The most motivating mindset

Identify prevention-focused language.

Pay attention to how you present your goals and habits to the people around you, and even yourself. “What you say has power,” Harris says, and you can’t make changes until you can recognize the problem. If you lift because you don’t want to lose muscle or cut something out of your diet to avoid gaining weight, those are the mindsets that need shifting.

Reframe your goals.

Think of them in positive terms. For example, maybe you want to lift heavier to up your one-rep max or adjust your diet because you know it’ll give you more energy. Or, as was the case with one of Gaskin’s clients, you might prioritize mobility work to improve your golf swing rather than to ward off upper-back pain. Then make the same switch in the strategies you’re using to get there, Harris says. For example, add protein to your diet to build muscle and lean out rather than skipping your weekly indulgence, especially if it’s a highlight.

Make it emotional.

Your reasoning needs to be deeply authentic for it to help you reach your goals, Harris says. Thinking of food as fuel can work if that resonates with you, but if you’re just saying it because you saw it on social media, it’s not going to lead to lasting change. “To get there, you’re going to have to look at the innermost layer of the onion,” Harris notes. You might think you want to train harder so you can look stronger. In reality, your desire may be to keep up with your kids or stay in the front of the pack during group runs.

Repeat steps 1 through 3.

Adopting a promotion focus takes time, so continue monitoring your language, reframing your goals, and connecting them to your core motivations. Another reason to stay aware: Your goals may change. Harris once loved running marathons, but now she prefers lifting. She doesn’t feel guilty about the switch because she recognizes that what matters most isn’t how she moves her body, but that she’s doing so in ways that make her feel strong and powerful.