It can be hard to get motivated, but more than that, it can be a herculean task to stay motivated.
The answer to how to stay motivated isn’t complicated, but it can be slippery to nail down. The answer is, know what moves you.
Motivation can be anything, so long as it keeps you interested in your progress. Do you want money, fame, freedom from a corporate time clock, an avenue for creativity, better health, a fresh start on life, or just to complete a project? These are all things that can keep you motivated. Generally they have an underlying reason though, and that is what you need to dig up.
WHY does money motivate you? I’m not going to shame anyone for this one, because this is a motivator for me, as well. My “why” isn’t complex psychology either. Money motivates me because I’m all too familiar with the instability that comes with not having enough money. It’s also because I want to ensure a comfortable retirement, I want to travel, I want to have something worthwhile to leave my children at the end of my life, in short, I want stability and a better quality of life. That last bit makes it hard to be motivated though, so, money is the thing I put the focus on for motivation. It’s not my only motivation, but it’s one of my top 5.
Another big one for me is better health. I do not like being frail and sickly, Sam I Am.
Well, okay, let’s pick this process apart. I have some specific challenges to regaining my physical strength and overall health. What can I do?
1) Set a realistic, measurable goal.
Back at the start of the pandemic I went stir crazy and bought a rowing machine. I love my rowing machine. It’s a HUGE challenge for my body right now, but I still love it. I would love to be able to say “I’m going to use that machine for 15 minutes every day.” Instead, I remember my overall health condition, the amount of de-conditioning I’ve gone through, and I set a much more attainable goal. “I’m going to use the rowing machine for 30 seconds every day with no resistance.”
I can track that progress. I can see if I’ve done it or not. It’s not inherently taxing and if I leave myself room to have fatigue and not do that exercise without condemning myself, it’s a thing I can keep moving forward with. Thirty seconds isn’t much, but it’s more than 0 seconds.
2) Keep it going!
I recall learning that it takes 30 days to create a habit. If I work on the rowing machine every day for 30 days, it will become a habit. I’ll also be reaping benefits from even such a small work period. You have to remember your motivation for doing something to get to that 30 days.
3) Have a cheerleader.
Some days our internal motivation will be very low. Welcome to being human. For these days, have someone who knows you and who is willing to be a cheerleader for you. I have a close friend who is my “cheerleader.” (Actually, I have a few close friends who cheer me on in different areas!) When I get a bad case of the “don’t wanna” they help me break through it and do the thing.
4) Reward yourself!
If I manage a full week of working on the rowing machine, what can I do to reward myself? In my case, maybe it’ll be a new book, a piece of art I’ve been wanting, or something that I can use in my home.
There are conditions to a reward. It can’t be something that goes against your goal. A bag of chips is not going to help me recover my health. It may sound tasty, but that’s not the reward I need.
It can’t be a necessity. Paying a bill, buying food, putting gas in the car, these aren’t things you can decide not to do if you don’t meet the goal, thus, they are not rewards.
It also can’t be something you can’t do for yourself. If I set a reward that after a week of doing this exercise I’ll take a vacation out of state, I’m setting myself up to not be rewarded. I can spend a day away from home and go visit some of my favorite places, but a vacation is not exactly feasible in a time when I’m neither willing or able to travel without having negative impacts.
5) Set new goals!
Again, keeping in mind that I can’t do so much that I push myself into a fatigue crash, I have to set new goals carefully. Looking into the future, I see myself at that magical 30 day mark. I’ve been able to manage 30 seconds a day on the rowing machine. Now, what can I do to add to it, to step forward?
Perhaps I’ll add 10 minutes of walking, outside of walking my dog. Walking is a gentle exercise, doesn’t strain me too much, improves my mood, and gets me out of my home. I can go around the block in 10 minutes if I go slowly so I’m not pushing my body harder than it can handle. So, after 30 days of the first step toward better physical condition, this may be the next step.
Rinse, repeat, and most importantly, expect setbacks. Goals are a judgement free zone!
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, if you’re truly changing your behaviors and pushing yourself in new directions, there will be days when your best cheerleader can’t get you to go for it. This is normal. You don’t have to be happy with yourself for having a setback, but you also shouldn’t beat yourself up. You need to get your mind to a point where you can say, “That did not go as planned. I’ll do better tomorrow.” Review your motivation, review the “why” of it. Remember why you started this project in the first place. Give yourself a reminder before you go to bed about why you want to work on your goal. As you prepare to sleep, let your mind play out the images/memories of you doing that work. Wake up, and go at it, refocused and refreshed.
Knowing what moves you, what makes you want to take all your energy and dump it into a goal, will keep you focused, bring you back to working on a goal when motivation is low or when there’s a setback, and will ultimately lead to completing a goal and moving on to the next one.
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