Does this sound like you? You feel unstoppable that first week after setting a new goal, only to find that you’ve completely abandoned it just a few weeks later? Staying motivated is tough, but there are a few things you can do in advance to give yourself a kick in the pants when you need it.
1. Get clear about your goals
What is it that you really, really want? If you’re vague about your targets, then staying motivated will be difficult and you probably won’t be happy with the results. A goal to “be healthier” isn’t nearly as clear as to “exercise for at least 150 minutes each week.” A vague goal is hard to measure, and it’s even harder to put into action.
2. Create a visual image
Whether it’s a mental picture or an artsy vision board, creating a vivid image of the end result you are seeking is a powerful strategy for goal achievement. The moment you feel your motivation start to wane, take a peek at the vision you are trying to create to remind yourself why you’re working so hard in the first place.
3. Partner up
Research has shown that our goals are more achievable when we have healthy support systems. I like the term “partner” rather than “buddy” because it conveys a sense of collaboration and commitment. Partners are equally invested, and understand the power the relationship holds. When your efforts to improve your own health also support someone else, it’s much more motivating.
4. Track your progress
Get some stickers. Use an app. Buy a Self-Care Planner*. Or grab a pencil and your favorite journal. Whatever you use to measure your progress, daily tracking can help keep your priorities straight.
5. Create an action list
Make a list of at least 20 actions you could take to achieve your goals. (Include some outlandish ones too!) This list will come in handy when you get bored with your current strategy, or find that it’s no longer working. Keep adding to the list as you run across new ideas or feel inspired by what others in your circles are doing.
Celebrate every single week. No matter how much or how little progress you’ve made, you are sure to find something to celebrate. Did you “think” about going to the gym? Celebrate that. Maybe next time you’ll actually go. Give yourself some credit and stop beating yourself up for not meeting your expectations 100% of the time.
7. Have fun
We often forget that developing new habits should be fun. Unless we actually look forward to putting effort into our goals, we’ll avoid them at all costs. Pay attention to what makes you smile, what makes you excited, and what makes you happy. It will make staying motivated easier.
8. Keep it positive
Have you noticed the difference between positive goals (what we want more of) and avoidance goals (what we want less of)? Setting a goal to “drink 32 ounces of water daily” often feels much more achievable than to “stop drinking soda.” How we frame our goals can make a big difference when it comes to our willingness to do the work. Craft your goals so you are moving toward something positive rather than away from something negative.
9. Stack your goals
As you consider what you want to achieve, try to create goals that move you toward more than one goal. If your goals are to lose weight and improve cardiovascular fitness, then set a goal that supports both. Getting enough sleep might be exactly what you need to stay on track.
10. Spend time outside
Spending time outside helps reduce stress, and we know that high levels of stress interfere with goal achievement. It’s much more difficult to put effort into establishing new habits when we’re sleep-deprived, anxious or disorganized. Spending time in nature has a way of calming our spirits, and it helps us see the bigger picture. Take a walk outside during your lunch break or make your next business meeting a walking meeting. Spend some quality time with your family and friends while you go for a hike. It will boost your mood and help you stay focused on what’s most important.
One thing is clear, staying motivated is the key to achieving your goals.
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