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Staying Motivated: 5 Tips to Keep On Keepin’ On!

In Monday’s post I wrote about an injury I sustained this past weekend.  Today is day 6 in dealing with a bum knee.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of the past 6 days:

  • Days 1 and 2:  debilitating pain keeps me a model patient:  I adhere to every directive designed to expedite healing
  • Day 3:  Despite every natural inclination, I make and keep Doctor’s appointment, at which I find that I am doing all that is necessary, but that I need to keep doing it
  • Day 4:  Feels quite a bit better than the first 3 days, which I take as a positive sign, begin to function more normally
  • Day 5:  Feeling same as yesterday, so increase my activity, which I then proceed to overdo.  Now the pain level is back to day 3, and I am dejected.  I try to recover in the evening
  • Day 6:  Wake up feeling as bad as yesterday, and now, besides being in pain, I am also outraged… how can this be happening?

Now, you might read this breakdown and scratch your head in bewilderment… is there something wrong with this woman?  Of course the pain has returned, she did not give it enough time!

But really, this is just an example of so many things in life:  we have a goal, we start out with gusto, and then, either fizzle out due to fading motivation, or to some wrench in the plans of life.  And what a perfect time of year to discuss this topic.  It is January 9th.  Had I not injured my knee, I would have been embarking on resuming my running regimen.  And I guarantee you I would have been facing feelings similar to the ones I am facing with this knee injury… either impatience that I am not progressing fast enough, disgust that I am not seeing any results, or simple boredom with the new routine.  Same with sobriety, the first several weeks of my recovery I remained sober, but life continued to plummet downward.  It’s hard enough making the decision to give up drinking/drugs, but to do so in the face of chaos, even more challenging.

Now, with this injury, I can cry and gnash my teeth all I want, but it’s not going to change anything.  But with other goals… new eating plans, staying sober, physical fitness… the mental engagement is critical to success.  So how to maintain the passion that drives someone to embark on a lifestyle change?

There are probably a million and one great articles out there on staying motivated, but here are the top 5 tips I have come across, have used myself, or will attempt to use in the upcoming weeks:

1.  Have a specific goal:  In terms of my injury, I want to completely recover from my injury so that I may resume my fitness routine.  This goal is specific, it is measurable (return to zero pain), it is attainable (doctor’s opinion), and it is time-bound (doctor-given guidelines).  For many reading this post, the goal could be sobriety:  I want to live my life chemically unaltered.  The simpler and more specific the goal, the better.

2.  Know why you wish to achieve this goal:  I want to recover from my injury so that I may have the full use of my leg… so that I may walk, run, climb stairs as any healthy person can.  The why behind this goal are more obvious that some other goals.  In terms of sobriety, it is important to know clearly why you want to be drug and alcohol free.  The reasons can be to attain benefits, such as “increased health,” or it can be to avoid negative consequences, such as “so that I don’t lose my self-respect, or the respect of others.”

3.  Visualize the end result:  For me, I really want to get back to my goal of running, so I picture myself as I was last summer and fall, when I was at my peak.  I can also visualize what it would be like to do even better than my best, as in run (not walk) in a 5K.  For sobriety, there are so many ways to visualize the end result:  how you will look and feel knowing that you have overcome an unhealthy relationship with drugs/alcohol, the joy of attending functions and not behaving irrationally, the peace that would come from living life with a clear mind, and without the worry of what you may have said or done under the influence.

4.  Learn from failures:  So I overdid things this week, and I recognize that only sets me back further from my goal.  I can bemoan this fact, or I can chalk it up as a learning experience… now I know what I can do, and what I cannot.  This is a critical piece for people in early sobriety.  Many times someone will accrue a number of sober days or weeks, and then slip.  Okay, it happened, so now there is the choice:  decide that all the progress was for nought, or figure out what led to the relapse so that you do not repeat the mistake.  As Buddha says, “There are only two mistakes along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”

5.  Reward yourself:  The more long-range the goal, the more mini-rewards should be given.  Celebrate every milestone along the way.  The more positive reinforcement you give yourself, the more likely you are to keep going!

I would love to hear from my friends in recovery:  what methods have you used to keep motivated in staying sober?

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