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Finding motivation through values: Part 2

The first post in this quick series was centered on how to find your values. It’s doubtful that you landed on all your values in just a couple of days’ time, but if you’re already feeling really confident with those then you’re just ahead of the game! For those of you who haven’t landed on the values which really drive your motivation, keep thinking about it. This post may provide the reason why you want to struggle through that activity, in the first place.

You’ve almost certainly been told the importance of having core values before. Whether it was in a business setting explaining your company’s core values and why they matter so much, or a career coach in high school or college, core values are one of the most over-used tips in the world. Why is that?

Mainly due to the pressure to have values that others believe to be impressive or correct. It’s hard to go down anyone’s core values – company or individual – and not hear integrity listed. If that is true for you, great, but more than likely it is just the word they’ve most often heard associated with values so it made it on the list. So, take your time, get your values correct, and then move onto this important step.

Align your daily actions to your values

Motivate falls when we stop seeing results from our actions or understanding how the action is helping us reach our goals. This is why working out consistently can be such a challenge. You don’t notice almost any change day to day, but then one day you look in the mirror and you’re shocked at how far you’ve come.

When results happen slowly and methodically, they’re harder to notice and therefore way less motivating. The truth is most of the important things we accomplish in life happen in this format, so we must have a way to keep moving forward even when it seems like it’s doing nothing to help us. This is where aligning your values to your actions really helps.

Start by listing your big actions you take each day. Not things like brushing your teeth or taking a shower, but the things you have to actually make a choice to do. For example:

  • Wake up and put on my workout clothes to get a workout in to kickoff the day
  • Following the workout, make a balanced breakfast with healthy fats, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates
  • Login to work by 9:00 am with my to do list ready for the day
  • Eat a healthy lunch at 12:00 and go for a mid-day walk
  • Log out of work at 5:00 pm and spend time with family
  • Cook a healthy dinner for my house and spend time connecting around the table and playing games

This is just a random example, not my actual day. Looking at this list, you can start to identify values in each action. Working out to kickoff the day before anything can get in the way shows a value of either hard work or health. The specific timing of logging into and out of work shows a value of work-life balance or a focus on relationships. Even the note about having a to do list ready can align with a value of preparedness or punctuality.

What you’re after here are identity statements.

Identity statements create habits, and habits trump motivation

Motivation is always going to wax and wane. It’s like will-power. Sometimes you have it, and sometimes you don’t. Motivation “gets tired” in a sense that you simply cannot rely on it forever. Habits, on the other hand, do not. Identity statements make our habits much, much stickier.

James Clear popularized this in his book Atomic Habits, and I’ve written about it before in our WHOOPIE goal setting posts – identity statements are the strongest way to create consistent habits. When you move from “I try to eat healthy,” to, “I am someone who eats healthy foods,” that’s a powerful shift. You stop feeling the craving for junk food because it no longer fits inside your vision for who you are. Sure, you can still make the choice to have the cookie from time to time. But now you’re the one in control, not the food, not the late night TV, not the choice to sit around instead of being active. You have gained control of your choices for good.

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