I wanted to get six-pack abs in 30 days. But I wasn't sure if it was possible.
But I was a far cry from six-pack abs.
The plan to get six-pack abs included changing my diet (I needed to eat a lot more protein), and I had to start lifting weights--a lot of weights. It was mostly upper-body work and some serious ab training during the last couple of weeks. Also rather than a leisurely two-mile jog, I had to run sprints.
Since it was only a 30-day challenge, there wasn't any time for cheating. Even on the days when I didn't feel like sprinting, or the times when I preferred to sit on the couch rather than pick up a dumbbell, I had to force myself to take action. Otherwise, I wouldn't meet my goal.
It gave me an opportunity to practice using every psychological strategy and mental trick I've learned as a psychotherapist and mental strength trainer.
Fortunately, I found many of these strategies were effective in helping me take action even when I didn't feel like it. So by the end of the 30 days, I had six-pack abs to prove it.
Here are the five strategies that helped me stay motivated:
1. Break a big task into a manageable chunk.
I was supposed to run 16 sprints. But by the time I got to about six, 16 seemed far-fetched. I was already breathing heavy, and my legs felt like they weighed 50 extra pounds.
So I told myself I had to run four sets of four sprints. When I reached four, my brain would think, "Oh I'm a quarter of the way there already," and I'd feel like I'd checked off a huge portion of my tasks already.
So even though four sets of four equals 16, breaking down my goal into a manageable chunk tricked my brain into seeing it was possible. And then I was able to reach my goals before I could talk myself out of it.
2. Use the 10-minute rule.
Sometimes, the thought of launching into a 40-minute weight lifting session seemed overwhelming. I was certain I didn't have the energy to do it.
To get myself moving, I used the 10-minute rule. I agreed to work out for 10 minutes. Once I got to the 10-minute mark, I could decide if I wanted to keep going. And if I didn't, I'd give myself permission to quit.
I never quit though. Once I got to the 10-minute mark, I was able to keep going every time. It was proof that starting is often the hardest part. Once you get moving, it's easier to keep going.
3. Create a list of reasons why.
On the days when I felt especially tired or overwhelmed, it was easy to come up with reasons why I shouldn't work out. I have too much to do. It's too hot out. I'll make up for it tomorrow.
But those excuses were based on emotion--not logic. To prevent my brain from talking me out of reaching my goals, I reminded myself of all the reasons why I should exercise.
Every workout gets me closer to my goal. Each exercise session makes a difference. I won't ever know what I can accomplish unless I give this my all.
I wrote down my list of reasons in advance. I knew I'd have rough days. And on those rough days when my emotions were getting the best of me, reading over the logical list of reasons helped me take action.
4. Prove your brain wrong.
When my brain tried to convince me I was too tired to take one more step, I ran faster. Or when my brain told me I was too tired to work out today, I responded by thinking, "Challenge accepted."
I knew my brain would underestimate me and try to convince me that I couldn't succeed. My brain wanted me to play it safe and stay inside my comfort zone. But as a mental strength trainer, I knew I was stronger than my own brain was giving me credit for. So I set out to prove my brain wrong every single day.
5. Think of how you'll feel when you're done.
It was tough to talk myself into doing something painful. But I stayed focus on how I'd feel afterward. I knew as soon as I was done working out, I'd feel a sense of accomplishment.
I also knew I'd be proud of myself for doing it. So I stayed focused on knowing that a little pain now would help me feel better later. I just had to put in the work to get there.
Whether you're struggling to complete a boring work project or you just can't convince yourself to organize your home, these strategies might help you trick your brain in getting started. And if you practice them regularly, you'll train your brain to think differently.
Eventually, your brain will see that excuses don't work anymore. Or it'll stop trying to talk you out of doing things. Instead, your brain will start to see you as the capable, strong person you are, and getting motivated to take action will get easier as you continue to grow mentally stronger.