Friday, September 11, 2009

Is the Goal Overrated and the Journey Underrated?

Wonder why it's so difficult to stick to a "diet?" Or sticking to an exercise plan? (maybe you need a personal fitness trainer? I just happen to know of a hard core trainer!) Or perhaps, why your daily journal is lost somewhere under the bed? Or what about that unfinished flower bed that greets you every morning as you walk out the front door? Hmm... "Best laid plains.."

Looking at the first graph, tells the story of "motivation" and its cycles. This graph can be applied to any goal, endeavor, or task. This is the Motivation Momentum cycle (Dr. Douglas Lisle, PhD. True North Health Center,) aka ”The Process of Success.” Or “The Cost/Benefit” of doing anything.

Take the "diet" thing.. (the word "diet" is a topic for another blog.. I don't like the word.)
Everyone gets so excited (well maybe not excited,) motivated, focused and ready to start that new food plan January 1st every year. In the beginning of this journey our hopes are high and it's time to "eat healthy," lose some fat and look good in new spring clothes, i.e. swim suit. (we won’t include the exercise ambition into this scenario.) So, we decide we want to lose “x” amount of weight in “x” amount of weeks. (Usually over estimate the weight loss and under estimate the amount of time.)

Even before the holidays, you may have already researched thoroughly thru all the many choices of “diet foods” and “diet programs” available on the market to lose weight. Your motivation has started. And you told yourself, "just enjoy the holidays, eat what you want, try not to gain and then come January 1, you will “get serious” using "X' program to lose the weight.

Then on December 31st you might head to the market to purchase all those "good healthy" foods...fresh veggies, fresh fruit, frozen veggies, lean protein, fat free dairy etc. Oh this is going to be so great!! You bring it all home and now it fills up your frig. You might have even given away all the goodies from the holidays..cookies, candies, cakes, pies, soufflĂ©s, fancy hors d'oeuvres. You donated the processed “boxed food" & canned food to the local food bank. Good to get rid of all that "holiday food."

Now you are ready for something new and different. Your focus is steady and your motivation is building, your dedication is strong. Nothing is going to stop you from losing that X amount of weight! Not this time, right?

Well, in looking at the first graph... as you can see by the first bell curve, your drive and motivation will build.. just as they did in the above scenario. Excitement and desire to succeed is increasing. Then look what happens, you hit the top of the bell curve and start your descent downward into the trough. This occurs about 2 to 4 to 6 weeks into your new food plan. (We won’t get into any of physiological reasons.)

By now, you have consumed quite a lot of produce and baked or grilled lean protein, fruit smoothies or maybe the processed, artificially flavored ready to order food that is delivered to your front door that is starting to taste a little "weird." Now, you want chips, tortillas, crackers, salted peanuts, cookies, cake, real mac n cheese..not that fat free fake stuff. You want sweet n sour, Pad Thai, General Taos or shrimp fried rice.

Another reason for the decline in your spirits and focus, is you may not have lost any weight in the past week or so. You’ve hit that dreaded “plateau.” (another topic for a future blog..)

Ok... you get the picture...your enthusiasm, focus, motivation, and dedication are starting to fade. You're starting to doubt yourself. Your "friends" tell you, "Oh, just one bite won't hurt. You can "diet" tomorrow." Your family may say, "But you look beautiful to us. Why do you want to get so skinny?" Your little voice says things like, "you can't do this, look how many times you've tried and failed. Just give it up." or "You can go ahead and eat whatever you want, just cut back on portions." or how bout this one... "You deserve this piece of cake... you've had a tough day. Go ahead and eat it. It's not that big of a deal." You start to change your strategy. As your hope is dashed, the cost of this endeavor is starting to outweigh its benefits.

By now, you are deep in the trough. This demands more output (energy/effort) from you to continue to receive benefits. This is the place most people give up and quit. When we are in this “hell-hole,” everything becomes tougher. Competition with you and that little voice increases. All the “positive” attitude and thoughts in the world are not going to help you. The goal of losing “x” amount of weight seems unattainable....maybe over-rated at this point. So why not just quit?

Because, it is at the bottom of this trough that you will find success! Success does not occur at the top of the bell curve. This is the time that you dig in your heels and grit your teeth. Scream, “NO!” to all those temptations, to the nay-sayers, and to that little voice. For if you can make it to the area where the star is on the graph, this is the spot where your motivation, dedication, focus and enthusiasm are recharged. This star represents the ½ way mark to reaching your goal. And in looking at the graph, the only way out is up, up and up! Based somewhat on Hamilton’s Rule, the 2nd half of this journey is filled with 100% benefits for just ½ the work.

This process is made much “easier” if you create little motivational bell curves while you are in the trough. See graph #2. If you’ve not lost any weight in a while, change your strategy by changing a variable. Decrease caloric intake if you are eating more then you burn off. Consume more fiber and less sodium.

Also, try creating smaller daily goals along the cycle. Examples might be making it thru the day without one diet soda, or eating breakfast every morning, or not succumbing to those donuts in the break room.

Changing variables every so often and setting up little goals while in the trough will assist you in making it out of the trough and on your way to the end goal.

This Motivation Momentum Cycle can be applied to any endeavor you are attempting. Keep focused more on the journey and less on the goal, for it is the journey where we reap the benefits of true success. The goal is just icing on this “Process of Success" cake.”

I hope this helps in starting something new. Just knowing the path it will take and where you end up, may make it less stressful for you while on the journey to your next goal.

Until next time....



  1. You know, I do see your point ...but for some of us, once you begin seeing results- more energy, better fitting clothing, better overall health- you don't want to go back to your same old habits- at least, I don't.

    I feel very fit- as fit as I was in college over ten years ago, and I think my focus and attitude towards life is much, much better. I got Mark Hyman's UltraMetabolism and implement many of the changes in the book- change in diet (low gluten, very low dairy, small amounts of meat) stretching, detoxing via sauna and yoga. Started this all this summer.

    My skin is much clearer, my energy is up and I require less sleep. And I even lost 4 dress sizes.

    When I ate a few spoonfuls of ice cream a few weeks ago I simply could not take it- my stomach got all bloated the way it used to do before starting the program. So I know that the draggy, exhausted feeling I had all the time was due to toxins and poor diet choices. Never again!

  2. Thank you for finding my blog! I do so appreciate your comment! BIG congrats on your success. Keep up the great work! I hope you will continue to follow my blog as I my recipes, meal ideas and exercises will help to keep you on your track of success :-) Have a fabulous day... GOOD HEALTH TO ALL. Your HumbleVegan.