It’s a new year, and for many of us, the turn of the calendar means one thing: New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, the cliche of starry-eyed optimism giving way to defeat and abandoned goals before January is out is so well-established that entire industries have been built on it: think gyms and cleanse programs.
But there’s reason to remain optimistic: breaking your New Year’s resolution is not inevitable, and there are things you can do now to stay motivated and ensure that this year will be different. Here’s a few simple tricks you can use to set yourself up for success:
1. Remember your “why”
If you want to maintain your motivation, it’s important to stay inspired. You can do this by reminding yourself of the deeper purpose of what you’re striving towards. Try doing a “5 Whys” analysis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_whys. It involves stating your goal, and then asking yourself “why” repeatedly until you get to the root purpose of why you want to achieve it. It will look something like this:
I want to improve my diet.
Why do you want to improve your diet?
I want to become healthier.
Why do you want to become healthier?
I want to have better digestion, more energy and be more fit.
Why do you want to have better digestion, more energy and be more fit?
I imagine that once I’m free from digestive issues, have more energy and feel good in my body, I’ll be happier, more productive and will enjoy life more.
The last statement is your ultimate purpose for achieving your vision. Write it down, and read it to yourself every morning when you wake up, and every evening before you go to bed. Snap a photo of it, and glance at it anytime you feel your motivation dropping. Each time you read it, take a moment to imagine how you’ll feel once you’ve reached your goal. This will help fuel the fire of motivation to keep striving toward your dream.
Get enough sleep
It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re exhausted. Making sure you’re well-rested can make a world of difference when trying to establish a new habit or reach a desired goal. Research shows that most of us need somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Even shorting yourself one hour of sleep can impair your thinking, lower your mood and make simply getting through the day a miserable task, so it’s no surprise that it can also kill your motivation.
If getting enough sleep is a challenge for you, try simple sleep hygiene tips such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, limiting caffeine consumption, avoiding screens for an hour before bedtime and wearing a sleep mask. Check out additional tips on the Sleep Foundation’s website here: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-hygiene.
Get up earlier
I can almost hear the collective groan from the night owls reading this – but hear me out. Full disclosure: I’m a night owl too, and this one was hard for me to reconcile at first. But the fact is, our brains are at their most energetic, inspired and creative first thing in the morning. So why would you want to spend all that precious mental energy on life’s more mundane tasks?
If we leave working towards our aspirations for the end of the day, we are often tired and more in the mood for unwinding than for pushing ourselves. On the other hand, giving yourself an extra 30 minutes or an hour in the morning before you have to rush out the door allows you to devote that time to your vision, while your mind is still fresh and your motivation is strong. Prioritizing your dreams and goals in this way has the awesome side benefit of starting off your day with a feeling of accomplishment, which helps spark your motivation and keep it ignited all throughout the day. Of course, to make this work you’re going to need to be well rested. See previous point.
Prepare yourself for challenges
It might be tempting to only focus on the positive aspects of achieving your vision, but let’s face it – it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. There are going to be times where sticking to your aspirations is going to feel like a slog, so it’s important to anticipate these moments ahead of time and have a plan as to how you’re going to get through them without caving and giving up altogether.
To use our previous example, if your dream is to achieve greater health through better nutrition, you might need to give up your mid-afternoon latte and muffin habit. Think to yourself: what is it that I’m getting out of this, and how can I get that same benefit without compromising my goal? If it’s a much-needed energy boost to help you get through the rest of the day, plan ahead and have a healthier alternative on hand. Or if stopping work to go get a latte is providing you with an important mental break, think of other ways you can give your mind a rest. Take a short walk outside, or download a meditation app and give yourself a 10-minute mindfulness break when you feel your mental energy start to flag.
While there’s nothing that kills motivation more than a feeling of failure, the reverse is also true: there’s nothing that boosts motivation more than the feeling of empowerment that comes from being confronted with a challenge and conquering it with flying colours.
Remember to enjoy the process
Humans are not robots. In addition to food, water and sleep, we need leisure time and pleasure to keep us going. A common mistake many people make when trying to reach a new goal is to become hyper-focused, to the exclusion of all else in life. It’s easy to burn out and become demotivated when we get into the mindset that every bit of our time needs to be used “productively”.
Take time each week to review your progress, and give yourself regular pats on the back for holding strong to your vision. Reward yourself for a job well done. And don’t forget when planning your week to allow yourself some unstructured time for relaxation and for doing the things that bring you joy.
What else will help you stay motivated this year??