At the Bottom of the Yo-yo, looking for My Mojo
Resolving to change a behavior is often compared to flipping on a switch. You start with a lot of motivation and the best intentions. You succeed for a while. Then temptation. Frustration. Boredom. A nibble here, an extra meal there. A skipped workout, an extra rest day, a half-hearted run.
Lost motivation. You say you’ve "fallen off the wagon" or "lost your mojo," that magic that drives you to "stick to a plan." You're desperate to find a way to "flip the switch" back on.
Eventually you start again and, like a timer, you stop again, over and over. You call it being in a rollercoaster or (especially with weight) yo-yo dieting.
You don’t want to give up. You want to succeed! You want your mojo back! How do you turn your motivation back on?
Here's the secret: Motivation isn’t a switch; it’s not black or white, on or off.
Motivation is a continuum.
Positive behavior changes follow specific stages, beginning at the point where you're not even thinking about making a change, up to successfully maintaining the change. Following is a brief look at these "Five Stages of Behavorial Change."*
When making any behavior change, it's a good idea to break a large goal into smaller goals, and to put your smaller goals into the language of SMARTgoals or SoSMART goals. Over a period of time you'll have several goals, so on any given day, you'll be in different stages of change for different goals.
On the following chart, I'll share where a few of my own goals currently fall on the Stages of Change continuum:
You can see how for some goals I'm in maintenance, for some I'm in action, and for a couple I've shifted from maintenance to preparation or action.
When you plot your behavior changes on the continuum, you get a better picture of where you really are. Have you “fallen off the cart” for all of your desired changes? No. Are you at the “bottom of the yo-yo” for every change you’ve implemented over the last year? Probably not.
The continuum also shows that a brief lapse does not instantly hurl you from Action or Maintenance to Contemplation. Even if one lapse is followed by another and another and you lose some of the progress you made, you’re still somewhere above precontemplation on the continuum.
As long as you are at least at the contemplation stage, your mojo is still there. It just needs a boost with some recovery strategies. Here are three tried-and-true suggestions to get you started:
- List or journal all the good things you continue to do for yourself. Everything counts. Don’t overlook the “little” things. You walked around the block. You encouraged someone else's positive behavior change. You ate your vegetables. You had an apple instead of a candy bar. You smiled at the lady in the checkout line.
- Revisit the SMART Goal (or SoSMART Goal) you wrote for the desired behavior. Refresh it. Rewrite it. Share it with a trusted friend or social support network. Include a strategy for how you will recover if you have a brief lapse. Don't grovel and apologize. Just say “I’ve renewed my goal to…” and share it proudly.
- Get advice from a Health Coach or Trainer. She can help you plan your own strategies to set goals and deal with setbacks.
Yo-yos and rollercoasters are designed for fun and entertainment, not to burden you with guilt and dissatisfaction; they are poor metaphors for behavior changes. Use the stages of change chart to track your progress for your behavior change goals.
Your mojo will thank you.
* Introduced in 1984 by Prochaska and DiClemente, the Five Stages of Change are part of the more comprehensive transtheoretical model of behavioral change (TTM). For more information, check out this 2016 book by Prochaska and Prochaska: Changing to Thrive: Using the Stages of Change to Overcome the Top Threats to Your Health and Happiness