Whenever we set goals—especially weight loss goals—things usually start off pretty well. You skip the cookie aisle, sign up for spin class, and start whipping up Zero Belly smoothies every morning. Then life happens and before you know it, you’re driving 90 mph blowing kisses at your promises in the rear view mirror. “See you Monday,” “I’ll be back next month” or “When things finally slow down…” you say.
The truth is, getting motivated is easy. But staying motivated, even under the best possible circumstances, is hard. More than 90 percent of people who set out to make a new lifestyle change this year will fail. Except you! Not this time. From goal setting, time management and planning, to practicing self-compassion, here are 40 of the best-ever motivational tips! And if you need ideas for where to put your focus, check out these 50 Little Goals That Can Change Your Life.
START WHERE YOU ARE
According to science, something in motion tends to stay in motion. No matter where you are or what you hope to accomplish, start today. Once you begin, you are that much more likely to keep going thanks to the power of momentum.
GET OFF THE FAILURE TREADMILL
As Julie Andrews once said, "Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th." Try again.
SET SPECIFIC GOALS AND WRITE THEM DOWN
According to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not. And the more specific they were, the more likely the individual was to accomplish them.
MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF
Change is hard. When you are starting something new, make it foolproof. If your goal is to workout five days a week, join a gym that’s less than five minutes from work. If you’re trying to ditch those love handles, get rid of all junk food in your house. Want to fall asleep earlier? Turn off all electronics before you get into bed. Remove the temptation and make room for the results.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Whether you want to remodel your home or run a marathon, you don’t just wing it on game day, right? Ironically, this is one of the top reasons why less than 10 percent of people achieve their New Year Resolutions; they simply don't plan out how they will succeed. Don’t be part of this statistic. Buy a planner, use sticky notes, make lists—whatever works for you. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
In a Harvard University article on setting goals and classroom achievement, researchers cite early success opportunities with “future performances and self-efficacy by increasing their sense of competence.” In other words, providing students with tasks that they can achieve early on, increases the likelihood of them achieving more challenging concepts later on. The same holds true when it comes to achieving a significant goal. Start with attainable goals and gradually work your way to the more challenging tasks.
START A PINTEREST BOARD
Whether you want to start working out or redecorating, Pinterest is a great place to start. It’s also a place to come back to when you find you are lacking motivation and need to refocus.
RACE THE CLOCK
If you waited to get Christmas presents until the week of, chances are you also were the student who did their research paper the night before it was due. You may have still been able to get all your shopping done last-minute or pull off an A in college, but procrastination is not your friend when it comes to chasing your dreams. And as important as it is to define what you want, it’s just as crucial to define when. In fact, a recent article published by Duke University found that setting specific deadlines for your goals helps to control procrastination.
PICK MEANINGFUL GOALS
According to a study at the Institute for Social Research, if students don’t perceive their goals as meaningful or valued, their engagement with goal attainment progress will diminish. Don’t make it a priority to run a road race if you hate running or get a promotion if you hate your job. Make a list of things that are important to you and pick something that really matters.
DEVELOP YOUR WHY
“As my Biggest Loser trainer Jennifer Widerstrom said, ‘Remember your why!’ Why did you lose the weight in the first place? Why did you decide to get healthy? Get back to your why and remind yourself of it every day,” says Sonya Jones, an Illinois-based PE teacher who lost 104 pounds on The Biggest Loser. “This simple exercise can make it far easier to stay on track with your new healthy lifestyle.” If you don’t know why you want to achieve your body goals, it makes it that much harder to resist that extra slice of pizza.
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DIVIDE AND CONQUER
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a huge goal or project in front of you. And often when we feel overwhelmed, we procrastinate. Instead, break the task into smaller parts and tackle them one by one. For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds, aim to lose 1-3 pounds a week. It may not seem like much, but after just two months, that is 16-18 pounds!
HOLD YOURSELF BACK
We are often so eager to begin that we give everything we have right away. Take running a race for example. If you take off from the starting line at your full speed and max effort, you’ll be winded by the second lap. The best runners are the ones who know when to hold back and when to go all out.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WINNERS
You are the company you keep, so be choosey. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers discovered that when it came to resisting temptations—like eating french fries, skipping the gym or drinking one too many cocktails—friends are often more likely to sin together. Surround yourself with individuals who already have the qualities you wish to possess.
