It’s one of the most common questions I get asked: how do I stay motivated?
Most of us feel really motivated when we start something new — a new workout program, a new diet… But inevitably, we reach a point where we’re just not that into it. We might even beat ourselves up, thinking, “Other people are motivated all the time. What’s wrong with me?”
The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with you. Accomplishing big goals has very little to do with feeling motivated all the time. Motivation is what gets you started. After that, it’s basically about just doing what needs to be done until you eventually get where you want to be. Motivation may return periodically. But it’s never guaranteed. It’s like any other emotion (happiness, sadness, etc). It will come and go throughout your journey. So, if we can’t rely on motivation to always be there, what should we do to ensure we remain consistent and focused during our journey?
Here are some tips!
Have a deep reason and a strong “why”
Your “why” for embarking on your journey is your answer. It’s what will keep you going on the tough days. Each of us needs a “why” that cuts directly to our core — something we can turn to on the ways where we just don’t want to complete that workout or track our food.
When you’re determining your deepest “why”, I have an exercise you can use. It’s called The “5 Whys”, and it was originally used by the Toyota Motor Corporation. It’s very simple.
When you want to accomplish something, you ask one “why.” “Why do I want to accomplish this?” Then, whatever answer you come up with, ask why again. And so on, five times. Be really honest with your responses. When you reach that final “why”, you might be surprised at the answer!
Here is a real-life example from a client:
She stated that her goal was to lose 25 pounds and run her first half-marathon. Why do you want to accomplish this? Because I feel heavy and out-of-shape right now. If I lost 25 pounds and ran a half marathon, I’d feel confident again. Why do you want to feel confident again? Because I’ve spent the last decade hiding my body in loose-fitting clothes and avoiding social situations where people might judge me. I want to get out there and stop hiding. Why do you want to stop hiding? Because I’m ready to date. I’ve avoided it for too long and I’d love to meet a partner who has similar interests to me!
You get the idea!
Now it’s your turn. What do you want to achieve, and why? Write it down!
You don’t need motivation — you need systems.
Let’s dive into the next thing you’ll need to stay consistent on your journey (without relying on motivation): systems. Systems help us prioritize what to do and when to do it. They also remove a lot of the effort and willpower we think are required to get things done.
We don’t want feelings to drive our behavior.
Many of us have the sense that if we feel tired or sad or discouraged, we should do tired, sad, and discouraged things. And of course, it’s critical to honor and express your feelings because it’s a release and helps others understand what you’re going through. But, when it comes to sticking with a nutrition program, letting our feelings drive our decisions can get us in trouble. (For example, if you had a bad day at work and let those feelings drive you toward choosing chocolate for dinner, that may not be conducive to your goals!).
Here is what I recommend instead:
Notice and accept your feelings in the same way that you can notice a cloud passing by overhead. Our moment-to-moment feelings don’t have to determine who we are or what we choose to do. Simply knowing this can make it easier to carry on when we don’t feel like it.
Have a growth mindset and see life as a series of skills you can learn.
Rather than beating yourself up about the fact that you haven’t yet reached your goals, try adding on the word “yet” to your sentences. For example: “I haven’t reached my weight goal yet.” “I haven’t run a marathon yet.” “I haven’t gotten that promotion yet.” Adding the word “yet” to these sentences gives them a sense of resilience.
Where you are in life right now doesn’t dictate where you’ll be in 3 months, 6 months, or a year. Resilient people don’t just “try harder” or “have more willpower”. Resilient people see any process as a skill that can be developed.
Growth vs. Fixed mindset
People who have a growth mindset believe their talents can be developed through hard work. People with a fixed mindset believe their talents are innate gifts.
Research suggests that people with a growth mindset achieve more than those with a fixed mindset because they worry less about looking smart and put more energy into learning.
Here are some examples:
Fixed: “I suck at running.”
Growth: “Running has been really challenging for me.”
Fixed: “I’ll never be good at following my nutrition plan on the weekend.”
Growth: “In the past, when I’ve tried to stick to my nutrition plan on the weekend, I didn’t have much success.”
What do you think – can you spot any ‘fixed mindset’ examples in yourself? How could you reframe your language towards a growth mindset?
I hope these tips help and show you that you don’t need to feel constantly motivated to achieve your goals. All you need is a deep “why”, powerful systems, and resilience.