On Motivation and Habit

A G-rated post today. :)

(No, no, come back! I’ll do another smutty one soon, I promise!)

Great little post by Ali Hale over on Dumb Little Man yesterday. It’s about staying motivated to achieve your health goals. You can read the entire post here (and I highly recommend it.)

One bit kind of leapt off the page at me:

Make It A Habit
Do you brush your teeth every day? Hopefully so – and you probably don’t ever think about being “motivated” to do it. Brushing your teeth is simply a habit. A great way to circumvent the need for motivation is to turn your health goals into habits. If you go for a walk every day before breakfast for three weeks, chances are, it’ll become as much a habit as brushing your teeth is. If you always eat a piece of fruit before deciding if you really want that chocolate bar, again, this becomes nearly automatic.

Simple. Basic. I like it.

To be nitpicky, though, I think there’s more to it than simple habit. While I understand (and appreciate) the author’s intent, brushing my teeth isn’t something I do just because it’s something I always do. I do it to maintain healthy teeth, which without regular brushing will rot and die. AFTER I spend a fortune trying to fix the problems.

It’s the same with exercise and healthy(-ier) eating, I think. I do it because without it, my body will suffer. My arteries will fill up with Silly Putty, my knees will grow weary of toting an amount of weight they were not designed to carry, and my spirit will rot and die. Sure, there are medications that will help me manage those problems, but there are side effects of those that extend beyond the bank account.

So it seems easy enough. Just like I brush my teeth to maintain their health and longevity (on the issue of daily flossing, I plead the Fifth), I exercise and eat healthy(-ier) so that I will have better health and live longer.

The thing is–and this may surprise you–I don’t exactly wake up and bounce into the bathroom to brush my teeth every single day. Sure, sometimes I do, but there are quite a few days when you’d think I was headed to a guillotine. I actually have suffered carpet burn due to my chin dragging the floor.

I’m like that with exercise, too. Some days I start watching the clock in early afternoon, eagerly awaiting quitting time so that I can head to the gym. Other days, I will actively try to invent reasons I shouldn’t go.

I have “the beginnings” of a headache.

I have important things to do at home.

I had such a good workout last night that I can afford to take a day off.

You see what I mean.

Or I’ll try to justify to myself the reasons it’s okay that I’m under for the day on veggies or over on the 100-calorie snacks. (The justification is usually tenuous, at best.)

Do I ever grab the excuse strings? You betcha, but it’s rare. My motivation is my desire to live, and my life is more than a habit.

On its surface though, I liked the DLM post. I’m just suffering from thinkstoomuchitis.


Personal note: Final results in on all the medical tests and I’m three-for-three. Mammogram, Pap smear, and colonoscopy are all A-Okay! Even better, I don’t have to go for another colonoscopy for 10 years. Hooray! That gives them 10 whole years to come up with a better plan.