run ‘when I can’ and ‘try to squeeze in a trip to the gym at some point’. Not surprisingly, I’ve been to the gym once in the last 5 weeks and been for a run twice.

What I have planned in, is walking to and from school pick ups. This week, I have specifically planned in time to do some home workouts which should be easier to fit in that a trip to the gym without having to head back out into the cold at night. If I plan the same things in at the same times over the next few weeks I should be able to build a new routine.

To stay motivated, you need to make your goal challenging enough to stretch you a little but not so challenging that you are likely to fail.

For example, If I aimed to do a home workout 5 times a week and run 3 times a week with the aim of running a 10k in 6 weeks I would be heading towards bitter disappointment and a firm blow to my self esteem. 

Equally, if I left my goal at walking to and from school drops and fitting in 1 home workout a week I would become very bored very quickly. Especially if I repeated the same workout every week.

The trick is to set out your routine with just the right amount of difficulty to stretch your ability.

This phenomenon is known as the ‘Goldilocks Rule’.

The “Goldilock’s Rule’  states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, not too easy, just right. (James

Working on tasks that follow the Goldilocks Rule is one of the key ways of making sure you stay motivated for the long haul.

If you look back to a time when you lost motivation, you may find it was when a task either became too boring or too difficult for you. Either way, you become frustrated and lose motivation. The only way back is to re assess your task and re align it in terms of how much of a challenge it poses for you.

At some point, even if you have mastered the Goldilocks Rule and have got into a routine, your motivation will at some point take a dip.

There are a few things you can try when this happens.

1. Although the temptation to quit or change paths is strong there will also be part of you telling yourself to keep going. Take time to listen to that message too and not just the voice telling you that you are tired, fed up and bored.

2. The difficult bit won’t last forever. That gym session that’s killing you will be over soon and you can look forward to that welcome adrenalin high. The report you are writing will be finished at some point and you can sit back and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. The re painting of the hall may take several days and be physically exhausting but you can have the pleasure of looking at it every day knowing you completed the task yourself.

3. Think about all the good things you have going on when faced with something challenging or unpleasant. It’s easy to forget what we have. Write down a few things you are grateful for and keep the list handy.

4. Celebrate the fact that you are keeping going when you could have given up. Having the determination to keep going is no small thing and you should take the time to congratulate yourself. The boost you may get from this could help you stay motivated to continue.

Good luck with staying motivated throughout December. Remember, if you can keep up most of the good habits now you won’t feel you are faced with an uphill battle come January!


    2 replies to "Motivation"

    • Brett Sentance

      This is a lovely blog, thanks for sharing. It really resonates with me, winter can be such a challenge to stay motivated and I often just want to get into a nice comfy bed on these dark cold evenings as early as possible!

    • Laura Taylor

      Thanks for your comments here and on the previous blog! I’m really keen on developing social prescribing at my practice so please keep in touch!

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