The Emotional Stages of Success – Part 1
We’ve all been there. You set New Year’s resolutions telling yourself that this is going to be the year. You start a new habit, telling yourself that THIS time you’re going to stick to it. And for the first few days or weeks, you are full of motivation and it feels “easy”. But then slowly, or sometimes very quickly, it starts to become hard. Motivation wanes and you drop off the wagon and decide that perhaps that “other program” is better for you. Or perhaps that other self-proclaimed expert on social media can finally help you nail your goal.
It’s a common story. But not maintaining consistency, or even worse, giving up completely, is the NUMBER ONE reason most people fail to achieve the goals. It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little bit of awareness of the natural process that’s ahead of you, you will be better prepared for the natural ebbs in motivation so you can continue through to eventual success.
In Part 1 of this series on the Emotional Stages of Success, I will cover the different stages In part 2 , I will give you some tips on how to make it through each stage to increase your chances of sticking with it and making it to sustained success and reward.
There are emotional stages you will experience through your journey towards success (Figure 1). I am sure you will relate to each of these stages as we discuss them below.
Stage 1: Uninformed Optimism
This is the exciting stage. You have started something new and you are full of optimism and belief. Nothing can stop you. Your new program/equipment or diet is FINALLY the solution you’ve been looking for – and no one can tell you otherwise. In fact, during this stage, you are almost a little removed from reality:
“Are you really going to be able to maintain early exercise sessions when you’re still up through the night breastfeeding?” “Absolutely”
“Do you really think you can give up everything white in your diet forever?”.” No problem”
“You haven’t run for 10 years and you think you can now run 5 days a week?” “It’ll be easy – I’m motivated!”
As exciting as the Uninformed Optimism stage is, unfortunately, despite all your best efforts, as time goes on reality slowly sinks in and motivation starts to dwindle and you head towards the second stage.
Stage 2: Informed Pessimism
During this stage, you can no longer deny reality, and what seemed so “easy” at the start, becomes hard to maintain. It starts to feel like hard work. During this stage, that negative voice in your head starts seeding doubt. You start to miss a few sessions, or eat a few too many sweets, telling yourself it’s ok, it won’t make that much difference.
Stage 3: The Valley Of Despair
If you stayed in the second stage you may still start to get some results. But unfortunately, as time progresses, optimism continues to fall and pessimism completely takes over. You have lost the excitement and motivation of the first stage, you are not seeing the instant results you had hoped for, and you have officially entered the “Valley of Despair” (great name, huh?).
This is the point where your self-confidence and belief starts to take a nosedive. The attraction of other “new and shiny” alternatives starts to become greater. You’re not sure it is worth continuing with the plan that seemed to bring you so much hope at the beginning.
WHEN YOU ARE IN THE VALLEY OF DESPAIR YOU HAVE 2 OPTIONS: GIVE UP, OR CONTINUE THROUGH IT TO THE OTHER SIDE
At this point, most people give up, either completely, or they start searching for an alternative. But if you have awareness of the emotional stages, you can recognise the valley of despair and know that the magic of success lies on just the other side.
Stage 4: Informed Optimism
If you can silence that voice of doubt and continue through just long enough, you’ll soon pass through despair and your optimism will start to rise again. It’s not that it becomes “easy”, it’s just that your momentum and self-belief builds and you start to believe that IN SPITE of how hard it is, the results will be worth it.
Stage 5: Sustained Success
As the optimism continues to grow, the results also start to become apparent. And this is the final stage, where the magic really happens. It now becomes more difficult NOT to do the work. At this point, it feels “wrong” to hit snooze on the alarm. Making healthy choices come as second nature. And the short term success turns into a lifelong habit.
Now, if I could tell you there was a way to avoid the dips in motivation and the trip through the “valley of despair”, believe me I would tell you the secret. But unfortunately, we can’t fight nature and this is a natural process. However, awareness is power and knowing what to expect is 80% of the battle.
Check out Part 2, where I discuss some easy hacks through each stage to help you move through the lows and towards long term success.
Cath Julius is the Clinical Director, Principal Physiotherapist & Head of Pilates at Freedom Health Group Ltd in Christchurch, NZ.
With over 20 years of clinical experience and expertise in Physiotherapy, Cath is a thought leader and clinical expert with special interests in hip conditions and Pilates as a form of exercise prescription. firstname.lastname@example.org