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When your ten-times great-grandmother didn’t really feel like going out in the rain to bring in the harvest, she did it anyway.


If she didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough food and if there weren’t enough food the family would go hungry. They would actually feel the hunger, a hollow churning in their guts, keeping them up at night. Enough of these nights, and somebody dies.

That’s pretty good motivation.

When I tell people that I don’t eat tomatoes or potatoes, they feel sorry for me. I assure them that I would much rather skip the pasta and fries so that I can also skip the vomiting-migraines that attack like a sledgehammer on my body.

Again, pretty good motivation.

But most things that require effort in our modern world don’t come with a sidekick of death, starvation, or pain.

Often we are working with abstract concepts like “making money” or “lowering our cholesterol.” For many of us, abstractions lack motivating force. We can’t see our cholesterol; we can’t watch it lowering in real time. And some of us aren’t convinced it needs to lower (did you know that even though cholesterol levels lower on statin drugs, mortality rate is the same? But that’s a whole other can of worms!).

So how do you motivate yourself to lose ten pounds, lower your cholesterol, or save for retirement?

Find a concrete, physical, real world, “why.”

When I was a teenager, I rode horses. I had Olympic-sized ambitions despite being over-weight and not so very athletic.

And yet, there was something about the way my breath and the horse’s breath synced, and I became greater than myself, that let me dream of gold medals.

So I dieted. I did sit-ups and push-ups every night before bed.

It never became fun. I never got an endorphin high or enjoyed the rumblings of my empty tummy.

But I was so deeply connected to my “why” that I found the inner strength, discipline, and motivation.

Find your why. Maybe it’s the feeling of waking-up pain free, or completing a PhD, or watching your daughter grow-up.

Find that thing that, for you, is bigger than yourself.

Then, once a day, visit your “why” in your mind. Make it real for you. See the sunlight streaming in the bedroom window, feel the wind on your face as you cross the stage to accept your diploma, imagine your daughter at ten and seventeen and twenty-two.

When you feel your resolve dissolving, go back to this place where you are bigger than just you. Where you have a purpose that drives you and makes you want to be more.

Change your focus from what you lack, from what you feel like you are denying yourself, to the beautiful life you are in the process of creating.

Yup, it’s a mind trip… and we all have the option of changing our minds.

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