The difference between reaching a goal or not is having the motivation to stay with it during the tough times – and there’ll be more than one tough time along the way.
If only the motivation and energy that was around at the start of the adventure stayed all the way through. What happens instead is that at the times it’s needed most – times of self-doubt, stumbles, distractions – motivation hits the floor, which is no place for motivation to be.
Almost all goals will be reached eventually. It’s a matter of how hard you can push through the tough times.
How to Get Motivated
Here’s what science can tell us about keeping motivated and on track to putting something brilliant into the world that wouldn’t be there without you.
This is critical. Have small, workable goals that are easy to achieve. Want to run 8km? Start with 1km straight, or 2, or maybe 4. Want to lose 10kg? Start with 2kg. Need to study all weekend? Start with the next hour. Start small, with something that’s reachable, and you’ll astound yourself with what you can do. That’s a promise. Which brings me to …
Celebrate your wins.
Research has found that celebrating your achievements will motivate you towards future success. This is why it’s critical to line your path to your ultimate goal with small, achievable ones. Write down your achievements and look at them often. It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. Have something concrete to look back on so you can see the luminescent glow of the things you’ve achieved along the way. When they light up behind you, what’s ahead of you will light up too.
Don’t start straight away. Instead, set a date for a week or two away – more if you like – and mark it on a calendar. This will give you the time to get excited and work out your plan, including your step by step goals. By the time the date rolls around, you’ll have all the energy, focus and commitment you need to achieve your goal – and achieve it you will.
The 20-second rule.
This one comes from Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor. Along the way towards your goal, there’ll be times that you just don’t feel like doing what you need to be doing. Don’t let that knock you off track. Those days are going to happen and tomorrow will be better. To limit those times, have a 20 second rule. It works like this. The point of distraction comes and goes within 20 seconds. That’s all it takes to decide to do something other than what you’re meant to be doing – online shopping, the Google rabbit hole … you know how it works. Make the bad habit, or the thing that will hijack your path towards your goal, twenty seconds longer to get to. Put the junk food at the back of the high shelf. Put the remote control batteries in a drawer. Alternatively, put the things you need to be doing more within close, easy reach. Have your exercise gear laid out. Put healthy food at eye level. Have your work space set up and ready to go.
Talk yourself into something easier.
For the times you just don’t feel like it, tell yourself you’ll just make a start. Let me give you an example – me and running. We get along okay – not great – but okay. I never feel like it but I tell myself that I’ll decide whether or not to go after I put my shoes on. Then, I tell myself I’m going for a walk, not a run. Then, once out the door, I tell myself that I’ll just run for one song and then I’ll see how I feel. I keep doing this for the entire 5km and before I know it, I’m gasping for breath and falling through my front door – which lacks all grace but that’s okay because I’ve done it. I do this every time and I’ll do it next time and the time after that because it works. This can be applied to anything. Need to study? Tell yourself you’ll just sit down for 30 minutes – then see how you feel. Want to lose weight? Tell yourself you’ll just eat carefully for the next hour, or until 5pm and then you’ll see how you feel.
Self-talk in third person.
Research has shown that people achieve more when the self-talk is in third person. Say ‘You can do this,’ rather than ‘I can do this.’ The exact reason is unclear but quite possibly it’s because when we were young, success started with someone saying, ‘You can do this!’
Change ‘I can’t’ to ‘I won’t.
When things get tough and the words swirling around making trouble are ‘I can’t,’ change them to, ‘I won’t.’ ‘I can’t’ leaves no choice. ‘I won’t’ makes the decision all yours. ‘Can you?’ or ‘Can’t you?’ … depends on how capable you are. Will you? Or won’t you? … depends on what you decide.
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
This is a massive one. Comparison is a life-sucking troll and will skittle you off your path before you can say, ‘worse than’. Don’t compare. Learn. Watch. Grow. But don’t compare. Perhaps others are doing something similar to you but nobody will be doing it like you. Your path will be different, the point you’re at will be different and your ending will be different. Different. Not less than.
Don’t let one missed day throw you off the horse.
We’re only human. Along the way towards a goal we’ll stumble. It’s inevitable. And it’s okay – completely okay – so don’t let it be the thing that makes you throws your hands in the air and turn your back. Think of it as a break, not a failing. Miss one day and then get back to it – don’t let one day roll into two.
Every goal can be met, provided that there is the motivation and resilience to pull you up by the hand when you stumble.
Use these tips to stay motivated, and when you feel like you’re falling, be motivated by the search for what it is down there you’re meant to find. There’s always something – make sure you’re open to finding it.