There are times, especially lately with the Damn Diet, that it’s really hard to stay motivated. Sometimes I just want to give in and eat french fries for dinner and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Chocolate Fudge Brownie, please) for dessert.
That’s not the only thing I need help staying motivated with, though. I also need help staying motivated with writing, with going to yoga on a regular basis, with publishing Under the Gum Tree, with any number of things that are just “regular life.” I need help staying motivated to get out of bed every day.
So, what do I do to help myself stay motivated with those things?
1. I brag about small victories.
Last week I had friends over for dinner one night, the next night I went to not one, but two events, and the third night I went to yet another event. In the last few months, expending that much energy and engaging in that much socializing hasn’t been on my list of priorities. Nor has it been in the realm of possibility a lot of the time. Instead, the thing that I need to do most is rest and go to bed early. Which means that having friends over, or hitting two events in one night is not even on the option list. So when it does happen, it’s out of the ordinary and I make a big deal out of it. It reminds me what a treat it is to have the energy to do those things, and it lets others know that, hey, I had the energy and they are lucky that I’m spending it on them. If I make a big deal out of it, it’s like a mini-celebration that keeps me looking forward and motivated to work toward the next time I have that kind of energy.
2. I ride the wave.
Energy comes in waves, and so I am thinking about it like body surfing. When you body surf, you wait for the wave and if you catch it at the moment it’s about to peak you can ride it all the way to the shore, getting the longest ride out of that one wave as you can. My physical energy can work the same way: If I catch it right when it’s about to peak, I can get three nights of events and socializing out of it like I did last week. When the energy is there I try to do as much as I can before it’s gone. Because I know that soon I will reach the shore and it will be nap time. But until then I ride the wave as long as I can and it motivates me to catch the next wave when it comes.
3. I surround myself with people who appreciate my energy.
The thing about getting energy in waves is that some people may not be aware of what an effort it is for me to spend it, or they don’t get what a privilege it is when I have energy to give. So when I have the energy, I am spending it with people who understand that, wow, it’s great that I have the energy to be out tonight and, wow, it’s even more great that they are there to experience it with me — maybe even two nights in a row! This happened to me last week — I got to see someone who I don’t see very often two nights in a row because she happened to be at two of the same events that I made it to. And her reaction? It was, “I’m so glad I got to be a part of your energy wave and see you two nights in a row!” Do you know what that does to me? It makes me motivated to use my energy waves for those type of events even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I feel like my energy waves are so rare that I should save them and share them with my husband because he sees the best of me but he’s the only one who sees the worst of me.
4. I talk about the energy waves.
Letting people know about what I’m experiencing helps keep me motivated to get out and spend time with them when I have the energy. It’s important that my family and friends know why I say no to an invitation or stay home from an event; it’s because I don’t have the energy wave, not because I don’t love them or support what they are doing. When I post pictures of all the (good) shit I have to take every day, it’s a small way to update the people in my life on what I’m doing to manage the energy waves, and they sometimes take the opportunity to tell me to keep kicking ass — even when it’s a muscle emoticon on Instagram. And, if they know that energy is a rare thing for me these days, they will appreciate that I have chosen to spend time with them, which will motivate me to get out the next time I have a wave of energy.
5. I pay attention to what’s draining me.
My therapist has been helping me think about my energy as a commodity, something that requires conservation: I have to store up so that I have it to spend when I need it. Part of storing up means paying attention to activities (even people) who are too expensive — meaning they require too much of my energy and the value that I get in return isn’t worth how I feel afterward. Paying attention to what’s draining my energy reserves helps me stay motivated to say no to things. It also motivates me to spend the energy when it’s worth it — when there is an event that, even if I don’t feel like going, I go to anyway because I have the energy and because I will see two friends I haven’t seen for a while and because catching up with those friends ends up being energizing.
This stuff is hard work. I have to remind myself to brag about small victories and to ride the wave and the rest of it every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. I have even started tracking my energy by the hour on an Excel spread sheet. Yes. Excel. Spread. Sheet. (Actually it’s a Google doc so that I can access it on any device, but that’s too OCD for you, isn’t it?)
It’s hard. But it’s working. I have been on the Damn Diet now for almost 6 months. I have lost almost 25 pounds (depending on the time of day that I step on the scale). I used to go to bed at 7 p.m. almost every night and still need a nap in the middle of the day. I used to miss bread. I used to spend more than half of yoga class in child’s pose.
It’s hard work and it’s working. I. Am. Kicking. Ass. And that keeps me motivated.