ESTABLISH A DAILY ROUTINE
Routine provides structure and structure creates discipline. “When I studied the creative lives of massively productive people like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Thomas Edison, I discovered they followed strict daily routines, like when they would get up, when they would start work, when they would exercise and when they would relax,” says Robin Sharma, author and leadership expert.
GET UP EARLIER
According to researchers, late sleepers—those who wake up around 10:45 a.m.—consume 248 more calories a day, half as many fruits and vegetables, and twice the amount fast food than those who set their alarm earlier! That’s enough to make us set are alarm an hour earlier. And to discover how to get a washboard stomach in just five weeks, don’t miss this essential list of the 5 Best-Ever Foods for Abs—Guaranteed!
BE A BEGINNER
Every expert was once a beginner. To truly excel at anything, you must start with the basics. However, Carol Rogers, psychologist and founder of the humanistic approach to psychotherapy, also emphasizes the importance of 'learning to learn' through being open to change. In other words, you must understand that while you can obtain a wide abundance of knowledge, you will never have all the answers because that knowledge is always changing.
A 2012 study published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that competition encourages participants to increase their performance. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, run faster or increase sales, start a challenge. A little friendly competition goes a long way on the road to achievement.
DITCH THE FEAR
Too often we stay in a job we hate or at a weight that makes us uncomfortable because to avoid change. And change involves risk. If you find yourself apprehensive about taking a leap, ask yourself two questions: First, “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” and second, “can I live with that?”
Self-compassion is defined as one’s ability to offer compassion to oneself through inadequacy or hardship. And when it comes to achieving success, a certain level of self-compassion is required. In fact, in one study, researchers manipulated participants level of self-compassion by having them write about a personal shortcoming and dividing them into two groups. The self-compassion group wrote from a place of compassion and understanding while the latter was asked to validate their positive qualities. Following the exercise, they were then asked to rate the degree to which they thought their weakness was permanent. The self-compassion group saw weakness as more changeable than the self-esteem group. The takeaway: People who are self-compassionate are better able to see shortcomings as a challenge that can be overcome.
SCHEDULE A WORKOUT DATE
A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study of nearly 4,000 couples found that people are more likely to stick to healthy habits like exercise when they team up with their partner.
TRY TRACKING YOUR PROGRESS
When it comes to tracking your progress, it’s twofold. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that when they reminded successful dieters of their progress and then offered them a choice between an apple and a chocolate bar as a reward, 85 percent of them chose the chocolate bar over the apple. And when they weren’t reminded, just 58 percent went for the indulgent treat. Reminding the dieters how successful they had been made them feel the need to reward themselves. However, what happens when what you’re doing is ineffective, and you aren’t tracking it? You remain stuck. Social psychologist, Thomas Webb and his colleagues at the University of Sheffield point out that regularly checking your weight loss and fitness can alert you to the ineffectiveness of your exercise regime, allowing you to make modifications and thus, progress towards your goals.
SWITCH IT UP
Don’t do the same thing every single day and expect to stay excited. Dr. Thomas Goetz from the University of Konstanz and Thurgau University of Teacher Education found that when students are bored, their value of academic achievement suffers. AKA boredom isn’t going to help you reach your full potential so switch it up! Take a new workout class, find a new recipe on Pinterest, try more than one method, etc.
MAKE WEEKLY PLAYLISTS
Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges on any journey. Luckily, something as simple as making playlists can do the trick. Whether it’s hitting the pavement, getting to the gym or even, having a productive day at work, making a playlist can get you inspired and set the tone for your workout and day.
PRACTICE INTERVAL TRAINING
While interval training on the treadmill will fight boredom, boost metabolism and burn fat, interval training at work is equally as important. Just like our body requires recovery, so does our brain. To maximize productivity, work in 90-minute blocks with 10-minute intervals to recover and refuel.
SHARE YOUR PROGRESS
In a 2013 research study published in Translational Behavioral Medicine, participants who published their weight loss progress on Twitter lost more weight than those who kept their progress to themselves.
FIND AN ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP OR PARTNER
When Matthews studied how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by accountability, she found that more that 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported either accomplishing their goal or being more than half way there (as opposed to the 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves). Another study published online in Health Promotion Practice found that people who received weekly text reminders of their daily “calorie budget” and motivational emails made healthier meal and snack choices. Solicit a friend or take matters into your hands and set up labeled alarms on your smartphone.
