Motivation and The Power of not giving up
Have you ever tried to lose weight, make honor roll, get picked for a team, or challenge yourself by reaching some other goal? Like lots of people, maybe you started out doing great, but then lost some of that drive and had trouble getting motivated again.
The reality is that refocusing, changing, or making a new start on something, no matter how small, is a big deal. But it's not impossible. With the right approach, you can definitely do it.
- and Staying - Motivated
First, know your goal. Start by writing down your major goal. Your major goal is the ultimate thing you'd like to see happen. For example, "I want to make honor roll," or "I want to lose weight in time for prom," or even, "I want to play in the Olympics" are all major goals because they're the final thing the goal setter wants to see happen (obviously, some goals take longer and require more work than others). It's OK to dream big - this is how many people accomplish stuff. You just have to remember that the bigger the goal, the more work it takes to get there.
Make it specific. It's easier to plan for and master a specific goal than a vague one. Let's say your goal is to lose weight. That's pretty vague. Make it specific by defining how much weight you want to lose, why, and by when. This helps you make a plan to reach your goal. It takes longer to lose 20 pounds than 5, so you'll have to build in more time for that.
Make it realistic. People often abandon their goals because their expectations are unreasonable. Maybe they expect to get ripped abs in weeks rather than months, or to quit smoking easily after years of lighting up. Let's say you want to run a marathon. If you try to run the entire distance of 26.2 miles tomorrow without any training, you're unlikely to succeed. It takes the average person 4 months of training to run that far! But the bigger risk is that you'll get so bummed out that you'll give up your marathon dreams - and running - altogether.
Part of staying motivated is being realistic about what you can achieve within the timeframe you've planned. Losing 10 pounds in time for prom is doable if it's a month away. But if prom is this Saturday, it's impossible to lose that much weight in time. Likewise, competing on the Olympic ski team is a workable goal if you are 15 and already a star skier. But if you're 18 and only just taking your first lesson, time isn't exactly on your side.
Write it down. Put your specific goal in writing. Then write it down again. And again. Research shows that writing down a goal is part of the mental process of committing to it. Write your goal down every day to keep you focused and remind you how much you want it.
Break it down. Making any change takes self-discipline. You need to pay constant attention so you don't get sidetracked. One way to make this easier is to break a big goal into small steps. Let's go back to our example of losing 10 pounds in time for prom: Say you have a month to go, so your goal is reachable. But how do you actually go about it?
First break your goal into smaller mini-goals (like losing 3 pounds the first 2 weeks and 2 pounds a week after that). Then set specific daily tasks, like eating five servings of fruit and veggies and getting 30 minutes of exercise a day. Put these on a calendar or planner so you can check them off.
It's the same process if your goal is to run a marathon. Let's say it's February and the marathon is in August - a realistic timeframe to prepare. Start by planning to run 2 miles and work up gradually to the distance you need. Ask a coach to help you set doable mini-goals for additional mile amounts and for tasks to improve your performance, such as exercises to build strength and stamina so you'll stay motivated to run farther.
Reaching frequent, smaller goals is something to celebrate. It gives you the confidence, courage, and motivation to keep dieting, running, or doing whatever it is you're aiming to do, so reward yourself!
Write down small goals too, so you can track what you need to do, check off tasks as you complete them, and enjoy knowing that you're moving toward your big goal. (Writing down specific steps has another advantage - if you're feeling weak on willpower you can look at your list to help you refocus!
Heck in with your goal. Now that you've broken your goal down into a series of mini-goals and daily tasks, check in every day.
As you accomplish a task, check it off on your list. Tell yourself, "Hey, I've lost 4 pounds, I'm nearly halfway to my goal!" Reward yourself with something you promised yourself when you set your goal. Feel successful - you are! Now think ahead to accomplishing the rest of your goal: "Now how am I going to take care of the last 6 pounds without gaining back the 4 I've lost?"
Recommit to your goal if you slip up. If you slip up, don't give up. Forgive yourself and make a plan for getting back on track. Pat yourself on the back for everything you did right. Don't beat yourself up, no matter how far off track you get. Most people slip up when trying to make a change - it's a natural part of the process.
Writing down daily tasks and mini-goals helps here too - because by keeping track of things, you'll quickly recognize when you've slipped up, making it easier to refocus and recommit to your goal. And you know exactly where you went wrong. So instead of feeling discouraged and saying, "It never works when I try to lose weight," you can say, "I'm not losing weight because I didn't make a daily diet plan."
What if you keep slipping up? Ask yourself if you're really committed to your goal. If you are, recommit - and put it in writing. The process of writing everything down may also help you discover when you're not really committed to a goal. For example, perhaps you're more in love with the fantasy of being a star athlete than the reality of working for it.
View slip-ups as lessons and reminders of why you're trying to make a change. When you mess up, it's not a fault - it's an opportunity to learn something new about yourself. Say your goal is to fight less with your brother or sister. You may learn that it's better to say, "I can't talk about this right now" and take time to calm down when you feel your temper growing out of control.
Keep a stick-to-it attitude. Visualize yourself achieving your goal: a slim you in your prom dress, or a successful you scoring the winning soccer goal. Self-visualization helps you keep what you're trying to accomplish in mind. It helps you believe it's possible. You can also call up your mental picture when willpower and motivation are low.
Positive self-talk also boosts your attitude and motivation. Tell yourself, "I deserve to make the honor roll because I've really been working hard" or "I look great in these shorts - I'm doing well on my exercise and diet plan!"
Another boost is having supportive people around you. Find a running buddy, a weight-loss buddy, or someone else with a similar goal so you can support each other. Having a goal buddy can make all the difference in times when you don't feel motivated - like getting up for that early-morning run.
If you're not getting support from someone when you really need it, you may need to take a break from that friendship and surround yourself with people who want to help you succeed. For instance, if you've been going to your friend's house to study together every Thursday after school, but now your pal is turning on the TV, IMing friends online, or gabbing on the phone and ignoring your pleas to get down to work, it's time to find another study buddy. You can't stay focused on your goal if your friend doesn't share that goal - or, even worse, is trying to hold you back. Seek out others who are on the same path you are and work with them instead.