Why Productive Habits are More Important Than Motivation

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

If you're wondering how to stay motivated all of the time, plot twist: you can’t. But that doesn't have to be bad news. Instead, let's create productive habits that are far more effective than leaning on motivation all the time.



Motivation is great when it decides to show up. But like that former high school athlete you met at Brother Jimmy's in Murray Hill circa late November of 2012, it won’t always be there in the morning (Baddum tsss).


It certainly won’t be there when you need it most. It’s fleeting. And if we rely on it, we’ll wind up at the holiday party solo because we believed it when it said it would “swing through” and we’ll get a “u up?” text a few nights later. You picking up what I’m putting down?


Motivation is unreliable. Sometimes it shows up and really gives us what we need. But mostly, it leaves us wanting.


Have you ever known someone who always seems motivated? They always get the workout in, they seem to eat really healthy most of the time and they don’t get down on themselves when they have a cookie or some fries. They don’t seem to spiral when they have a few too many drinks at dinner. They always just seem to get right back into their routine. Do you know that person? Do you envy that person’s motivation?


Well, don’t. Because it’s no different than yours.


Here’s what is different: They are consistent. They have a system. They stick to it even and especially when they aren’t motivated. They’ve turned these healthy behaviors into productive habits so that they don’t have to rely on motivation to get up and do that thing.


I know this because this is how it has worked for me for so many years. This is how my clients have seen tremendous results in their lives that are still working.


A former client said to me the other day that she hit a bit of a plateau, but she isn’t worried. That was music to my ears, because she shouldn’t be worried. She has created productive habits that will last a lifetime.


She saw an almost 20 lb weight loss during our 3 month program together because she stuck to the plan. She was consistent. And she still is.


But life happens, and our bodies don’t exist in a vacuum, so the weight (she has a few more pounds she’d like to lose for good) doesn’t always come off consistently each week. We have to trust the process and continue to show up, despite a plateau.


She will continue to see progress over time, and she knows it because she has lived it.


Another client of mine lost over 20 lbs in our first three months. How did she do it? Not with a crash diet - we didn’t count a single calorie. Not with excessive workouts. Not with ruling out food groups.


She did it by making small changes consistently and staying the course. She did while enjoying treats and alcohol here and there - 80/20 rule - but mostly eating nourishing foods that taste great. And she can and will continue this - even once she hits her healthiest weight - so that she can maintain that healthy body for the long haul.


If you are noticing similarities in these stories, it’s because there is a huge one. It’s the secret to weight loss that no one is talking about. It’s not sexy, and it’s not quick. It is simple, but it’s not easy.


It’s consistency. It’s implementing systems that work and sticking to them. It’s creating an environment that eliminates most temptations and is conducive to healthy behaviors.


In this way, you don’t feel restricted and you are not restricting. You are eating more of what is good for you and moving more because you feel great when you do that. And when you want a cookie or a glass of wine, you have it. You don’t feel the pull to have 5 cookies and 6 glasses of wine, because you aren’t coming from a place of constant temptation that you “aren’t allowed” to satisfy.


As the great James Clear points out so well, "Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it." He goes on to explain how the most resistance occurs at the start. Once we are in motion, motivation to continue comes more easily. He references a study that showed, in an experiment with 3 groups (a control group simply tracking their exercise, a second group who had received motivational material to consume and a third group doing all of the above who were also asked to formulate a plan of where and when they would exercise). The third group kept up with exercising at least 1x per week more than double the rate of the other two. More than 91% of those in the group who simply planned it, followed through.


I’ll say it again: you can’t stay motivated all the time. Life doesn’t work that way. Humans don’t work that way. There is no hack.


Be consistent. Make a plan. Show up. Keep promises to yourself. Build productive habits. That’s the secret.


Whether you just need an accountability coach to help get you started, or want to talk more about building productive habits, I'm here to help. Let's talk.


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