Want to stay motivated all year long? Do this…
The new year is the perfect time to let go of the old and ring in the new. After overindulging at holiday parties, traveling, missing out on your regular workout routines and not getting enough sleep, January provides the perfect opportunity to pause, recharge and create new wellness goals for year ahead.
You’re a few weeks in and perhaps you’re beginning to feel like your brain is working against you. You know that you want to workout and eat healthy, but something is holding you back. All of a sudden, your daily morning workouts and clean diet turn into “Screw it! I’ll start fresh next week.”
One of the biggest mistakes most people make when it comes to starting new habits is trying to do too much at once. It’s no surprise that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. It’s very difficult to stay motivated when you are overwhelmed and under tremendous pressure to completely change your whole life overnight.
If you want to achieve your health and fitness goals this year, it’s time to learn how to hack the science of motivation.
It has long been believed that dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is typically linked to the brain’s pleasure center, was released after we achieved something. However, scientists recently discovered that dopamine actually encourages us to make positive choices.
So how do we start the flow of dopamine and keep it going so we don’t lose steam? Check out the tips below that will help you hack your motivation and stay on top of your wellness goals all year long.
And to really put your goals into hyperdrive, download our FREE Phase IV Motivation Workbook, which will show you step by step how to set, track and achieve your goals!
1. Be specific and reasonable
Before doing anything, you have to get clear on what you want to do. Setting goals like “lose 20lbs” or “workout five times a week” are great, but unless you know exactly what you are willing to do to get there, it will be very difficult to get started. Be very specific in the actions you are going to take. For example, instead of “eat healthy” say “cut out processed foods” or “cook at home three times a week.” Then schedule these actions into your calendar. In addition, don’t try to do too much at once. Pick 2-3 new habits to focus on at most until they become easy, the add more.
2. Make it easy to start
Simply thinking about making healthier choices isn’t going to motivate you to get up and change your lifestyle because most of the resistance to working out and eating healthy comes at the beginning, when you are making the decision to do it. Therefore you need to make it easy to start. Set out your workout clothes the night before, put Post-It notes on your bathroom mirror to remind you to get in that morning meditation and pick a day each week that you will plan out, shop and prep your meals for the week ahead. I like to call these “support systems.” Motivation often occurs after you’ve started a new habit, so do what you need to do to make it super simple to get going.
3. Why is this meaningful to you?
If you want to achieve healthier habits but feel a resistance to taking the necessary actions, take a moment to put pen to paper and write down why it’s important to you to do it. Why do you want to achieve healthier eating habits? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to get into a regular exercise routine? How would your life change? What might you be able to do that you aren’t able to now? Read this every day if you need to in order to remind yourself that you’re doing this for a much bigger reason than to just “be healthier.”
4. Get clear on what’s not working now and why
It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, but it’s still so hard to break old habits. In order to break through old thinking and self-defeating actions, the effort needs to become more appealing than staying where you are. So take a few minutes to write down what isn’t working in your current lifestyle and why.
5. Celebrate small wins
Did you choose to get in your morning workout instead of snoozing for an extra hour? Did you choose some veggies and protein over a burger and fries? Did you start going to bed earlier? To keep your motivation going throughout your journey, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate all of the positive choices you are making along the way. It’s not easy to make changes, so give yourself some encouragement and recognize when you do. For added positive reinforcement, share your wins with supportive family or friends. The more support you get, the more likely you will be to keep going.
6. Ask yourself this one question
When you’re toggling between working out and watching another Netflix marathon, simply ask yourself this one question – “Will this decision make me feel proud?” This is not about guilt, but rather allowing yourself to recognize you do have a choice and you do have the power to make one that will make you feel great inside and out.
7. Make learning a primary goalIt can be easy to lose motivation if you don’t see immediate results. However, the best way to ensure you keep going is to use the experience as an opportunity to learn what is working and not working. Get curious about what foods make your body feel good and not so good, begin to ask yourself why you keep reaching for the sweet treats even when you are not hungry, discover what types of workouts motivate you to get up in the morning. When you can discover what drives you and hinders you, it’s so much easier to overcome consistent obstacles and keep on going.
8. Make it challenging, but not too challenging.
When setting any goal for yourself, make sure it’s something that will be slightly challenging, but not so much so that you get overwhelmed and give up. James Clear, an author, photographer and weightlifter has made it his life’s mission to study what motivates people around the world. He states “ Human beings love challenges, but only if they are within the optimal zone of difficulty. Tasks that are significantly below your current abilities are boring. Tasks that are significantly beyond your current abilities are discouraging. But tasks that are right on the border of success and failure are incredibly motivating to our human brains. We want nothing more than to master a skill just beyond our current horizon.”
9. Change your language
Nothing is less motivating than feeling like you have to do something. Instead of constantly saying, “I have to go on my run” or “I can’t eat that,” change your language to something more empowering like “I’m going to run because it will make me feel lighter and more energized when I’m done ” or “Even though I would love that cheesecake, I’m know I’ll feel better if I don’t have it so I’ll pass for now.” Remember, that you chose to embark on this new health journey, so find the language that will most inspire you and stick to that.
10. Schedule and track it
Don’t wait until you feel motivated or inspired to start on your new goals. Instead schedule your workouts, grocery shopping and meal prepping into your calendar. Once you put it down where it’s visible, you will be more likely to do it. In addition, boost your confidence in the process by tracking your progress. Put check marks on a calendar for every day you workout or make a healthy eating choice. When you can see the hard work you have been doing, you will be more inclined to continue. If you’re still finding it difficult to remember to do your workouts or drink more water, set alarms on your phone to remind you.
11. Create routine and ritual
Life is always going to get in the way. Many of my clients have schedules that can change at the drop of a hat. When there is so much inconsistency in your day to day, it’s important to create some sort of routine or ritual around healthy habits to ensure you will stick to them. Just like you wake up, brush your teeth and shower every morning, find a consistent time of day that you can workout and prepare your meals. If you can, plan your days around that instead of planning your workouts around your day. My typical morning routine these days is drink a glass of water, meditate, exercise, shower, go to work. This rhythm allows me to not think too much about what I have to do and talk myself out of it, but rather just do it. Another ritual I love is having a naturally sweet herbal tea after my meals instead of dessert.
12. No one can do it but you
When we keep falling off the wagon even though we are desperate to make positive changes in our life, it can be really easy to lose all faith in ourselves and look to someone else to “fix us.” However, remember that no one, no trainer, coach, nutritionist, mentor, can do the work for you. The drive to go into those uncomfortable places – a.k.a. make changes – has to come from you. The willingness to let go of old habits and ways of thinking has to come from you. Once you get there, the guidance and support from others will be much more effective and lead to sustainable changes.