After a long day of work, you walk to your car exhausted and ready for bed. Your shoulders are tight, your legs are stiff and that’s when it hits you: no motivation. You promised yourself that you would hit the gym after work today. There are a million other things you’d rather do like going home, jumping into your pajamas, and firing up Netflix. You think it over for a minute, then find yourself starting the car and sailing past the gym. Another workout avoided and forgotten. Sound familiar?
Having the motivation to stick to your goals even when you don’t feel like it can feel darn near impossible. You might know people who effortlessly do the exact things you set out to do no matter the circumstances. It’s easy to start a new workout plan or diet but sticking with it is the hard part. Where does the motivation come from? Here are some helpful tools that you can draw upon to stay motivated and committed to your goals.
1. Have a Goal
Staying motivated is difficult when you don’t have a clear objective that you wish to accomplish. Do you want to go to the gym every day or do you just want to stay in shape? Is there a certain event you want to look your best for or do you just want to look trimmer? If you suddenly decide to commit yourself to some abstract idea, then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Take the time to think through your reasoning for X so that you can get to Y. For example, say you want to lose five pounds so that you can fit into that new pair of jeans or dress you’ve been eyeing. The goal is to lose weight, so that you can fit into the new clothes. To do this, you decide to go to the gym after work every day and walk for an hour. If you have a clear goal in mind, then the likelihood of your success is increased compared to having an unfocused goal of say just being able to fit into the clothes without any clear idea of how to get there.
Think through your reasoning for doing things so that when you are tired or just don’t feel like it, you can look at your goal to remind you why you decided to go to the gym or eat that salad. Write down your goals, because writing them down makes you much more likely to stick with it and see results. Writing things down makes them feel more concrete and real to you. This concreteness makes it much more likely that you will follow through with it.
2. Start Small
When you decide to set new goals, don’t set the bar too high. By setting unrealistic or potentially far reaching goals for yourself, you are more likely to give up and quit. If you’re, say, 300lbs and you want to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, don’t tell yourself that you’re just going to lose 300lbs and get shredded. If you do want to do that, that’s fine, but motivation comes easier if you break that up into smaller easier goals.
A good example might instead be: I’m going to slim down from 300lbs to 290lbs in six weeks by eating less and walking more. That goal is realistic, within reach and not simply a fantasy. There are other areas besides fitness and health where you can start small and set realistic goals for yourself. A good example might be that you want to write a book, instead of just deciding to write a book by X date, decide to write 250 or 500 words every day. It’s far easier to write a few words today than to just write a book without a clear path by some arbitrary date.
If you start small and increase from there then you can write that book or get shredded like Brad, but it helps to start small first. Achieving goals increases motivation, and many small goals will work better than one large goal.
3. Make it a Habit
When you see other people who do what they set out to do, it’s not because they are more gifted than you are, or special by any sense of the word. Whether they realize it or not, they have made success a habit. Setting and completing goals is a process that if repeated enough, becomes habitual. They don’t have to constantly drag themselves to the gym, because it’s just a part of their everyday routine. They’ve made it a habit, and don’t have to dig deep to make it happen. They just do it.
If, for example, you spent years meal prepping, then it wouldn’t feel like a massive chore every time you cooked food for the week. It would just feel like another normal part of your week.
Once you start setting goals for yourself and following through with them, the next goals you set will become easier to accomplish. You already accomplished A, so now making B happen isn’t so difficult. Success begets more success. You really do start to build momentum and it gets much easier to set goals and see them become a reality. Goal achieving can and does become a habit for people.
4. Don’t Give Up
Say you decide to set a goal and after a few days you fall off the wagon. Your weight loss journey gets derailed by some donuts at the office. Maybe you spent the night binge watching Netflix and didn’t type a single word of that ground-breaking new novel. Sometimes you will stumble, and that’s OK! Nobody is perfect, especially beginners. Setting new goals and sticking with it is a process that almost no one does perfectly the first few times.
The most important thing you can do in that situation is to simply get right back at it. Don’t get down on yourself, it’s a waste of energy and it discourages you from trying again. The absolute worst thing you can do is quit entirely. That will ensure defeat, but that donut or those isolated nights wasting time won’t. If you find yourself routinely coming up short on attaining your goals, then maybe you need to re-evaluate and scale back a little bit. There’s no shame in trying again or setting a more realistic goal, but there is shame in giving up completely. No matter what happens, if you give up you lose. Full stop. However, if you stumble and fall along the path but get up and keep going, that’s nothing but a dip in the road to success.
Creating motivation is not magic. Anyone can do it, especially if they start small, keep their goal in mind and refuse to give up. Once you can make it a habit, motivation comes naturally. You really can become the guy who runs even in the rain. You really can be the girl who always fits into that dress. Just remember it’s not an overnight change. Most importantly, relax. The journey is just as important as the destination.