7 tips for keeping your motivation mojo
New Year. New In-the-Equation You! How are you doing at keeping your motivation mojo?
For so many years, I’d start the new year by setting lofty goals or New Year’s resolutions — usually aimed at losing weight, exercising more and getting “healthy” — only to fall off the wagon by mid-to-late January. Join the club, right?!
I would inevitably feel bad about losing my motivation and start beating myself up. I used my failure at achieving my goals as evidence that I couldn’t succeed. That I wasn’t good enough. My negative self-talk countered any positive progress, and I often ended up feeling worse. Ironically, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I stayed overweight, unhealthy, and totally out of the equation of my life. I continued to feel unworthy. And I continued to set resolutions and start anew at the beginning of a new year.
Luckily, that’s NOT how my story ends!
Like many of you reading this, for me, New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past. So is the negative self-talk that accompanied them and kept me stuck. The NEW healthy and in-the-equation ME doesn’t wait for Jan. 1st to set personal goals or challenge myself to do the things I want to do. I say YES! to life now and embrace a personal growth mindset — all year long.
That said, I absolutely take advantage of the calendar year close as an opportunity to reflect on the lessons and experiences of my year (The Five Lessons of 2016). And, I get focused and intentional about what I desire most in the New Year by setting clear intentions. In fact, I get totally jazzed about this work. I just no longer force it or rush it to meet an arbitrary January 1st deadline.
For the last several years, my annual reboot and intention setting process has included asking myself 5 primary questions about what’s most important to me. It usually takes me about 30 days to fully reflect upon and answer these five key questions:
1) What do I want MORE of in my life in the new year? (What do I really desire?)
2) What do I want to accomplish and/or experience?
4) Who do I want to be?
5) What/how will I contribute to something meaningful and greater than myself?
If you try this, you’ll note the answers are often connected. The desires, experiences and who I want to be align with how I want to feel, and vice versa. My favorite part of this work is finding my guiding word or mantra to keep me focused, excited and on track all year long. More on all of this later because my 2017 phrase is still a work in progress.
So how do you stay motivated when you embark on something new?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions at this time of year. For most people, the initial enthusiasm, energy or momentum wears off for New Years resolutions or goals about now. If you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve stuck to a plan for awhile, you start to wonder, can I really do this? Or, you might have already fallen off the wagon and or hit a plateau and you’re struggling to get your mojo back and get back on track.
Self-motivation is key to both achieving and sustaining any longer-term behavioral change. We know this. It’s true that it’s often easier to get motivated when we turn the page on a new year or a new chapter in our lives and first commit to something. That’s usually when we have the most passion and energy for our new goal and it’s natural that we get distracted or off track and lose motivation at times.
Here are my 7 tips for staying motivated & committed to your goals
1) Know your WHY & hold it close.
Knowing your bottom line WHY — your reason and/or personal reward for changing or achieving what you really want — is key to staying motivated. This is your intrinsic motivation. It is what will keep you in the game when the enthusiasm wanes or things get tough. So ask yourself WHY? Why do you want to lose weight or get healthy? What’s the benefit or reward to you? What are you afraid will happen if you don’t? What’s your “real” reason for wanting the change.
For some of us, it’s hard to get to our bottom-line why. We might think we know why but usually the truth is several layers (or why’s?) down. When you ask yourself “WHY?” — answer the question and then ask “WHY?” about 5 more times. Ask until you feel truly connected to your bottom-line why. You’ll know it when you get there.
Then write it down on a post it note and stick it everywhere. Put it on your mirror so you see it first thing when you get up in the morning. Post it on your rear view mirror in the car. On your computer. On your refrigerator. Just try the exercise and see if you know your true, bottom line WHY. Sometimes it’s hidden behind fear or anxiety and just getting in touch with your WHY is a big AH HA moment and a break through to spark action. It’s definitely the key to holding your motivation and staying in the game.
2) If you’re embarking on BIG change, consider breaking it down and celebrating the small steps.
When tackling really BIG or long-term goals, it’s natural to get overwhelmed and focus on the great distance from where you are and where you want to be. This can be demotivating. Consider breaking your bigger goal down into smaller action steps or goals. Set milestones and celebrate each and every one of them! This is not only motivating, it sets a tone of positivity and success that creates momentum and propels you forward. Trust me on this one. It works.
3) Make it personal, passionately personal. Visualize what success looks like.
Making your goals personal and passionately connecting to who you are and want to be, how you want to live, how you want to contribute, how you want to feel, and why — as well as what you want to do — is part of getting clear and focused and staying motivated. These are the things that will keep you in the game when the going gets tough.
That’s why I like to start with the five questions at the beginning of this blog. If your goal is to lose significant weight — think about how you want to feel, look, and be when you get there. What do you want to wear? What activities will you do when you lose weight that you’re not able to do now? What will it feel like in your body? Visualize the goal itself and how you will experience it. Creating that personal and deeper connection will help you stay focused and motivated much more than a number on the scale. Visualizing the full picture of success and being in touch with your WHY are two of the best motivators. This is not a one-time event, remind yourself every day or when you start to feel the mojo slip.
4) Find your tribe and surround yourself with support.
