The Secret to Staying Motivated on Your Goals

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Original handwriting by @LaraCasey

Feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed in this third week of 2017? You are not alone. Studies show that about half of the U.S. population makes New Year’s resolutions and, by February 1st, half of us fall off the wagon.

But, what about the other half? What about the people who make progress on their goals beyond January? Do they have a super-human gene? What’s their secret?

I used to avoid these motivated people, feeling guilt for not being one of them. But, (I can’t believe I’m typing this) I’ve become one of the other half.

No, I didn’t start drinking more coffee, or start some superfood motivation diet.

Do you want to know the secret? I started breaking the rules.

As a former personal trainer, I’ve seen the gym full on January 2nd, and then near-empty come Valentine’s Day. I’ve studied what keeps people motivated for the last five years, and here are my findings.

Motivated people know that there is nothing magical about January 1st. I repeat: there is nothing magical about January 1st. You don’t have to have the perfect plan right from the start to begin something (we often get hung up there, don’t we!?). Good things grow over time, and the little-by-little progress you make matters, no matter what day of the year it is. Motivated people don’t get hung up on perfection right from the start. In fact, they test out different systems and starting steps to see what fits best and keeps them moving forward as they begin a goal. For me, the month of January is my “testing” month. I’m getting my feet wet with my goals, learning what works and what doesn’t, and genuinely embracing progress, not perfection.

Motivated people set goals that are rooted in what matters most to them. They don’t set “traditional” goals. When I was a personal trainer, most clients would come to me with a number and say, “I want to lose ten pounds.” I would ask them, “Why ten pounds?” Usually, when we got down to it, it was an arbitrary number, or what they needed to lose to reach the weight they were in college. There was no real heart connection to the goal of losing ten pounds. But when we dug deeper into what was important to them in the big picture, motivation for true fitness started to emerge. Instead of, “I want to lose ten pounds to get back to my college weight” (not very motivating, and more guilt-inducing), we changed it to, “I will get healthy and strong so that I can live long enough to walk my daughter down the aisle.” That works. That is motivating. Connect each goal to something that matters to you in the big picture. It will help you act on your goals instead of tossing them aside.

Motivated people break the rules. Who made up the rule that we have to make perfect progress on our goals right from January 1st? Who says you can’t try different ways to cultivate your goals—or quit things that aren’t working? Who told us we have to follow a plan that fits in a box? Here’s the truth: there are a million ways to grow a garden, and everyone’s soil is completely unique! In the same way, how you cultivate your goals will be unique too.

If you aren’t feeling motivated with your goals, try one of these three things:

1. Push through and give it a fighting chance. I’m gonna pull some North Carolina history out on you: the Wright Brothers. They changed history through their persistence in failure. It takes time to move from what feels like hard work (which most things feel like when you are just starting them), to feeling like you’re in a groove.

2. Consider that your goal might need some changing. Is your goal rooted in what really matters? If not, it might be the reason you aren’t motivated! Don’t know for sure? Use these questions to help you.

3. Redirect! If an action step, routine, system, or something you are doing to cultivate your goals truly isn’t helping you, it might be an indication that you need to redirect! Try something else. It’s okay to jump ship on things that simply aren’t working.

You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them. Whether it’s January, February, or July—get to it! No perfection, perfect plans, or magic starting date required.

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