Often the problem isn’t wanting to change, or even taking the first step. The hardest part is finding a way to stay motivated once our initial enthusiasm wears off or we encounter setbacks. This is one reason so many of us struggle with keeping New Year’s resolutions!
I’m no motivation guru and I’ve definitely had many times when I wanted to give up, change course, or just crawl back into bed. At the same time I am (a little) older and hopefully wiser and I’ve decided one thing must be true: progress itself — whether in weight loss or fitness or overall health — is the most important motivating factor.
So, how to stop waiting for the perfect time or the perfect plan and get going? Good question!
In my mind, there’s only one way to get started: Take action, even if it’s small. This is the best and only way to create more energy and motivation. Excitement grows and catches on when we see progress.
It bears repeating:
Action breeds motivation, not the other way around.
If you are looking to make some lifestyle changes to improve your health and want to get (and stay) motivated, you’ve chosen a worthy cause! No matter which habit you’ve chosen to take on, I’ve found these seven steps can help keep motivation strong:
This seems very common sense but is a step many of us skip. This is no surprise especially in mom world where it’s so tough to get any time to think without interruption!
Do what it takes: hide in the bathroom, the closet, the shower, the car, or better yet schedule some time out and figure out the exact reason you are making changes to your life. Envision what you want to accomplish and let it play out in your mind.
Note I didn’t say, “how you want to look in the end.” Let’s take weight loss for example: aesthetic goals alone rarely are enough to keep someone motivated. Eventually, the cheesecake, or pasta, or soda or whatever your weakness is will look really good and you’ll decide that you hate dieting more than you hate being fat and give in.
Tip: Instead, figure out a health-related goal, which may include aesthetic aspects, and write it down. Focus on long-term health benefits and make a clear plan of how you will get there.
It almost never works to jump in to a new diet, fitness plan, and natural living lifestyle all at once. Figure out some smaller goals and put them on paper. Once you reach one goal, start on another.
Goals must be measurable and specific to be accomplished. Once you figure out the clear goal, you need a specific and measurable action plan to get there.
The more specific and measurable your goal, the easier it will be to track your progress and stick to it. If you need to lower carbs or eat more veggies, start a health tracking journal or a habit tracking app. Tracking drastically increases chances of success when it comes to new habits.
Tip: No matter what your goal, consider meal planning. There are many amazing tools to make it easier (this one is my favorite). Meal planning will save time, money, and mental energy in the long run and help stick to the goal.
This is an idea that Martin at LeanGains suggests and I think it is a great one. (He also recommends intermittent fasting, which is another great idea!)
Basically, instead of having weekly weigh-ins or daily tracking, try periodic “checkpoints” every few weeks or even months instead. This encourages a sense of internal competitiveness without getting focused on small details. It is also gives you a long enough time to see measurable results (rather than getting discouraged that you aren’t running triathlons or fitting into size 4 jeans after your first week of training).
Tip: Set multiple checkpoints in increments of 8 weeks on your calendar or phone (otherwise, you’ll forget!). This is long enough for a new habit to actually sink in, not to mention stick. Compare each checkpoint to the last and try to beat it.
To keep your motivation high and focused on a goal, it is often helpful to remember why you formed the goal in the first place. Taking in new information — be it health, nutrition, or fitness related — feeds the desire and keeps the flame burning!
My favorite motivating books are:
Also (if it’s not too obnoxious) I should just mention that my book The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox has all of my best suggestions and recipes for making small but meaningful changes toward a healthier life. If food is your focus, The Wellness Mama Cookbook has my best food recipes too.
But moving on!
Tip: Multitask and listen to an audiobook or podcast while showering, driving, or cleaning up. (Bonus: The family might hear and pick up some new health knowledge and motivation themselves!) Some of my favorites are:
If possible, have your spouse or a friend make these changes with you. Not only will you have the benefit of some company along the way, but this has been shown to improve long-term compliance to a plan.
There are plenty of apps that make accountability even easier. My favorite (because I’m oh so super competitive) is an app called Spar.
Tip: Make sure you and your partner are on the same page on what the goal is and how to get there so you don’t derail each other by debating the small details along the way!
To help, consider giving yourself non-food related rewards when you accomplish either your overall goal or one of your action steps. Looking forward to a new pair of pants in a smaller size, an evening out with your spouse, or a relaxing day of some kind might help you focus on the long-term benefits of your goal rather than the short-term struggle.
Some other ideas for motivating (but healthy) rewards are:
Tip: Make a list of some new ways to reward yourself and try one of them. Whether it’s taking a class to learn a new skill (I recommend scuba!) or finally splurging for that Instant Pot and learning the ropes (life-changer!), chances are once you push past your comfort zone, you’ll be glad.
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and I’d say it takes less than that if you have a system and a routine in place. As with most aspects of life, healthy living is much easier if it is part of a normal and regular routine. Sometimes all it takes is a challenge to get you started.
This will also help remove the mindset of “dieting” which implies an end point once a goal is reached and encourage a mindset of a permanent and healthy lifestyle change. Sugar will not be healthy now or when you weigh your goal weight… neither will grains, or vegetable oils, or commercial deodorant… you get the idea.
Tip: Make goals visual to keep them in the forefront of your mind. Write up your why, your goals, your baby steps, and post it everywhere to increase your chances of staying motivated and sticking to a new habit.
Before making up a grand master plan, try a mini challenge or experiment! Pick one of these areas, go to the top of this post, and plan out your 7 steps! I highly suggest writing out your plan and posting it some place visible. Download my free Mini-Challenge Plan printable here!
Where to start? Here’s a list of possible health areas to consider:
Remember, there’s no wrong place to start… action in one area more often than not will lead to motivation in another!
When the lists are long and the tasks are many it’s easy to lose motivation (especially when the toddler is having a meltdown at your feet), but inertia is the worst part. Take one step in the right direction (today) and put these tips to the test to stay motivated, focused, and hopefully a little healthier!
How do you stay motivated? Have you struggled with this in the past? Any resources I’m forgetting? Please add them in the comments below!