Written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily. –Zig Zigler
What can you do to daily motivate yourself?
When I was in college, my friends and I sat and watched Oprah Winfrey wheel a wagon of fat out onto the stage of her television show to illustrate how much weight she had lost. It was at that moment that my girlfriends and I became more determined than ever to get healthy. The kitchen, in the small apartment that we shared, was stocked full of chips, salsa, cheese, and, of course, oodles of noodles, the inexpensive staple that kept many college students alive.
At exactly five o’clock, the moment the show ended, we set out, full of determination, on a quarter-mile trek to Food Lion to splurge on healthy food. Our goal to become healthier was simple, so it seemed. A brisk walk, broccoli in the refrigerator, and plenty of enthusiasm, we were off to a terrific start.
Looking back, I remember the excitement we felt that day; the motivation, the goals, the new routine. But I also remember the routine never really becoming a routine at all. Matter of fact, the healthy eating and exercise lasted about two days. Twenty-three years later, I vividly remember the Oprah episode and how amazingly fast my motivation came and went. What had happened? What could I have done differently? What have I learned in the past twenty-three years? A lot.
Research shows that accomplishing goals is good for your mental health. This does not mean that you are to run, run, run, never stopping to catch your breath. Maybe you have been going too hard, and your goal is to slow down and spend more time in silence. Or maybe your goal is to get more active. Whatever the case, goal accomplishment is important to your well-being.
Numerous studies have shown that goal accomplishment leads to higher hope thinking. According to the late C.R. Snyder, who spent years researching, writing, and teaching about the hope/goal attainment connection, people who enhanced their hopeful thinking through goal attainment experienced a decrease in depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints, and an increase in self-esteem and resilience. Although Snyder’s research, in its totality, is beyond the scope of this article, he leaves little doubt that hope can be measured and that goal accomplishment increases hopeful thinking which improves overall health.
The winning formula and goal setting tips:
goal + step by step plan + daily motivation + action
- The goals need to be yours: You will not stay motivated unless it is something that you want to accomplish rather than something imposed on you by someone else.
- It needs to be specific and measurable: Your goal needs to be clear and unambiguous if you are going to stay motivated to accomplish it. Getting healthy is too general. Eating one vegetable serving at dinner is more specific and easy to measure.
- Set a time for completion: It is easier to stay motivated if you have an end date. For a lifestyle change such as eating healthier foods, you may want to reward yourself after eating vegetables every night for five nights. After the five nights, you will then come up with another time of completion. Twelve step recovery programs utilize a day by day, hour by hour approach. Small increments of time are often less overwhelming when it comes to lifestyle changes.
- Put it in writing: This will help motivate you and hold you more accountable.
- Make it challenging yet realistic: It is important to balance this. For me personally, writing a book is challenging, playing in the NBA is unrealistic.
- Know why you want to attain it: It is hard to be motivated to do something, when you really don’t know why you are doing it in the first place.
- Come up with several different paths to get you there: Your goal may be fine, your path to get there may have to be adjusted.
- Expect set backs: Look at these as learning experiences
- Celebrate progress: Always progress not perfection. People who aim at perfection only, often give up during a set back.
- Be patient with yourself: Sometimes patterns that take years to create, take a while to unlearn.
- Post a picture of the reward and look at it daily: One college student used a picture of a truck that he planned to purchase in the future as his motivation to graduate and get a job.
- Read daily affirmations: This will motivate you and keep you on track.
- Read inspirational stories daily: This will help you keep your resolve.
Setting goals without coming up with daily ways to motivate yourself often results in good intention rather than mission accomplished. Daily affirmations and positive quotations work well for me most of the time. Be creative and come up with ways that will motivate you to accomplish what it is that you have always wanted to do. And if you fail, remember that you are that much closer to eventual success.
“Look at failure like a GPS. The GPS doesn’t quit, it just reroutes.”