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Get and stay motivated

We all know that our January resolutions often fail. We start off all gung-ho but when life gets in the way, we start to lack the time, energy and motivation to keep our newly forming habits going. For example, we don’t go the gym one night because we need to meet a work deadline and then we’re too tired to go the next night so we might as well just start again next week. We don’t go for a walk because the weather is bad or we have a cold and these factors don’t improve for over a week. We don’t read the chapter of the new book or write the chapter of the book we are creating because we get distracted on social media, TV or replying to emails. We forgo the soup or salad for dinner because we had stressful day and it’s easier to just get take away on the way home.

NIKE, Winged Goddess of VICTORY

How do we maintain motivation and make resolutions stick?

The answer lies in making small, consistent, enjoyable changes and by having all your resources on hand and visible. Then tracking and celebrating your progress. Remember, less is more. Making things small and easy to start is effective because:

  • your resistance to a small change will be low and therefore you’re more likely to have the energy to do it.

  • once you get momentum it’s easier to keep going.

  • you’ll be able to achieve the small change which helps activate your dopamine – a neurotransmitter which allows you to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.

Overall, you’ll make better progress.

Tips for achieving your resolutions

Chunk into small steps

Aim to do something that can be easily done in a few minutes so lack of time or low energy is not an excuse. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear suggests scaling down daily habits to two mins per day. Read a chapter before bed becomes read one page. Doing 30 minutes of yoga each day becomes taking out your mat and doing one pose. Similarly, Dr Rangan Chatterjee in his book Feel Better In 5: Your Daily Plan to Feel Great for Life suggests doing small changes that take only five minutes of your day.

Be consistent

It’s better to do something small regularly than something bigger inconsistently. This will help you wire a new neural pathway in your brain which in turn will help you maintain the new habit and go further with it.

Examples of small, consistent actions for success.

Instead of saying you’ll go the gym three nights a week, commit to one night a week for a few weeks, then increase to two, then three. Instead of aiming to write a chapter a week, commit to just doing 10 mins of writing every day. Instead of going for a walk every day commit to one day a week and then take opportunities to walk more by parking at the furthest end of the supermarket car park or getting off the bus a stop earlier etc. Instead of reading a chapter a day, commit to reading five pages every morning or evening. Use an app to say a few words or sentences daily in a new language.

Make resources handy and visible

Dr. BJ Fogg in his book Tiny Habits recommends changing your environment for success.

For example: have your hand weights in the kitchen so you can do some reps whilst waiting for your kettle to boil or toast to cook; keep your trainers by the door or in your work bag ready for walking; have a snack draw at work with healthy snacks and a supply of fruit and veg in the fridge.

Make it enjoyable

You’re more likely to do something that you find enjoyable. If you want to exercise more, choose something you like. Don’t choose running if you don’t like it. You might prefer a dance or martial arts class, to play tennis or go swimming. If you want to eat healthier, start off with one healthy food you really like first. If you want write, choose a topic you are really interested in. Join a club or group to practice a new skill so you are with other people who are interested in what you are interested in.

Pair your new habit with something else enjoyable

You could for example, stop off at your favourite coffee shop after exercise for a good low calorie, healthy drink or bite. Take five minutes to scroll through social media only after reading your book or writing for 10 minutes. Have a pleasurable meal with friends or family at a restaurant that serves the traditional food of the new language you are learning and try ordering in that language.

Track progress

Keep your streak going for a dopamine hit which will help maintain motivation. Tick of your action steps on a calendar or create a word or excel chart fit for purpose.

Celebrate success

Celebrating small successes helps keep you motivated. If your goal is health related don’t think of food treats, think of a massage, mani/pedicure, new book or trip to a gallery. Make a list of things you’d like to do, see, listen to or watch so you’ve got options on hand for celebrating consistently doing your new thing for so many days.

Further resources

Over to you

Take some time to chunk down your goals, set up your environment, make a tracker and list of celebratory rewards and then Just do it!


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