We all start out with the best of intentions when it comes to our goals. We are full of excitement and ready to take on the challenges necessary to achieve those goals. But somewhere along the way our enthusiasm begins to wane. Excitement is replaced by frustration or even worse, apathy, and we find ourselves giving up before we get where we want to be. This is what it is to be human. We have free will and can choose what we want to put our energy towards, but it is up to us to keep ourselves moving in the right direction. For some it is easier than others. I imagine there is some gene responsible for willpower that they will discover someday. I can tell you right now, I don’t have it. Staying motivated is not my strong suit. For me willpower is a muscle and I have to work at it. The more work I do the stronger it gets. If I neglect it for too long? It’s a flabby, floppy, mushy mess. I have to use strategies to keep me focused and moving towards my goals. If you read my last post on sugar addiction then you know that I am in current need of these strategies. I need a plan in place to help keep my resolve. Here are ten ways that can help boost your motivation and self-control. Wether you want to change your diet or fitness level, want to learn a new skill, or you need ways to stay motivated at work, these tips will help you keep your eye on the prize.
10 Tips for staying motivated
1. Visualize exactly what it is you want
The first thing that you need to do before setting out to achieve anything is to really get clear on what it is you want. Think hard about what it is and why you are doing it. Do you feel strong desire? Does it spark real joy and excitement for you? Can you see it, feel it, taste it? Often times we have a vague idea of what we want and what it will take to get there, but that’s not enough to take you all the way home. If you want to succeed you have to have a real drive and passion for the goal. Visualizing can not only help you get clear about what you want, it can often times build excitement around the goal which will help fuel you for the journey in getting there.
2. Know the reasons why you want to obtain this goal.
There is very good scientific research that shows willpower is stronger for the internally motivated as opposed to the externally motivated. What that means is if the goal is coming from your own internal desire (a deeply held interest) as opposed to an external source, you are more likely to achieve it. An external source would be to please a family member, a boss, or even a societal expectation. External motivations also include reasons like money, fame, power. Research has shown that the intrinsically motivated have a significant advantage when it comes to maintaining willpower and motivation. So think about what your reasons are and if they are externally motivated either rethink your goals, or pay very close attention to everything on this list because your going to need all the extra help you can get!
3. Set smaller achievable goals to boost motivation, and change your brain in the process
This is a little trick that will help you towards your larger goal. The brain makes various neurochemicals, and the one that helps the brain persevere through challenges is Dopamine. It is responsible for increasing motivation, curiosity and memory. Your brain makes dopamine when it achieves a challenge and gets the feedback that it got it right. As you experience continued dopamine reward when you meet these smaller goals, your brain literally begins to re-wire itself. It’s called neuroplasticity. Repeated effort-reward experiences creates a new neural network that EXPECTS positive outcomes which keeps you motivated to continue towards your larger goal. How dope(amine) is that!?
4. Look for success stories to keep you inspired
Sometimes you need the success of others to spur you on. Seeing that it was possible for someone else somehow makes it feel more tangible. Luckily we live in the age of technology and we have access to most everything. Look online for those who have gone before you and succeeded. Let their success inspire you and boost your motivation. Youtube, TEDTALKS, even chat forums are all places to hear people’s success stories to remind you that your goal is achievable.
5. Stop procrastinating
Easier said than done I know. However, if you give in to the inertia that inevitably comes when you set out to achieve a big goal, you won’t get very far. Procrastination is such a shady little trickster. You get up to go to the bathroom and two hours later you’ve rearranged your entire make-up drawer instead of writing that post on motivation. But I digress, anyway, you get my point. The best way to fight the inertia brings me back to the step above about creating smaller goals. Commit to working on your goal for a finite amount of time, it could be fifteen minutes or even less. Once you achieve that you will most likely be motivated to continue. Starting is always the hardest part and if you can break through that barrier you will probably keep going.
6. Plan Ahead
Plan ahead when you know there might be situations that could derail your progress. Take my desire to overcome my sugar addiction. If I’m going to a party where I know there will be a bevy of delicious sweets laid out before me, would it be wise to show up at said party hungry and empty handed? No! If I know I’m walking into the lion’s den I’m rolling up into that bitch with a tranquilizer gun. I will be well fed and have sugar-free snacks galore for myself and anyone else that wants to partake. If you know you have a deadline to meet by eight AM, don’t go out drinking until three. It’s common sense really, but if you don’t plan ahead you may give in to temptation in the moment, we’ve all been there.
7. Don’t be a perfectionist
If you do decide to go out until three when you have an eight AM deadline don’t beat yourself up over it. We all make the wrong choice sometimes. Holding yourself to some standard of perfection is a sure-fire way to end up feeling frustrated and defeated. If you do slip up and find yourself moving in the opposite direction of your goal, take a deep breath, accept it and then course correct. Being a perfectionist will only make you feel inadequate and sap your motivation. Make peace with where you’re at and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, working towards a goal isn’t fun and exciting. It can be BORING, or frustrating, or even infuriating. Being comfortable with these feelings will help to keep you on track. The best way to do this is to practice mindfulness. To simply notice what you are feeling without judging it. For those of you who have meditated before, you know a bit about this. In meditation often the mind is very active just when you are trying to quiet it down. The key isn’t to fight the noise, but to just let it happen, simply notice it, and in doing so the mind naturally is able to let that noisy chatter just drift through. The same can be applied to your goal. You will get bored, frustrated, angry. Just allow it and keep going. Notice the feelings without resisting them, and again just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
9. Get active
Sometimes you just can’t find the motivation to keep going, or the block is too significant to get past. Get up, get out, and get moving. Sometimes the energy is just stuck and you need to get the blood flowing. Go for a walk or a run. Get out in nature if you can, and get your heart pumping. Moving energy in your body can often translate into your work. You will come back to it feeling refreshed and may have a new perspective on how to continue. Hopefully you will feel renewed drive, but at the very least you will have gotten off your ass and done something healthy for your body, so it’s really a win win situation.
10. Get sleep
I have a toddler who thinks sleep is an elective activity and not a requirement so this one is tough for me. However that really makes me an expert on how IMPERATIVE sleep is. You cannot maintain your motivation if you are not getting enough sleep. Your body just cannot keep up and you won’t have the brain power or emotional resilience to press on. The world is a much more manageable place after a good night’s sleep. If you are like me and that is not possible, then consider a nap. I think naps are highly underrated in this country. We take some kind of backward pride in how hard we work and how little sleep we get. It’s so silly, because at the end of the day, less sleep means less productivity, less creativity, and ultimately less motivation. Sometimes closing your eyes for a bit and drifting off is all you need to revive your passion and drive, so don’t be afraid of the power nap. And if you blessed to be able to get a good eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, DO IT!!!! If not for you then do it for me. I’m so freaking tired. In fact, I have a new goal, GET MORE SLEEP!
Have a great weekend!