“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend both daily.” This is one of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar, because while it’s funny and lighthearted, it’s also SO deeply true.
Many of my clients expect something to just “click” … and then they’ll feel motivated every day for the rest of their lives. They see me prioritizing my health continuously, staying productive at work, staying focused on my goals, always seeking continuous improvement … and they assume it comes easily for me. I hate to shatter your perception of ease, but it’s just not true!
Sure, daily motivation becomes less of a seemingly-insurmountable hurdle over time. Once you experience feeling great after repeating a behavior, you’re more likely to want to continue. You get in the routine of what you know you need to do to stay motivated, and you just do it. But it’s never easy.
You see, a huge reason that I do my morning routine each day is that it sets me up to feel how I want to feel during the rest of the day. It reminds me of my goals, and reaffirms my motivation to do the hard work. It fires me up and makes me feel passionate, energized, and alive! And rather than saying, “oh wow, it takes you 30+ minutes each morning just to get through the day?” … I choose to think, “wow! What a gift! I know exactly what I can do in 30 minutes each day to be more motivated, productive, centered, grateful, and excited to take on the day!” Feels better, huh?
So no, motivation isn’t easy, and yes, I do have to continuously work on it. But working to stay motivated (and doing it!) is a whole lot better than feeling trapped in the cycle of demotivation and desperation. So here are my top 10 tips to stay motivated for your health goals. Enjoy!
How to Stay Motivated to Reach Your Health Goals
- Know your “why.” Your “why” is your deep-rooted reason for why you want to do whatever you set out to do. It’s something poignant, emotional, and meaningful to you, and it will inspire you to do what it takes, even when it’s tough. There’s one main rule for finding your “why:” it cannot include the word “should!!!” Wanting to exercise because you should is just not motivating. Wanting to food prep because you should feels like a chore (vs. wanting to food prep because it makes eating healthily SO much easier during the week, saving you time, stress, and money!). If you don’t know your “why,” simply keep asking yourself, just like a kid would. Want to get to the gym a few times per week? Why? Because you don’t want to be out of breath when walking up the stairs? Why? Because you want to be the “cool grandma” and be able to run up after your grandkids and play with them for many, many years to come. Now isn’t that more motivating than “because I should go to the gym? Won’t you be more likely to get out of bed when you think about being there for your grandkids (or your equivalent of the “why”) vs. the dreaded “should”?
- Focus on the positive. Very few goals are realized after just one bit of effort. This is normal! The challenge is to stay positive, and continuously celebrate your effort. Focus on the “gain” (what you have accomplished so far) rather than the “gap” (what you still have to accomplish). Intentionally celebrate every little victory along the way, and be intentional about letting far more positive thoughts linger in your head than negative ones. We can’t always control our thoughts, but we can control how long we let them linger, and focusing on the positive will keep you more motivated. I use the Pepper Planner to focus on one positive thing each day, but you can do it in your head or on paper!
- Remember that this is a marathon not a sprint. From a strictly physical standpoint, sprinting requires more concentrated effort than running at marathon pace. Using this analogy for your health goals, we want the pace at which you cruise to your goals to be sustainable over the long haul. Remember that very few goals are realized immediately, so find an effort level that you can sustain! Even the best sprinters in the world can’t hold their pace for the duration of a marathon, and neither can you. Be realistic about how hard you can push, and keep that effort going!
- Set mini challenges for yourself. Because the ultimate goal will take a while to achieve, it’s helpful to set mini challenges to spur your motivation along the way. If you’re aiming to make meal planning and food prep a routine part of your life, for example, why not throw in a mini-challenge that if you prepare breakfast at home for two weeks in a row, you’ll have an at-home spa day the weekend following? Feeling like you’ve reached mini-milestones can keep you propelling forward to the big one.
- Don’t try dramatic restarts. Mini-challenges are different than dramatic restarts. If, in the same example, you’re trying to male meal planning and food prep a routine part of your life, but you don’t cook at all now, you do not want to start with “this Sunday, I’ll prepare 21 meals from scratch.” Remember #3 – you can’t sustain such a dramatic change in effort over the long haul!
- Think of a few non-negotiables. Because we’re in this for the long haul, there will be days when you aren’t able to execute your goals as well as you’d like. That doesn’t make you broken – it makes you human, and it’s OK. When I’m traveling, it is hard to get in as many veggies as I normally would, and I may skip exercise or eat a few more processed foods than normal. But two things I can always do are practice gratitude and drink water. Even if I can’t do my full morning routine, I think of 3 things I am grateful for every single morning. Even if the entire days’ worth of food isn’t ideal, I always stay hydrated – travel, or not. What are the non-negotiables for you?
- Set up your environment for success. Despite enjoying the book “Willpower Doesn’t Work”, I do actually believe in willpower and discipline. But, I believe that having willpower is a whole lot easier if you set your environment up for success, as the author suggests. If my goal were to reduce my sugar intake, keeping the jar of M&Ms on my desk at the office just because they’ve always been there is surely not setting me up for success. Make it easier to get up for your workout by laying out your clothes the night before, make it harder to eat fried food by changing your route home from the office so you don’t swing my McDonalds, or make it easier to drink water by buying a bottle you love and keeping it visible at all times.
- Enlist a friend. Find someone to text pictures of your lunch to every day, or challenge a friend to train for a 10K with you. Staying accountable to someone else can make a challenge more fun, and can boost you on the days when it’s tougher to find that motivation for yourself. (Of course, if your friends are not up for it, my health coaching provides accountability, motivation, and information … and I’m always happy to see pictures of your lunch! 😊 )
- Keep learning. A major way I avoid complacency is by continuously learning more. Through podcasts, articles, and following role models online, I’m always inspired and intrigued by how much more I could be doing in health, business, and life overall. This is not about comparison (because we all know that’s worth nothing), but it is about feeling inspired by role models who can help you elevate your game.
- Set your intention every day. Let’s bring it back to the beginning. All of these tips work, and all will give you an edge up, but if you’re not resetting your intention every single day, you’re missing a lot of the momentum that you could gain by doing so. It’s as simple as putting a post-it note by your toothbrush and reminding yourself of your goals each time you brush your teeth, or writing an affirmation that you repeat to yourself as you drive to work. Again, I use the Pepper Planner to track my affirmations, but you don’t need a tool to start. Until you try it daily for a full week, don’t bash it – I promise, it’s magical!
Now it’s your turn … What’s one way you stay motivated? Which of the 10 do you already use?