Motivation is overrated.
When I first say this to a new client, I can see a flicker in their eyes that means they think I have lost the plot.
But once I add ‘you need a plan, instead’, they begin to get it.
Relying on feelings of motivation is too risky when you are trying to get something done. It makes you vulnerable to moods, distractions and well-meaning saboteurs.
I first started to reflect on this in the late 1990s. I was a journalist and was interviewing actor Steven Berkoff – a former Hackney schoolboy famous for his bad-guy roles in the films Rambo II, Octopussy, and Beverly Hills Cop and for his experimental theatre work – in an ice-cream parlour on the Hove seafront.
He had written a book called Graft, in which he said it was not good enough for an artist to wait for a muse to descend from the heavens with inspiration.
You had to work hard. You had to graft. The rest followed.
This has stayed with me ever since.
When West Ham signed Swiss-Albanian footballer Albian Ajeti last year and he said simply ’I want to work. It’s what I do’, it chimed with me (shame he’s not, as I write, made an impact on the Irons).
As a personal trainer and lifestyle coach, I carry over the twin ideas for having a plan and working hard into everything I do with clients.
Sure, big inspiration, such as I want to lose 10kg, run the Paris Marathon or cycle 100 miles, is important as a starting point, but after that it is down to having a system for getting there.
I was reflecting on this as lockdown began to lift.
Many people have made positive changes – small and large – to their lives during this most-strange of times by exercising, eating better or improving their sleep.
They have done so by having a plan or a system, rather than relying on divine inspiration or simple motivation.
One client started running daily from Day One of lockdown, another started cooking all his meals from scratch, and another decided to do 10 press-ups every hour.
A neighbour started to train in the park every other day, my eldest daughter downloaded Couch to 5k and went to work. My wife signed up for the Fiit App’s brilliant postnatal programme.
They all have made significant changes to the way they feel.
And it is not too late to start.
As we get ready for the new normal, few of us will be returning to the exact same lives as before, and we can seize the opportunity to keep – or start – positive habits.
Start today by writing a plan for next week.
It could be as simple as taking a 5km walk daily or doing 20 squats three times a week. Over the weeks, the plan will grown and change – and so will you.