A few years ago, I was in the best shape of my life.
I felt great about how I looked and couldn’t wait to work out. I was eating healthy, had no problem managing my tendency to eat emotionally, and was juicing and experimenting with raw food recipes. I was drinking tons of water, meditating and journaling, and reading inspiring books to keep myself on track.
The better I felt about the way I looked, the easier it was to do what I needed to do to keep myself looking that way.
Then I began the process of getting a divorce.
I started missing my morning workouts, and the stress I felt made it a lot easier to sit down at the end of the day in front of Netflix with some chips and a bottle of chardonnay.
It didn’t take long for the effects of all that to show up on my body.
And guess what? The more unhappy I was with the way I looked, the harder it was to do the things I needed to do to get my body back into shape. (And the easier it was to keep watching Netflix.)
But . . . I managed to pull myself out of that dark hole and start working my way back to the “real” me.
Why It’s So Hard to Do What You Should Do
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to work out and eat healthy when you feel good about the way your body looks? And how much harder it is to get up for a morning workout or order a salad instead of a side of fries when you don’t?
The reason why is that you’re taking action based on your current results.
Looking down at your stomach and seeing that you’ve slimmed down makes you feel really good – which means you’re more likely to take positive action to reinforce those results. In this scenario, that’s a good thing.
But staring at your stomach when it’s not as flat as you want it to be makes you feel terrible – which means that you’re more likely to do what feels good in the moment to alleviate that terrible feeling.
The problem is that those instant gratification moments take you farther away from who you want to be. And that’s not a good thing.
But it’s important to remember that your current results have shown up as a result of what you did in the past.
There’s a Time Delay
Keeping in mind the concept of the time delay is hugely important if you want to stay motivated.
It seems obvious – of course you’re not heavier because you ate two bowls of ice cream last night – but somehow we typically judge ourselves harshly without factoring in the multitude of steps that were taken over a long period of time that got us to this place.
And this lapse in objectivity is exactly what keeps us stuck and paralyzed into inaction.
The reason why is that it keeps you from seeing the big picture – that a series of small actions taken over time is what gets you major results. When you keep the big picture in mind, it’s easier to motivate yourself to go on that one short walk or do those ten pushups in between phone calls.
It’s easy to fall prey to that feeling of “What’s the point?” when you’ve been working out and not seeing the results you want to see. One session on the treadmill doesn’t feel significant when you’re staring at an extra ten pounds that won’t seem to go away. But that’s short-term thinking.
You can’t look at what you see and let that make you decide what to do next without remembering that what you did three months ago is what got you here today.
You have to think long term and remember the concept of the time delay. You have to keep in mind that the series of small steps you take this week – and next week and the week after that – are what will bring you to the future you that you envision.
And every single one of them counts.
Every small right decision you make and action you take in that direction are momentous when you think long term.
An extra glass of wine a few nights a week and a couple of missed workouts are no big deal, but a few months of making those seemingly insignificant choices were what got me seriously off track.
Don’t Create Mental Weight
By looking at current results and not thinking long term, you’re also carrying around a load of mental weight that’s way out of proportion to the weight you see on your body.
From the moment you wake up to the moment your head hits the pillow, you’re mentally dragging that weight around with you. The feeling this gives you is enough to stop any and all motivation in its tracks.
You put your feet on the floor and look down at your stomach to see how “fat” you are. And you go to sleep berating yourself about all the calories you consumed and promising that you won’t be so “lazy” tomorrow. (Which is exactly what’s behind “I’ll start on Monday.”)
What you’re doing is literally creating the physical weight. Judging yourself based on what you currently see makes you feel bad, and feeling bad doesn’t make you feel like taking the right actions.
When you take the wrong actions – skipping a workout, having one more margarita, grabbing a few stray cookies – you’re creating that future you who’s carrying around an extra five or ten pounds. And if that describes the current you, she was created by taking those same small actions last month.
The current you was created by a series of smaller actions you took in the past. And the accumulation of the small actions you take today is creating the future you – you just can’t see her yet.
You have to drop the mental weight, make the choice to envision the future you, and take deliberate action based on that vision.
How to Get Started
Your goal is to create a sense of confidence and success – even if you don’t feel confident or successful. (Especially if you don’t.) But if it seems daunting to push past the feeling of disappointment you have because of your current results, here are some strategies to get you going:
Visualize the future you. See yourself exactly how you want to be and try to keep that vision in your mind as much as possible. Do it often enough to create detailed scenarios of what that person does throughout the day.
See yourself shopping for organic produce to make a beautiful meal. See yourself buying new workout clothes to wear to that barre class you signed up for. See yourself doing things that give you a surge of positive energy, and pretty soon that vision will start to take on a life of its own.
Create a detailed plan. Coming up with a plan and writing it down makes it 42% more likely that you’ll achieve your goals – this statistic is backed by research conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University in California. Not only that, just sitting down to create a plan makes you feel confident and proactive.
Give yourself a blueprint for success, made up of the tons of small steps you’ll take to get there. But make sure you give yourself flexible deadlines. You want to stay on track with the right actions long term – not make yourself feel like a failure that you didn’t meet one of your deadlines and give up completely.
Take one small step. Take one of those small steps and do it right now. Whether it’s doing ten pushups, going for a walk around the block, or eating a handful of blueberries, do it now.
Taking action – any action – sends a signal to your brain that you’re committed to following through. And remember that every small step you take accumulates, so choose to feel good about each one of them.
Think of something you’re good at. What area are you most accomplished in? Think of something you do effortlessly and analyze what makes you good at it.
Are you an amazing artist? Are you organized to the extreme? Think of why that is. It’s a certainty that you feel confident and capable in this area, and that feeling of confidence creates action – and those actions add up to make you feel (and be) ever more accomplished.
If you’re a talented artist, it’s because you have your art space set up with the right equipment and you carve out space daily to draw a few sketches. If you could sub for a professional organizer, it’s because you routinely weed out what you don’t need and have established a daily workflow that keeps clutter at bay.
Work backward from your expertise to see the steps you took to get to this level of accomplishment and apply them to your blueprint for fitness and health.
You’re Already the Future You
Choose to see long term and fight through the feelings of discouragement that come from seeing current results that were created by steps you’ve already taken. Choose to envision the future you and be confident that the small steps you take consistently will help you evolve into that person.
Don’t let how you feel about your current results paralyze you into inaction. Choose to act and let the confidence you feel from taking that action drive you to take another step – and another after that.
The small steps you take today are those that create the future you – the one who’s inside you already, just waiting to emerge.
If you liked this article, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter
for more tips, inspiration, and motivation for your weight-loss journey! ❤️