maintain motivation to change habits

How to Maintain Motivation to Change Habits

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As we glide into February 2021, you’ve probably fallen into one of two camps with your New Year’s resolutions.

  1. You’re committed, crushing it every day, and nothing can stop you. The lifestyle changes you’ve wanted to implement are taking hold, and you’ve developed habits that are really sticking. OR
  2. What resolutions? You’ve completely forgotten about those silly goals you made at the beginning of the year. The running shoes are still in the box, and the gym was nice that one time you stopped by to sign up.

If you’re in the first group, congratulations. I tip my hat to you and your ongoing success. If you fall into the second group like many of us, it’s time to find ways to boost motivation to change and hop back in the saddle.

All Hope is Not Lost

The year is officially 1/12 over. That means you have 11/12 of the year left to make remarkable changes! If you catch yourself now, there’s enough time left for you to imagine the possibility. If you wait until six months from now to re-assess, you’re prone to hopping on the “I’ll just do it next year” train. Because once you pass July 1st, it’s much easier to just wait anyway.

Motivation to Change is a Fickle Thing

It seems like some people have an endless supply of motivation while others struggle to get up off the couch. The reason for that is likely that those with an endless supply have crossed over into the magical land of intrinsic motivation, while the couch surfers are busy looking for extrinsic motivation. Let’s start with the latter.

Extrinsic motivation means being driven by external forces, like avoiding punishment or receiving rewards. Extrinsically motivated people might work out because their spouse will be happy, or they can see the scale tick down. Motivation in this form isn’t a bad thing, and frequently it’s where people start when they’re looking to change a habit.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is when someone is driven by internal forces like enjoyment, pleasure, and interest. Someone who is intrinsically motivated might work out because it makes them feel happier, and they enjoy the feeling of strength from lifting weights.

Using Motivation to Your Advantage

Feeling motivated to achieve is a high like any other. And motivation is the result of action. Here are 3 ways to keep your motivation to change intact as you continue through the year.

Let your goals be your guide

Let’s pretend for a moment that your resolution this year was to get in better shape by attending exercise classes. But one glaring issue has arisen, you despise working out. You hate being sweaty, feeling sore, and the exhaustion that accompanies a challenging workout.

If we’re being real with each other, those feelings may never change. But working out is a positive thing for your body and mind, so assuming you’d like to turn that to-do item into a to-done one, you’ll need to find a way to approach it differently.

That’s where referencing the “why” behind your goals can help. Dig into what meaningful outcomes might result from sticking to a regular workout plan. You might:

  • Be able to fit back into your “skinny” jeans
  • Receive better results on your blood test at the Doctor’s office and move from “pre-diabetic” status to “healthy”
  • Drop the overweight that’s been causing you breathing issues

No matter what the outcome is, just make sure it’s personally meaningful. Moving the motivation from external pressure to a meaningful goal is a step in the right direction of autonomy. You’re far more likely to continue with your workout plan when you have a goal in mind that’s steering you there.

Build it into your identity

Bringing something new into your identity is a compelling way to encourage you to stick with habit change. Someone who begins to see themselves as a person who works out, a non-smoker, or a healthy eater is far more likely to make decisions that align with that identity.

If you decide to start thinking of yourself as someone who goes to the gym, odds are good that given a choice between stopping off at the gym on the way home from work or not, you’ll choose to go.

So take a second to consider, who will you be if you achieve your habit change? Will you be someone who wakes up early? Someone who lifts weights? Whoever that person is, start believing that person is you.

Start to speak about yourself in that way and project that image into the world. You may be amazed at how much more easily it sticks.

Get an accountability partner or hold yourself accountable

If you tend to rely more on extrinsic motivation, call in a friend, family member, or coach to help you with your accountability. Ask someone to check in mid-day and send you a nudge when they see the rings on your apple watch* are far from closed. Just this gentle reminder from someone who is supporting your journey can be enough to get you moving.

Some people find success in personal accountability. I’ve found creating a streak to be incredibly useful. (It’s how I completed my 60-day running streak!) Use a calendar to tick off every day you follow your new habit by tagging it with a big X. Once you start to see 3+ days linked together, it’s a lot harder to break.

The Main Thing about Motivation to Change

Motivation is going to be higher on some days than others. Especially for us ladies. Energy and, often, motivation changes with our cycle. But what’s important is doing your best to stick with your resolutions, goals, and habits more days than not.

Nobody is perfect. But continuing to move forward with small, incremental habit change over time is how you wake up five years from now as the person you’ve been working to become.

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