By the beginning of February, most of us will have given up on any resolutions we promised ourselves on New Year’s Eve. All that motivation we had to lose those extra pounds or whatever, has evaporated like dew on the grass and we find ourselves back to where we were before Christmas.

New Year’s resolutions are based on a very common mistaken belief that before we can change something, we must feel “motivated” to do so. This “motivation” usually takes the form of a magical feeling where we feel all excited about the result we will get and that this excitement and vision of the end result, will drive us all to accomplishing our fantasy goals. And doesn’t that feel good at 10pm after a few New Year pints, which is when we usually make them?

These resolutions are based on a faulty premise that we have to “feel” we want to do something before we can do it. And if we don’t have this feeling, then we are not able to do what it is we need to do. This belief can be so pervasive that it infects other aspects of our life where we know we need to change.

Motivation is not a feeling

Where it gets serious though, is if our mood gets low, we can fall into a hole, where we convince ourselves that we are unable to change or do what we need to do because we don’t have this “feeling” of motivation.

Motivation is not a feeling, but an intention. It is the realisation that we need to be somewhere different to where we are now. Motivation is a realisation that because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, I need to change something.

Motivation is easy when we have the “feeling” - a determination - to do something. However, real motivation is when we do something when we absolutely don’t want to do it. Focusing on where we no longer want to be now, rather than fantasising on what we believe we will feel when we achieve our target, is the fertiliser to helping us to change. This focus leads us to one of the greatest realities of life that you’ve probably never heard of. ?That is that change is brought about by the actions we take, and not the motivation we feel. Or to put it simply, action precedes motivation (see no. 1 - making the change)?.

Leaving your comfort zone

For most of us, the more uncomfortable we get about things we need to change, the greater the change we set ourselves to make. This leads us to use special occasions to set goals that are way above our ability to achieve. We figure that big occasions will act as a catalyst to big achievements. This is like realising that we need to exercise and setting the goal of starting, by entering next year’s Dublin City Marathon.

There is some good news about New Year’s resolutions though. We can make a new year resolution at any moment, ?any day of the year. Because big changes happen from a succession of little steps. We can’t walk a thousand miles in one go, but we can walk one mile a thousand times.

Above all, be kind to yourself. You don’t have to change everything. Little changes can get great results.

Seizing the moment

Availing of the opportunity that each moment offers us is the key to change. Even if we miss the moment that New Year’s Eve gave us, we have loads of other moments happening all the time. Every moment is an opportunity that we can seize to confront something we don’t like and know in our heart we need to change.

The more we try, the better we get at trying. The better we get at trying, the better we get at changing.

One decision is not going to do it unfortunately. Success is achieved by making the right decision multiple times. Even if we make one or even loads of bad decisions, we have loads of other moments ahead of us every day to make good ones.

Understand that you are changing every day. You change tastes in music, food, activities. How do you think you ever achieved this? Look at photos of yourself as a teenager. You thought flairs and white socks were cool one time. Do you still think this?

We don’t think our way into right action, we act our way into right thinking. And we can start this at any moment. If we fail, we have another opportunity to restart every moment, not once a year.

Making the change

1. Motivation is an action, not a feeling

Believing that motivation is a feeling convinces us that we can’t do anything without feeling that we want to do it. Which is rarely the case. Motivation is something that occurs after we have taken action. We act and after taking numerous actions, we are gradually motivated to take more.

Doing the right thing usually means going contrary to what our emotions tell us. If you find this difficult to digest, then practice some mental health exercises like changing small things in your life that are relatively easy, before running a marathon. Remember, action precedes motivation.

2. Understand what change really feels like

All change involves some amount of discomfort. Failing to understand this leads us to believe, that if we act and feel worse, that we must be doing something wrong. This is the greatest mistake I see people make when trying to change something.

It leads us to misinterpret the real signs of change, think we are going backwards and causes people to give up.

It’s like going to the gym. The first few weeks are torture as our muscles get used to being used. Our mental health is the same, the worse you feel at the start, the more you are changing, and the better it is you are actually doing.

3. Getting started with small changes

Change is like a car without a starting motor. We must push start every time we want to get going. Actions tune your brain into thinking about doing it. The hardest part is starting. Once we get momentum, action becomes automatic. Nothing changes until something changes. Start on making small changes in easy parts.

Focus on the start-up procedure each time you start. Sitting down and opening up the laptop. Putting on your trainers instead of your slippers when you arrive home from work. Command the muscles, change the thought.

By starting small and keeping it simple, our confidence in being able to change gradually gets greater and we find the magical motivation feeling. Feeling confident and wanting to change. Watch out though. When you start to feel good, keeping the momentum going means not resting on our laurels and living on the feeling of initial success.

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