January is the month of new beginnings, new decisions, new choices. For many, the month of January, looking from the distance of December, feels like it’s going to be a fresh start, a blank page that will be filled with great choices we missed to make in the previous year. This time is going to be different. Right? But, with the year 2020 unfolding, it’s not uncommon that people struggle to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions. Somewhere along the way, they realize that sticking to their decisions is too difficult, or that those goals are not that important, or that “they just don’t feel like it”. What happens?
That strong urge for change that pushed us to make New Year’s resolutions – called motivation – faded away. This is not surprising – keeping high levels of motivation, in the long run, is tricky. Knowing a little bit more about how motivation works might help you achieve and keep your resolutions.
A Closer Look Into the Nature of Motivation
There are different definitions of motivation out there, but the majority basically boils down to this:
Motivation is a desire to act in pursuit of your goals. It pushes you to act, to behave in a certain way to get what you want or need.
You certainly felt this drive before, this urge to move and take action. It felt awesome, it pushed you toward reaching your goals, you felt energized and willing to engage – yes, in short, you felt motivated. But motivation is not easy to maintain. That initial spark fades away after some time and is, typically, not enough. That’s because motivation consists of three components:
- Activation – the initial decision to make things happen
- Persistence – the continued effort toward a goal despite the obstacles
- Intensity – how hard you work for your goal
Further, there are basically two types of motivation:
Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source – to get a reward or to avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside, from within us – we do something because we enjoy it.
Both types of motivation are important. However, it turns out that intrinsic motivation is more powerful.
What does this mean for you? Only knowing that something is good for you is not enough to push you to make a change; a considerable reward has to be in play. This can be something external, like social recognition, money, or approval for example, or internal, like a sense of purpose or the feeling of deep fulfilment that comes from acting in accordance with your core values. Ideally, both should be present, but even one can be enough to push you forward through all three above mentioned components of motivation.
Staying Motivated Throughout the Year – Action Plan
In terms of New Year’s resolutions, if you want them to stick, the first crucial step is to turn them from a wish/decision to a goal. But it’s not just any goal; to keep you motivated, your goal needs to be a certain way to enhance the energy you need to get to the destination:
- Optimally challenging – meaning you need to put the effort in, but it’s realistic and not too hard,
- Specific – meaning your energy is directed toward a particular outcome,
- Congruent with self – meaning your goal is in line with your values.
Once you have that set, you’ve established a strong foundation for working up toward the goal. Even if you slip up, it will be easier to bounce back from there.
Additionally, here are 4 additional hacks that can help you get and stay motivated throughout the year:
1. Find your why
Nothing drives us like a strong feeling of purpose. The question WHY we do something is crucial, and if the answer is in line with our personal values, it is a huge push forward. To find out what your personal core values are requires tapping into your deepest self and asking: “What kind of life do I want to live?”. If you can connect your work and goals to your core values, it becomes a powerful source of motivation.
2. Focus on who you want to become
People interpret situations and difficulties in accordance with how they perceive themselves, and choose actions that feel congruent with their identity. For example, if someone believes that they’re a “loser”, sometimes they will choose actions that will reinforce this belief, and not choose actions that are incongruent with this picture of themselves because “it’s not for people like me”.
Thus, for increasing motivation, it can be more effective to focus on the identity – who you want to become – than on the ability – what you want to achieve. If you want to, for example, start going to the gym more often, the reason: “Because I’m (becoming) an athlete/healthy/good looking person” might be more motivating than: “Because I need to exercise more/have a healthier lifestyle”.
3. Set small milestones
Sometimes, setting a goal can feel intimidating because it looks too big to achieve. A crucial thing to not crush your motivation down is to divide large tasks into small, manageable parts, and do one at a time. Your brain will get a hit of dopamine every time you tick one small task off of a list, which will keep you motivated.
4. “CHOOSE” instead of “MUST”
A slight shift in the language can make big changes in the mindset. Sometimes the things we’re not motivated to do and see as a chore are, if we stop and think about it, the things that we are grateful for. “I have to go to work” and “I get to go to work” sound very different, don’t they?
And don’t forget – motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to be reinforced day after day. As Zig Ziglar wisely said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
How do you keep yourself motivated? Share it with us in the comments. Additionally, if you like this post, please be free to share it with your friends and family.
Happy new beginnings!
Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). Armstrong’s handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
Hockenbury, D. H., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2010). Discovering psychology. Macmillan.
