No matter where you are on your health journey, you will need a source of motivation and a clear set of goals to face the challenges ahead. If goals are the road map, then motivation is the fuel you need for the journey. Goals help us clarify what we hope to accomplish, while motivation brings clarity to why we are working towards them. To be successful, we need a clear picture of both. Finding new motivation and setting new goals are a key part of the process of continual improvement. In fact, over the course of your life you may have many different goals and your motivation for achieving them will also change.That’s why it is so important to revisit them from time to time and adjust as necessary.
My personal wellness journey began with “intention” when I was 25 years old. After eight consecutive years of university, I found myself 60 lbs heavier than I had ever been in my life. I subsisted on a constant diet of carb rich, high fat and highly processed foods. I smoked and I never exercised. Eventually it caught up with me and I felt terrible inside and out. Young though I was, I could see clearly enough to know that I did not like the direction my life was headed. Beyond the aesthetics (my clothes fit poorly), exercise hurt a lot and it was beginning to limit my ability to do things I had once taken for granted. My dissatisfaction with how things were, motivated me to make a change. I wanted to be able to engage fully in life and that wasn’t happening.
With a little encouragement from a close friend, I found the courage I needed to set some goals: eat healthier, make exercise a non-negotiable part of my schedule and find ways to reward myself that were not food related. It took almost three years, but gradually over that time I found success! I was able to return to a healthy body weight, I quit smoking and I rediscovered my joy for life. I explored a whole new range of challenges (from ballroom dancing to mountain biking) that fed back into my “motivation” well.
At 28, now healthier and much more fit, I revisited my goals and began to set some new ones. I discovered that I loved to run. This began a whole new chapter in my life. I was really motivated to push my physical limits to see how far I could go. After several years of running solo, I set a goal to run in my first 10k race. Soon after, I ran my first half-marathon. Fast forward several years and dozens of half-marathons later, I ran my first full marathon. I realized through this process that my greatest limitations were the ones I had put on myself.Setting incremental, challenging, yet achievable goals became a positive feedback loop that helped to keep me motivated. And as my goals changed, so too did my motivation. What began in my early 20’s as a desire to fit into my old clothes had now become a desire to be fit throughout every stage of my life.
At 28 I also met and married Dr. McKay. I have watched this program evolve from an idea, to a dream to a reality and have seen the impact it has had on so many people. This has helped push me to work toward continually being a role model for those patients I work with in spiritual care in a hospital setting as well as encouraging my co-workers.
As 50 approaches, my motivation and my goals continue to evolve. I’ve learned so much about myself and I can’t imagine where I would be today if I had never taken that first step to make a change. While there have been many ups and downs, goals accomplished and others abandoned, I am so grateful for the journey. It was worth the risk.
The Takeaway: Don’t wait for perfect conditions to get started. It is within your reach to do something positive to improve your health (mentally or physically) today. Do it! And let that success begin to fuel your motivation for more.
Be realistic! Do not limit your future success by requiring perfect results. Life is messy and sometimes even the best laid plans can go sideways. Keep going even when you fall short and take comfort knowing that the process of continual improvement is just that…a process.
Take ownership! This is your one and only life. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to live it to the fullest. Likewise you can’t blame anyone else if choose to stay stuck. You are and always will be your own best motivator. Others may encourage you along the way, but you are the only one who can tap into your “why” you want to make a change.
Food for thought: The best way to get results is to plan for the future, but live one day at a time.Think about the future. How do you define success? What makes you happy? What drives you? What makes you get out of bed in the morning? Where do you want to be a year from now? What do you want to be doing? Finally, What is the first thing you need to do to start towards that goal?
Have an awesome day! – Jon McKay, MDWL contributor