The most successful people are those who don’t try to go it alone when embarking on big change. We all need love, connection and belonging. And sometimes we need help from experts — professional coaches, counselors, mentors, trainers or others to provide us with expertise, a plan or path, accountability and support. It’s not only okay to ask for that help, it’s a key part of setting yourself up for success and staying motivated.
When our motivation wanes and we need a pick me up, it’s critical to have a list of go-to peeps who can listen, cheer you, pick you up, commiserate with you and support you in achieving your goals. I encourage my coaching clients to make a go-to list of — their tribe — and to get specific about what kind of support they’ll seek or get from various people. Asking for help and surrounding ourselves with positive and motivating people who care about our success can be one of the best motivators. Often you’ll find that you’re helping them, too, just by asking for help. People love to be needed, wanted and feel connected.
5) Practice self-compassion and patience.
Two qualities that are critical to sticking with it and staying in the game are 1) Patience with the process and yourself; and 2) Self-compassion when you screw up. I have news for you, you are human and therefore NOT perfect. You will screw up, plateau, fall off track, sometimes even fail. The absolute key to success is what you do in those very moments when you get the wind knocked out of you or lose your sail. This is what makes ALL the difference.
One of the best and biggest changes I made in achieving my goals was learning how to identify and counter my self-limiting beliefs and that inner critic voice — you know, the one that’s about self-sabotage. I learned to recognize and counter that voice with one of strength, self-compassion and positivity. I started just by noticing and asking if the critical statement was true — most often it was not. Then over time I learned to counter it with a much more true and positive statement and eventually, I stopped beating myself up all together. Part of that is recognizing and accepting that I am human and imperfect (see next tip) and that I can change my outcome by being gentle and supportive of myself. Changing my thinking and my self-talk made all the difference. As did relaxing a little and exercising patience with myself and the process. When things get hard or I lose motivation, I anchor back on this tip and ask if I am being self-critical or impatient or both! Often, I am.
6) Don’t expect perfection. Embrace the gift of the restart.
My next tip goes hand in hand with number 5. When we expect ourselves to be perfect and do everything right, we often get disappointed, lose our mojo and that can keep us stuck or stalled. I found it was far more motivating and FUN when I learned to accept that I am NOT perfect, I won’t do it perfectly and in fact that is boring and stupid.
I know I will mess up, make mistakes and sometimes even go AWOL. It’s what I tell myself about that and then what I do next that matters most to keeping the mojo and staying on track. I’ve learned the gift of compassionate self talk when I screw up and getting right back on track. That restart is critical. It’s a skill that can be developed when you understand that you are not perfect. If you eat something you’re not supposed to, or miss the gym for 2 days or 2 weeks, you can restart and get back on track. Simply ask yourself what caused you to lose focus so you’re more likely to stay on track next time. Forgive yourself and move on — restart. Repeat after me: “I am not perfect, and it’s okay. I’ve got this. I know the way.”
7) Get you know yourself & note how progress feels.
When things are good and you’re doing great, note how it feels to have momentum and be at the top of your game. Note what works to motivate you and keep you focused, so when your enthusiasm wanes or life throws you off track, you learn over time how to self-motivate and get your mojo back.
A couple of examples. I learned that I love clothes. So a reward when I achieved a goal or even a distraction when I felt like I wanted to eat and go off plan, was to go try on awesome new clothes and admire how great I looked. That made me feel good and gave me a high. And if I spent 20 min doing it when I felt compelled to go off track, my desire to eat would dissipate. I also learned that “going public” here or by telling others close to me when I was struggling or slipping out of the equation was enough to get me back on track. It helped me stay focused to write it out and share it. It also kept me accountable. That works for me. As does remembering how good it feels to be healthy, happy and to live WHOLE. I just keep coming back to that feeling. Journaling about it also helps.
So there are my 7 tips for keeping your motivation mojo when the going gets tough. I hope that one or more of these will inspire you or help you. Let me know.
But more important than that, I hope that you find what works for YOU. There is a beauty in that. Try something and see how it feels to you and if it works. Note how you feel and how you respond. Learn to be patient and kind to yourself and the rest will flow from there. I’d love to hear from you if you have motivation tips to share.
Happy Weekend all! Now let’s get out there and be our awesome selves!
Read more of my blogs on setting NY resolutions or intentions, finding your guiding word or mantra, intentional living, keeping the mojo and more:
- Living from a place of intention, not old habits (March 2016)
- 2016: How about a year of YOU in the equation (Jan. 2016)
- What losing 200 lbs has taught me (Jan. 2016)
- No more New Year’s resolutions (Jan. 2014)
- Declaration of intention – join me! (Jan. 2014)
- If you’re still moving toward your goals, you’re winning! (Jan. 2013)
- My word is love. LOVE in 2013! (Jan. 2013)
- My word is “enough” (July 2012)
- Putting yourself in the equation, creating YOUR life (Jan. 2012)
- Do one thing that feels good…every day! (Jan. 2015)
- Step forward toward your goals – Oct. 2014
- Monday Motivation: Three tips – June 2014
- Success = warrior. Not quitting no matter what – June 2014
- I did everything right and things didn’t go my way – May 2014
- Look behind the excuses, therein lies the answer – April 2014
- Half their size – Jan. 2014
- When is it time to let go? – July 2013
- I’m not perfect. And it’s okay – June 2013
- Let’s get movin peeps – it’s good for the soul – May 2013
- Learning from life’s moments of impact – March 2013