Studies show that only about 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. Those are horrible odds if you’re someone who wants make 2017 your best year ever.
What can we do to actually make our intended changes stick?
There is a lot of good information out there about the kind of goals that work best. Many recommend that you keep your goals simple, so they’re not too overwhelming, and that you make sure you can control the outcome. In other words, setting a goal to walk for 30 minutes every day and cut out one soda per week is more attainable than setting a goal to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year.
Beyond that, though, I think there’s one very big reason why so many of us fail to follow through on our resolutions: motivation.
After all, if we’re truly motivated to do something, we do it, don’t we? If someone you love lands in the hospital, you have no problem leaving work to help him or her out, right? Even if leaving work is something you rarely do. Or if you suffer a heart attack, you’re more likely to eat a healthier diet afterwards. Suddenly, you’re much more motivated to take care of your body.
Motivation is the key to making positive changes, so this week, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite motivational techniques. These are tips you can use to motivate yourself when you need to. As Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
First, let’s talk briefly about setting goals. As mentioned above, you want them to be simple and achievable.
Start with where you want to be a year from now. Some examples may include:
Then, work backwards. If you want to be 30 pounds lighter, what do you need to do? Some examples may include:
Using this second list, you can create your goals. The key is to get more specific:
Look at this list again. These are all things under your control. Notice that none of them have you weighing in to see how much weight you’ve lost. Instead, you’re focusing on what you can change, and letting the weight take care of itself. All you have to do is motivate yourself to stay with these goals week after week.
Let’s take one more example: Make $1,000 more per month. What would you have to do to make that happen? Some examples may include:
Once you have this list down, you can review your options and choose the one that you think will work best. It’s okay if it doesn’t work—you can always try something different later. Let’s say you decide to try the first option of finding a part-time job. Your goals might look like this:
These are the goals you would then motivate yourself to accomplish. They are manageable, in your control, and once you achieve them, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your ultimate goal of earning more.
Most of us don’t have any problem getting started on a new goal. The problem occurs down the road, when we encounter difficulties, or when we simply get bored.
That’s when your ability to motivate yourself becomes critical. Try these 7 techniques.
Ask yourself: Why do you want to accomplish this goal? Why do you want to lose 30 pounds, or earn $1,000 more per month?
Answer that question, and then answer it again twice. For example:
Then post these three answers somewhere you can see them every day. They will remind you of why you’re doing the work you’re doing.
Music can be extremely motivating. Scientists have found that the music we listen to can change our mood, or how we perceive the world around us. Turns out that you can actually induce the mood you want by choosing the right music.
If you need to exercise, for example, and you don’t feel like it, slap on your headphones and play some upbeat music. It’s likely to change your mood quickly, and help you to stick with your goals.
If it’s time to sit down and research jobs and you don’t feel like it, try this trick: Tell yourself you’ll work on it for just five minutes. Anyone can manage something for five minutes, right?
Then, most likely, once your five minutes are up, you’ll be involved in the research and you won’t want to quit. If that doesn’t happen that’s okay—just use the same trick again tomorrow. Soon, you’ll find yourself completing your hour of research.
This method works so well because usually the hardest thing is just to get started. Once you’ve done that, everything else is downhill.
Rewarding yourself for your work is a great way to stay motivated. At the end of the week, for example, if you’ve exercised every day like you planned, reward yourself with an afternoon at the movies, a massage, a new beauty product, or something else that you enjoy. Set rewards that inspire you, and keep them coming.
Sometimes we fail to achieve our resolutions because it’s very hard to imagine actually doing so. Just thinking about that extra $1,000 a month, for example, may not be enough to make it real.
To boost your motivation, try to create better visual reminders. A collage is a good way to do this. Post your goal at the top ($1,000 More Per Month!), and then cut out or print out pictures of what your life will look like when you achieve that goal. Will you be able to afford that new car you desperately need? Get your child braces for her teeth? Pay off those credit cards?
Whatever the benefit might be, find pictures that represent them and attach them to the collage or to a corkboard. Then hang the finished piece somewhere you are likely to see it often.
Some of us are born competitive, and respond best when participating in a contest. If this describes you, have some fun with your goals. If you want to lose 30 pounds, for instance, find friends who also want to lose weight, and set up a contest with them. Perhaps you can hold weekly meetings to check in on your progress, share healthy recipes, or plan times when you can work out together. Contribute to a central “pot,” and reward someone each week for his or her progress depending on preset criteria.
Working with others also exposes you to other ideas you may not have thought about before, which can improve your odds of success. A friend may suggest a new type of workout that helps you shed more pounds, or a new way to fix lunch that satisfies you with fewer calories.
Would you be surprised to know that you’re less likely to stick with your goals and more likely to procrastinate when you’re in a bad mood?
Negativity is the fastest way to take a nosedive on your New Year’s Resolutions. So no matter what else you do in 2017, find small ways to make yourself happy on a daily basis. Exercise is a great one—it naturally boosts good-mood endorphins. There are many other ways, though, like taking a hot bath, going for a nice walk, having lunch with friends, reading a good book, listening to fun music, spending time with a pet, etc. The options are endless.
Simply ask yourself: How can I make myself happy today? When you do, you’ll be much more likely to work toward your goals, too.
How do you motivate yourself?