Does this sound familiar? You have encountered a fair share of obstacles along the way. Your weight loss journey feels like two steps forward and one step back (well…maybe five steps back). Your motivation started high, faltered a few times, and still feels kind of anemic. Maybe you have have walked away from the whole healthy living thing, only to return, and wonder why you can’t seem to stay motivated.
If that sounds like you, know that all of these things are completely normal. Setbacks are a natural part of the process of change. They are to be expected, and factored into the plan. Fluctuating levels of motivation are also 100% normal. Motivation by nature rises and falls depending on any number of factors. Neither of these things have anything to do with your success in the ultimate sense. Read on to find out why.
How to Gauge Success
Being able to gauge success accurately is a very important skill. Many people become discouraged and lose motivation simply because they are inaccurately gauging their own success.They don’t understand the dynamic, holistic nature of the process of change. They only see one narrow metric, and perceive themselves as “failing” while overlooking important gains in other areas. They are also not accustomed to being a “systems thinkers.” A systems thinker sees every part of life as inter-related, rather than existing independently.
We always begin each lesson and class with the question: “what went well?” This question trains your mind to highlight areas of competency—beyond the simplistic “pounds lost” goal. You will also need to adopt a similar way of gauging your success–one that factors in areas of competency as well as areas of need.
Perhaps the scale (or the mirror) has been your only metric of success. This is a merciless taskmaster, as well as a surefire killer of joy. It is also an inaccurate measure of true success (and health!). A better way is to use the skill of mindfulness to create your own holistic rubric of success. Such an accurate measure of success is a sure way to maintain positive momentum.
A rubric is a standard of performance with clearly stated expectations. For many, their only rubric is “pounds lost” or whether they fit in a pair of jeans. After you have completed this program, you should have many other metrics with which to measure success. These metrics will encompass the totality of your experience, rather than just a sliver. You decide which factors are important, and make a custom-made rubric to properly gauge your own success.
Here is an example of a measurement rubric that can be adjusted to your own personal vision of success (5 is the highest). Use all of them, a few of them, or create your very own:
Can you think of any others?
How to Interpret Your Rubric
When scoring, keep this in mind: If you are scoring high in only one area of this list, that is still a valuable indicator of success.
This is a lifestyle, not a diet. If you have not lost any weight one week– or even if you have gained weight–but you have made significant strides in practicing self-compassion, that is a WIN. If you have had a bad week (or month…), don’t despair. Don’t use lower scores as opportunities to beat yourself up, but rather as part of a feedback loop to course correct.
If you have learned something about yourself on your journey toward health, that is success: (“I am gaining insight into my behaviors…”) Customize your rubric to provide yourself with useful data that both reflects your successes, self-knowledge, and areas in need of improvement.
How to Handle Setbacks and Fluctuating Motivation
Setbacks and fluctuating motivation are a normal part of the process of change. If they didn’t happen, you wouldn’t be changing. No one has ever achieved any goal without these two elements. Factor them in from the outset. That way when they rear their little heads, you can smile and say “Hello, setback. Hello low motivation. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Think back to the post on mindfulness. We learned about compassionate awareness, and being present with the totality of our experience. Welcome these visitors in with that same compassionate awareness. Be curious about what they have to teach you.
Perhaps your latest setback contains a new insight into your behavior. Perhaps the ebb and flow of your motivation is your body’s way of telling you to ease up on yourself, or slow down the process of change. Perhaps your body is finished losing weight, and you need to adjust your expectations. Perhaps what you interpret as an ebb in motivation is really just another area of your life in need of attention. You might need to temporarily re-direct your attention to a work crisis or family emergency. Rest assured that if you become quiet inside, your innate inner wisdom will show you the way.
The real danger is that people interpret setbacks and fluctuating motivation as “failures” or personal weakness. Then, they give up. They mistakenly assume they “lack willpower” or that something is wrong with them. When you are able to compassionately integrate these phenomena into your experience as a whole, you are far more likely continue onward with positive momentum.
This is one benefit of being part of a supportive community. When you are able to check in with others, they can provide important feedback and insight that you might not be considering. You will also be able to do the same for them.
Keep these things in mind, and your weight loss journey will become both enjoyable and sustainable. Feel free to share any comments or questions on this blog, or on our Facebook page.