MAKE YOUR BED EVERY MORNING
Before you brush your teeth, get dressed and run out the door, make your bed. Small tasks provide a sense of accomplishment, and if you start your day with accomplishment, you’ll finish it that way as well.
USE YOUR COMMUTE TIME
If your commute is close to four hours a day, that means you spend roughly 25 percent of your week traveling (assuming you get six hours of shut-eye). That’s a huge chunk of your week that you may or may not be using productively. Listen to a podcast while you’re driving or review work plans and academic journals on the train. Use your time efficiently.
KEEP A JOURNAL
Writing your emotions out on paper helps relieve stress and anxiety that can cause emotional eating. In a recent study, women who were unhappy with their weight were asked to complete a one-time, 15-minute writing exercise about an important personal issue went on to lose at least three pounds over a three-month period; their counterparts, who wrote about an unimportant topic, gained three pounds, says Biggest Loser dietitian and author of A Small Guide to Losing Big Cheryl Forberg. Free yourself of the feeling munchies and get writing. For more weight loss hacks, check out these 25 Ways to Lose Weight in 5 Seconds.
If your desk looks like a bomb just went off and you’re forever running late (or missing appointments altogether), it’s time to get organized. Find each item a home, develop a system for managing appointments, hobbies, and obligations, and ditch the clutter. The more organized you, the better equipped you are to handle whatever is thrown at you.
LIMIT TV TIME
According to Nielsen, the average American watches approximately 153 hours of TV every month at home. That’s about five hours a day, on your tush, in front of a screen. Five hours that could be spent running errands, taking a spin class, reading a book, meeting a friend for coffee, and making dinner instead of ordering takeout. Allow yourself 2-3 hours of tube time a week or ditch it all together. We have enough screens in front of us all day.
GO TO BED EARLIER
Attention night owls: According to researchers, getting eight and a half hours of shut-eye each night can drop cravings for junk food a whopping 62 percent and decrease overall appetite by 14 percent!
It’s easy to forget things we need to do. Making lists not only ensures we get it all done, but it also makes us feel accomplished!
ESTABLISH AN EATING SCHEDULE
Experts say that building schedules around food can help you duplicate this success yourself. “To ensure I stay on track—no matter when I roll out of bed—I eat within an hour of waking, eat every four or five hours after that and stop noshing two hours before bedtime,” advises Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of a Manhattan-based private practice, The NY Nutrition Group. Not sure what to pack? Check out these 50 Snacks With 50 Calories or Less!
ADOPT A MANTRA
Although short and sweet, mantras are awfully mighty. They can relieve stress, keep you happy and motive you. If you don’t have a word or saying that works its magic on you yet, find one to help you reach your goals.
While there may be areas in life where multitasking is useful, recent studies have found that multitasking reduces your productivity by 40 percent. Not is it only ineffective, but according to a study at the University of Sussex, multitasking can damage your brain. This is because when we multitask, we are usually not doing multiple things at the same time, but rather, switching back and forth and thus, compromising our performance and retention for each task. The constant interruption in our brains also causes stress, reducing reaction time. Instead of being a dabbler, practice having laser focus on one goal at a time.
KNOW YOUR PEAK HOURS
Are you a morning person or do you perform best at night? Do you become unproductive at a certain time every day at work? Practice self-awareness so that you can use your peak time more efficiently.
REWARD YOURSELF, OFTEN
Dating back to 1938, BF Skinner coined the term operant conditioning, which meant changing behavior to obtain a desired response through reinforcement. In his studies on rats, he used positive reinforcement by placing a hungry rat in a box with lever. Each time the rats accidentally hit the lever, food would drop into the container. Over time, the rats knew to go directly to the lever. While rewarding ourselves with food is not recommended (especially if you’re on a diet), you can treat yourself to a new workout outfit, a hot bath or a mini Netflix binge. Just like with the rats, small rewards ensure you continue the desired behavior. Find out more of the 50 Best-Ever Weight-Loss Secrets From Skinny People.
PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE
A recent report from the Informate Mobile Intelligence found that American’s check their social media accounts 17 times a day. That means we are on our phones every single waking hour. It’s no wonder we are more distracted than ever. Make a conscious effort to be present and give your undivided attention to your goals.
DITCH THE PERFECTION
And remember: progress, not perfection.