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Delay: The Dream Killer

January 14, 2012

Sometimes it is hard to look!!!

Motivation = (Expectancy)(Value)/(Impulsiveness)(Delay)

I had my goals for the year set for 2010.  I wanted to lose 20 lbs and run 500 miles for the year (10 miles per week).  Things started well, I was consistently running for the first three months and I had lost 10 lbs.  Then April hit and I started coaching baseball, so my schedule got a lot busier. I hung in there for awhile, but by June I had virtually stopped running and I had actually gained 5 lbs from my starting point.  Talk about discouraging.

So, what went wrong?   I could say I just got busy, but that is not the whole story.  The real story is that I got discouraged because the final goal was so far in the distance.  I made the mistake of not having progress check points  along the way.  The more Delay there is for a result, the more difficult it is to stay motivated.  Now do not hear me saying that everything should be instant gratification!!!  If we do that, then we run into the problem of Impulsivity all over again.  We need to find a middle ground where large goals can be broken down into healthy chunks.

Think about anything big you have accomplished in your life.  A college degree.  Running a marathon. Passing the bar exam or getting a Phd.  I bet all those huge goals were accomplished by breaking them down into reasonable parts.  When we make progress, our sense of positive Expectancy goes up and thus our motivation increases.

For 2012, I want to lose 20 lbs and run 500 miles, sound familiar?  Now your probably thinking, “Hey big boy, you could be living ground hog day from 2010.”  I hear you, but I think I have a couple things in place that will be helpful this time.  I am not doing any formal weight loss program ( although many like Weight Watchers are good), but I do have daily, weekly and monthly fitness goals and specific rewards when I hit my targets.  I also found a cool app for the iPhone that measures cumulative running and breaks it down by the week, month and year.  I am off to a good start, down 5 lbs and have run over 30 miles in the dead of winter.

I know the real challenge will come as the year extends, but I think shortening the Delay of the feedback cycle gives me a much better chance to stay motivated and achieve my goals.  As men, when we achieve our goals it has a positive effect on the whole family system, including modeling winning behavior for our children.  Here’s to a motivated 2012!!!

Patrick E. Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at

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