I am learning so much about habits, motivation and resilience as a life coach. I’ve always been fascinated by human psychology, and what makes or breaks the goals we set for ourselves. Coaching has taught me to see setbacks – not as failures – but as feedback. What a mindset shift!
Imagine if you could label your last missed goal, not as bad or a failure, but rather as non-judgmental feedback. Maybe you’d learn what went wrong without identifying with it, and even learn how to set yourself up for success next time. Most importantly, you would try again with less resistance because you wouldn’t feel weighed down by your own judgment. This is called having a growth mindset, and it is powerful.
The Anatomy of a Habit
When we dissect our habits, we can identify 4 parts: The Cue, The Action, The Reward, and the Feedback.
Let’s say you want to change your nighttime insta-scrolling in bed habit. The current cue is you get in bed. This signals to your brain to start the action, or pulling out your phone and tapping that pink and orange camera icon.
Next think about what you get out of it. What lights up that pleasure center in your brain? Get super visual with identifying the feeling behind the action. Perhaps it’s the sense of connection you feel to those you follow and those who follow you. Maybe it’s the inspiration of motivational quotes and beautiful images. Or maybe it’s just shutting off your brain and “unwinding” just before sleep to get your mind off of negative self-talk or work-related to anxiety. So what’s the problem? 😉 This is where the feedback comes in.
Clearly, despite it’s pleasure-inducing facets, there is something about scrolling through Instagram just before sleep that tells you it needs to stop or change in some way. Get curious about why that is – do you end up feeling more comparison fatigue than inspired after a scroll sesh? Does the light from your screen overstimulate your brain, making it difficult to adjust to the darkness required for sleep? I recommend writing this reason down in a place you can refer back next time you are cued to repeat the same action.
With these 4 parts in mind, you can now start testing new actions to replace the old action, keeping the cue and the reward the same or similar!
So, the cue is still getting in bed. What is a new action you can take to give you that same feeling of cozyness and release that the Insta-scrolling once gave?
Brainstorm a list of things to try, and start with what jumps out to you most. Maybe it’s writing a letter to a dear friend or partner you can send them or text them the next day, if the desired feeling was connection. Or perhaps it’s reading an inspiring blog post or chapter of a biography if it’s inspiration you seek. Maybe it’s doing a yoga or meditation practice to actually clear your mind of negative self-talk, rather than momentarily escaping it.
You can set a different intention, and activity, every night if you find you need something different based on the day you’ve had. Just do something consistent, like journal first to set the intention: “I will read for 15 minutes before bed.”
Don’t forget to reach for your original habit-breaking intention when you feel tempted to go back to your old ways. Reconnect to the original feedback, and always note down the new feedback that comes from trying each action. The key is to refine the action as you go, until you find your sweet spot!
Motivation is key to forming any new habit or ritual, not to mention understanding what makes you you as it relates to slaying your biggest goals.
As with habits, it’s important to bring a non-judgmental attitude to your personal motivation style. Everyone is motivated by some things more than others – the point is to learn what works for you.
There are generally 6 types of motivation – 3 sets of 2 opposing styles:
1. Conditional & Intrinsic:
For many of us, it helps to start with conditional motivation. I’ll go for a run if I can get the ice cream sundae immediately delivered to my mouth afterwards.
But over time, the reward stops having the same affect and can certainly be worse for us than never forming the habit in the first place! Conditional motivation tends to be unsustainable in the long-run.
Intrinsic motivation on the other hand is doing something because the process of doing it is a reward in itself. It could be that the artistic process for an artist being more valuable than selling the finished piece. Or maybe finding a career you love so much that you would do it even if you weren’t getting paid! 🙂
2. Proactive & Reactive:
If you consider yourself a procrastinator, chances are you are re-actively motivated. This means, in an extreme example, you only start budgeting and saving after the debt collectors leave you 72 voicemails.
The tipping point or cue for you is – something negative happens, then you make the necessary fix. A good practice for you could be to play with moving the original cue from a reactive place to a proactive one. Solidifying in your memory, through therapy or journaling, the negative effects of your current habits and revisiting them often, could help you become proactive in the future. E.g. setting up automatic payments before the bills are due!
3. Self & Others:
I don’t find self-motivation and motivation for others to be as diametrically opposed as the first two sets of motivation styles.
Case in point – starting a self-care practice will not only benefit you enormously, but will also help you to become the best version of yourself for others, whether that’s a friend, colleague, mentor, employee, employer, parent, child, or partner.
But maybe the core of why you do it is sparked by either a genuine initial desire to love yourself more OR a recognition of a desire to be more present for others. We’re all connected, so when we care for ourselves, we care for each other. And vice versa. It’s like taking care of the environment – everybody benefits from this work!
It’s important to note, your motivation type might change activity to activity – for example, I am intrinsically motivated to work out. It has to be fun or I just can’t get behind it (Zumba, anyone?).
On the other hand, writing this blog is hugely motivated by a desire to help others. When I’ve tried to get amped about writing a post to promote my coaching practice or simply be creative, I haven’t been able to get it done. But when I learn something particularly juicy and think, My readers could benefit from this!, I am much more likely to take action on it.
Get to know your motivation styles. Is there a particular direction you lean toward with the 3 category types? Any new types you’d like to try to get yourself motivated behind a particular challenge?
Your Resilience IQ
As I’ve said again and again, there is no point in creating structure around your life if you don’t give yourself grace. Especially when it comes to self-care, practicing forgiveness when we don’t hit our goals is key. Not only is it the more non-judgmental, self-compassionate approach, but it actually increases our chances of try, trying again!
As I said earlier, just re-framing setbacks as feedback instead of failures can be a game-changer. This is where resilience comes in. Think about a particular setback you’ve faced recently when it comes to meeting your personal goals. For example, let’s take the goal of meditating for 20 minutes every morning, which you didn’t do this morning.
1. Consider Community. What support system do you have in place? Have you shared this goal with someone who can hold you accountable? What online community might you find to help you achieve this? We have not evolved to be alone. We need other people. Learning to ask for help is foundational for developing your Resilience IQ.
2. Self-Confidence. How much do you believe in your own ability to meet this goal? If you have low self-confidence around this, what thought patterns can you shift or mantras can you introduce to help shift the inner narrative? Paying attention to the story you’re telling yourself about your own capabilities can often be enough to get the ball rolling toward a higher Resilience IQ.
3. Face the Challenge. Can you see the hurdles and roadblocks on your path toward meeting this goal clearly, for what they are? Reflect on each challenge in its full scope. Acknowledge why this path isn’t easy, and reconsider if it’s worth pursuing at all. It might sound pessimistic, but it’s the only way to genuinely embrace – and eventually meet – a goal.
4. Try, Try Again. This is where the feedback piece is key. What didn’t work before? What has worked with other challenges? Why will this new approach likely work on the next go ’round? Use all feedback as fuel to refine and reset again and again, until you find your sweet spot.
5. Remember Gratitude. What can you be grateful for, even when you face challenges? What do the setbacks teach you that you can be grateful for? Why are you grateful to even have this goal? Why are you grateful you are pursuing this goal? Talk about motivating! If you can not only use your setbacks as fuel for refining your approach, but actually be grateful for them – my friend, you’ve mastered the art of resilience. Your Resilience IQ is through the roof!
Remember, Dear Ones, deconstructing your habits, learning your motivation styles, and strengthening your resilience IQ are all ways to help you meet your beautiful goals! These are all tools for your toolkit. And they are completely worthless, in my book, if not wielded with the gentlest self-care.