Negative Inspiration Doesn’t Work!

 In Inspiration, Managing Yourself, Your Best Self

We know self-care isn’t self-ish. We know we can’t pour from an empty cup.

And yet …

Around this time of year, we see our New Year’s resolutions begin to falter — or we only vaguely remember making them.

It goes like this. Suppose you’d decided to take a new exercise class.

The evening cardio dance class sounded fun — and doable! You marked it on your calendar and even treated yourself to a cute new pair of leggings.

You made it to class three times the first week. You had a blast! But then you took on a big project at work and only went twice the following week.

Then you caught a cold … had car trouble … went to visit the in-laws … you know, LIFE! And before you knew it, you’d missed three weeks of class.

A negative voice inside your head told you it’s not okay.

You said you were going to start that new class. Hmph!

What HAVE you been doing?!

Here we go again. Start, quit … Start, quit.

Get your butt over there. No excuses!

Sound familiar?

I label this so-called “motivational strategy” negative inspiration.

Whether it’s trying something new or getting back on track after we’ve faltered, we often berate, shame or even bully ourselves in an attempt to get motivated.

And it works! Kind of. Sometimes. For a while.

Bad Feelings Upon Bad Feelings

Here’s the dynamic: You’ve created bad feelings about yourself and toward yourself. They come through as shame. Frustration. Or even anger.

You try to get rid of these unpleasant feelings by going back to the class. Or sticking with your yoga practice. Or remembering to hydrate throughout the day. Or whatever else you’ve chosen to do for your well-being.

Phew! You’ve thrown the monkey off your back. For as long as you’re doing the thing, you don’t have to ward off the negative self-talk.

But after a while, that negative inspiration stops working again.

Why? Well, what happens when someone in your life hounds you about the same thing, in the same way, day after day?

At some point, you just start tuning it out. Oh, shut up. Same old thing. Cut me some slack. Why should I even bother listening anymore?

Or you believe it’s true — so you give up. I really am lazy. What a loser. That’s me, the quitter.

There’s a Better Way

Negative inspiration creates bad feelings we want to avoid.

But positive inspiration creates good feelings we want to keep. Feelings of energy, can-do, or “I got this” — motivating us to action!

Authentic positive inspiration is so strong it can override many negative feelings you may be experiencing.

Like when it’s rainy or you’re tired. The couch and a comfy blanket are calling your name.

On the other hand, you look forward to seeing your exercise buddies. You love feeling energized after class. Your cholesterol is going down!

So, you go to class. And you’re glad you did. You go, girl! Wasn’t that fun? Look at you, keeping your promises to yourself!

Related: Why Not You? Think Big!

You’re not trying to escape the negative anymore. Rather, you’re creating a cycle of positive thoughts, feelings and inspiration.

Ahhhhh … much better!

Power Challenge: Use Positive Inspiration to Build or Practice New Habits

What’s one self-care thing you really want to do but haven’t started — or been able to sustain?

Think of an activity you feel really juiced about. Maybe it’s a daily meditation practice. Or a walk outside during your lunch break. Or something more challenging, such as running.

How would you typically motivate yourself to engage in this activity?

Listen to the words and tone you might use with yourself:

  • Critical: You’re such a slouch!
  • Punitive: No wonder you get out of breath going up and down the steps!
  • Discouraging: You won’t be able to keep it up. Don’t even try!

Would you ever talk to a friend that way? I hope not!

Now, try taking a positive approach. Choosing uplifting words and tone to inspire and motivate yourself. Like this:

  • Promising: You can do it!
  • Supportive: Small steps add up to big results!
  • Encouraging: You’re showing up for yourself!

Related: Why Believing in Yourself Is More Important Than You Think

Not sure how to make this shift? Because positive inspiration has to be authentic to work, consider the strategies below and see which resonate with you.

Choose a powerful quote or meaningful mantra. Create one of your own if nothing out there resonates. Give it some oomph!

You may want to start with an “I am” statement such as I am as strong as I choose to be.

Reframe negative thoughts, especially about yourself. Really get in there and challenge the negative self-talk. Replace it with kinder, more supportive messages. (Look at you, nailing that tricky dance move!)

It’s not enough just to reverse the words (from You’re such a loser! to You’re such a winner!). It has to be something you believe. Perhaps: “I am doing my best — and getting better every day!”

Identify a role model. Find someone who’s accomplished something in a way you’d like to emulate.

Watch a couple of videos to see their body language and listen to how they speak. Feel their energy.

Bonus: Use one of their quotes as a powerful motivator.

Envision the future you. Imagine how good you’ll feel about yourself in six months if you keep biking, doing yoga or trying out new exercise classes.

Acknowledge you’re already in process. Recognize you are doing something. (I’m on my way towards the health I desire. I’m doing the right things to get me closer to my goal. I’m showing up for me!)

Remember to celebrate small steps and major victories along the way!

Harness the power of “yes.” Let’s say you go to the dance class at the gym. You’ve said yes to moving your body in a healthy way. You’ve said yes to having fun. You’ve said yes to socializing with people you enjoy being around. Perhaps most importantly, you’ve said yes to the commitment you made to yourself.

Choose Positive Inspiration

Life invariably throws curveballs.

Let’s face it: Many circumstances — large and small — will be out of your control. For instance, your gym could decide to cancel your favorite dance class.

But you can always choose how to feel and act.

You could grumble and complain and quit going to the gym altogether. Or you could sign up for a different class — with excitement, enthusiasm and confidence.

Big difference.

In the same way, you can choose positive inspiration over negative motivation.

It may seem hard at first. Our brains crave comfort. It’s easier to maintain the status quo than to attempt change. Especially when it involves unlearning long-held patterns of thinking.

But you can do it! Especially if you use positive motivation to encourage yourself to grow.

Looking for a motivational speaker for your next event? Carla energizes and inspires attendees to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.

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