Fresh. Fit. Focused.: On motivation and learning self-control

Melissa Schmitz, Staff Writer

Let’s be honest here. No one has perfect self-control, and it’s something many people struggle with. It’s something that, if not well controlled, can cause your precious plans to crumble and your motivation to tank completely. So, in this week’s article, I will give you some brief advice on self-control.

For the most part, self-control has no shortcuts. There’s no magic trick that can make you into a disciplined robot. You can’t purchase a DVD or a supplement that will transform you into a Pavlovian fitness freak or a certified clean eater. My best advice for you is to take 30 days to develop your new habit. Stick to it for only 30 days. That’s it. Studies have proven that a month is a sufficient amount of time to strictly perform a task in order for it to become a habit deeply-rooted and reinforced into your neural network. Once the 30 days are up, it’s your choice whether you wish to press on or not.

That seems like such a simple thing. Just workout every day for a month and BAM! you have a fitness habit. But it’s more complex than that. Nothing good can come that easily. This is where motivation comes in. Without motivation of some sort, habits such as avoiding junk food can easily be lost in emotionally-driven chaos and can end with you snuggled up with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on the couch.

Where does this mystical motivation come from? Wherever you like, really. If you want to participate in bikini competitions, you may want to keep around some pictures of your favorite competitors. If you want to study more, keep some inspirational quotes specifically directed towards your goals around.

If you’re trying to cut down on junk food, collect some recipes and pictures of delicious healthy food. You may also find it helpful to maintain a journal or a blog so you can keep track of your goals, and look back on the things that inspired you last Tuesday. Tumblr and Pinterest are some popular choices.

Let’s not get too caught up in dreams, however. As nice as it is to have goals and inspiration, it means nothing if you make nothing out of it. So take all of that energy garnered up from what inspires you and use it to drive your actions. Additionally, take some time during the day to focus whether it’s through general mindfulness or an examen.

Allow me to provide you with a personal example to illustrate my point. One of my goals is to eat cleanly, especially at school. I have caved in once or twice, I’ll admit. But what I do when I cave is reflect. How did it make me feel to eat that cookie? How did it taste in comparison to the healthy alternative? Did splurging actually create any positive impact? Was it worth it?

After eating cleanly for so long, a cookie becomes sickeningly sweet and doesn’t make me feel good. I honestly prefer sweet apples. If I can grow from each of those experiences and improve, so can you. All you need to do is maintain a sense of self-awareness and keep actively pursuing your goals.

Getting started is the hardest part. You have to maintain focus on your goal for an entire month! It can seem like a long time, especially if you’re the type of person who forgets what they had for breakfast just that morning. But if you put in the effort, you will get something good in return.

As Tony Horton, the creator of the home fitness system P90X, likes to say, “You’ve just got to show up. Just keep pressing play.”