How many times have you made a resolution - a workout plan, a lifelong dream, a new diet that will help you burn more fat - only to abandon it a couple weeks later?
If you’ve tried to change, you know how the pattern goes. When you start something new there’s a honeymoon period. You’re really going to stick to it this time, and it’s exciting. It’s refreshing. It’s motivating.
But, inevitably, the honeymoon period wears off. Maybe life gets busy, or you hit a sticking point, or you realize that your grand ideas demand a lot more effort than you expected. As motivation fades, you’re left with reality: change takes dedication.
Most resolutions fail because people lose motivation and quit. Here are a few guidelines to staying motivated in times of struggle - and even finding value in the struggle itself.
1) Find sustainability and take your time
Growth is a gradual process. If you want to get in shape, don’t start working out hard 7 days a week, and don’t expect to have abs by the end of the month. Even if you do hit your goal short-term (which is unlikely), you won’t be able to sustain the pace long-term. You’ll burn out, stop hitting the gym, and end up right back where you started.
Instead, find a rhythm that’s sustainable for you. Balance working hard with recovery to keep yourself from getting exhausted. Go slow and steady, until the habit you’re trying to form becomes a natural part of your life. That’s how real change happens.
2) Be consistent above all else
Okay. You’ve set a sustainable schedule for yourself. Awesome.
But sooner or later, you’re going to wake up with no motivation. Maybe you didn’t sleep well the night before, or you’ve got a ton of work to do, or you’re just sick of working and want to relax for a day.
These are the days that really matter. Anyone can do something when they’re excited about it. Motivation doesn’t come from excitement. It comes from digging deep on the days when you don’t want to work out or stick to your diet.
Change pushes our limits, by definition. It takes us out of our comfort zone. Every time you come up against the temptation to quit and you stay consistent, your willpower grows. You come out the other side a little bit stronger. That voice in your head telling you to quit will pass. Just hang on until it leaves.
And if you really, really want that break, here are two options:
- Go through the motions. Let’s stick with the exercise example. It’s a workout day, and working out is the very last thing you want to do. Fine. Do your workout at 50% of your usual intensity. Just go through the motions. On a diet? Eat as much as you want for a day, but stick to good food. Psychologically, you’re still checking the box for your goal, and you’re still reinforcing a habit in your brain. But you’re also getting a break.
- Delay gratification by 24 hours. Are you absolutely dying to break your habit? Make a deal with yourself. You’ll stick to it today, and if you still feel like you need the break tomorrow, you’ll take it. Craving a Yes Day on your diet? Stick to your goals today and, if you still want it, take your Yes Day tomorrow. A lot of the time, desires are superficial and will pass. If they don’t, odds are you really need that break. Take it and enjoy it.
3) Get a partner for accountability
When it comes to motivation, there’s a lot of strength in community. Find a partner (or several) to tackle your challenge with you.
Friends can help you through moments of self-doubt or temptation. They also know what you’re going through, because they’re going through it too. That kind of support and understanding goes a long way. Plus, weathering challenges together will deepen your friendship.
Set out on your journey with a friend and keep each other accountable. It’s a huge help.
4) Track your progress
Lasting change happens gradually, so it’s easy to misjudge exactly how far you’ve come.
Tracking your progress does two things:
- It keeps you motivated. It can be hard to see change when you’re living it every day. Tracking your progress shows you that all the small changes you make add up over time. If you’re feeling down, take a look at yourself on day one. It’ll remind you of where (and why) you started.
- It helps you make informed changes. Data also lets you tweak your approach and see whether the change helps or hurts things. It can also tell you if you stalled, in which case you may want to switch things up or take some time off.
Here are some good things to track, depending on your goal:
- Body fat percentage (pick up some calipers, or get a monthly DEXA scan if it’s available in your area)
- Speed (for something like running)
- Exercise weight and reps (for strength training)
- Daily happiness/relaxation on a 1-10 scale (for meditation, exercise, or anything else aimed at improving your mindset)
Or you can just check a box for every day you take a step toward your goal. It may not sound like much, but there’s something wonderfully satisfying about writing a number or writing an X on your calendar. You can also use a habit tracking app like Way Of Life.
Give tracking your progress a shot. You might be surprised by how motivating it is.
Meditation makes it easier to detach from mental chatter that pulls you off the path of success. Daily meditation decreases negativity  and increases emotional acceptance and stability , both of which can help you stay motivated in moments of stress or self-doubt.
Mindfulness meditation is a great option. Here’s a simple meditation guide to get you started.
Achieving your goals isn’t easy, but the struggle of growth makes progress all the more satisfying. Use these tools to keep yourself motivated, and learn to enjoy the journey. Thanks for reading.