So you’ve been slacking on your new year’s resolution; who hasn’t? The question now is: are you going to make the necessary changes to achieve your goals? Remember, a positive mindset is required with the ambition to do more. Here, we will work on the times when doubt creeps into your mind and you find yourself loosing your motivation, slacking again. So even as the snow thaws out and the flowers start to bloom, note if your new year’s resolutions are starting to dwindle in your mind. Let’s take this post to reflect on the reasons why we chose those goals and how we can stick to achieving them in the coming months.
How Do You Speak About your Goals?
Let’s first look at how you articulated our goals to others. Did you scream it from the rooftop after too much champagne? Or maybe you scribbled it in the sand before the tide came in? Either way, you found some way to tell others what your goals are for this year. But after that night, did you write them out somewhere? A place you know you would read them? Because something as simple as writing on a blank page and posting it on the wall can go a long way toward helping you reach that goal, one day at a time.
Another effective method, that puts more accountability on your actions, is using an agenda. Did you reach your milestones in the time you allotted yourself?
Whichever method you decide to use, just make sure you stay aware of both: where you want to be and when you want to be there. Try to repeat the goal over and over to yourself, take the time to listen to what you are saying. This technique can up your stakes on your goals, by helping you dig deep and finding the real motivators behind them.
How to Motivate Yourself
Visualizing what you want to accomplish is important for motivation. Did you want to exercise to fit into those skinny jeans? Or did you want to give your doctor less concern about cholesterol levels? Take a few days to really listen to what the foundation is for your goals. Something you can do to help determine motivation is weighing the pros and cons of your thought process on making these changes: What am I gaining? What am I avoiding?
Motivating factors can be described as:
1 Fear: “If you don’t do the dishes you’re not going out tonight!”
2 Incentive: “If you meet your sales quota this month you’ll get a $1000 bonus on your paycheck”
3 Intrinsic (attitude/internal): “I complete this 5km run because doing so gives me a sense of accomplishment – and I know it’s good for my physical and mental health.”
By now you should start getting a clearer picture of where your goals are being formulated. Have you found something you’re passionate about? Is there something you know you have been putting off for years? Use this awareness to embracing your purpose for this year. I am not trying to make you uncomfortable by overwhelming you with an overarching reason for your actions, but rather trying to draw out some accountability about how you act towards your goal. As these actions are rooted in how your goals are presented to you, both internally and externally.
Internal (intrinsic) vs. External (extrinsic) Motivation:
● Internal motivation comes from the fulfillment of self-gratification
● External motivation comes from outside the learner in the forms of tangible rewards and punishments such as competition, grades, awards, promotion, pay, etc.
Where to begin?
If you’d like to inquire about goal setting and motivation treatment and help in Mississauga or Bradford Ontario at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.
Taylor, J. (2013). Personal Growth: Motivation: The Drive to Change. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201201/personal-growth-motivation-the-drive-change
N.A. (2013) NALD: BDAA. Canada’s Literacy and Essential Skills Network. Retrieved from: www.nald.ca/adultlearningcourse/glossary.htm
Ham, V., Davey, R., Fenaughty, J. (2013). Proceedings from the 16th International Conference on Thinking (ICOT). International Conference on Thinking. Retrieved from: http://icot2013.core-ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Proceedings-ICOT-2013.pdf#page=181
So you made some New Year’s resolutions. This time you’ll save more money, or lose weight, or drink more water, or not stress so much or… whatever decision you made to improve your life. You are so determined to stick to them, because THIS time, you won’t quit; you’ll make it. This time is different! And, after a few weeks, you start slacking until, little by little, you give up and go back to your old habits. Does this scenario sound familiar?
If you gave up on your New Year’s resolutions don’t feel bad. Research found that 80% of people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions for more than about a month and a half. But why are we so bad at it? It’s because we’re all human, and we all struggle with doing what we should do vs. doing what we enjoy doing. Moreover, we easily fall into “False Hope Syndrome”. In other words, we often underestimate the likely speed, amount, ease and consequences of changing our behavior. Finally, overthinking is maybe #1 enemy to sticking to your resolutions.
So, instead of falling into the same trap again, it’s time to start the year off right. You need the real plan of action; not just the plain “decision” that’s nothing more than a wish. Call today 289-231-8479 to book your appointment and create your own life plan.
As we’re rolling to the new year, I have one very important advice for you: Don’t do new years resolutions!
Goal setting is a daily, weekly, monthly habit, not just for the 1st of January.
Have a spectacular 2010!!