essay, fitness

How to Stay Motivated

ATB kickboxing

Staying motivated is a lifelong problem. It applies to everyone. If you lose your motivation, you stop caring. If you stop caring, you lose your sense of purpose. Without a sense of purpose, you lose your center and start drifting. This could lead to a feeling of emptiness that can be associated with depression.

I want to clarify that periodic emptiness is not a bad thing. We go through cycles in life, and periods of lying fallow, so to speak, can be good between periods of intense activity. These moments can be time to reflect on what has happened in order to gain perspective and incorporate that into an evolving mindset for the next thing you want to tackle.

On the flip side, if you feel a hollow (as opposed to a relaxed) emptiness, then you’re probably feeling stuck. Most, if not all, people go through doldrums; those times in life when you feel you’re in a rut. Athletes would call this “plateauing”; it’s a state of having become so efficient at a movement that progress stops. Basically, you’ve gotten too comfortable, and you need to jolt yourself to get going again.

How, then, do you become unstuck?

There are two strategies that I find are useful to get out of a rut and reclaim your lust for life.

Go Deeper
One strategy is to go deeper into a skill or a subject of interest. Let’s say you’re interested in writing, and you feel you’re not progressing as a writer. You can go deeper into the well of writing by reading more and more good writing. One method would be to create a reading list and set a goal of, say, completing one book a week. You could read books for the rest of your life in pursuit of deepening your mastery of writing.

Go Wider
Another strategy to become unstuck is to move laterally. Try learning something new.

As we get older, the tendency is to lose the beginner’s mind. We start to cling to the familiar and fear the new, which is to say, the unknown. But taking steps toward the unknown is what makes, and keeps, life interesting. It doesn’t have to be a big step. It can be a small one to start on a new path.

I like to work out, so I’ll give a related example. At the close of my daily workout, I practice doing splits. I’m already fairly flexible because I’ve been practicing yoga since my early 20s, but I’ve never been able to do the splits. I decided several months ago that I want to achieve this because I realized that adding this new form of flexibility will help me move better in kickboxing. It took time, but by steadily practicing, I am now able to do the splits, and my goal has evolved to develop my comfort level in the posture so that I can hold it for a longer period.

Engaging Both Strategies
Engaging the strategies of going deeper and going wider, either one at a time or simultaneously, can jump-start you when you feel as if you’re relying too much on autopilot.

The key to using both strategies successfully is to set goals so that you can see progress.

For another fitness example, I have been going deeper into kickboxing by practicing basic strikes regularly every week for the past year-and-a-half, and incorporating more advanced strikes periodically. I have also been going wider (literally and figuratively) by learning to do the splits, which complements my kickboxing movements.

Writing or fitness may not be your thing, but you can apply these strategies to any subject or skill of interest to re-engage with life.

All of this goes back to learning. If you love learning, it’s inevitable that you will love life.

All of life is change, regardless of whether you sense the change. You can either choose to change for the better, or risk regressing. The change can be mental, in one’s perspective, and it can be physical; one type supports the other. If you want to feel engaged with life, you have to grow in new directions.

I recommend reading “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin for inspiration.

For more tips on jump-starting yourself, see my “8 Habits for Happiness.”

If you’re interested in my workout routines, check out this post.