At times in our lives, we all struggle with maintaining sufficient motivation to attain our goals, commit to a healthy set of behaviors, improve our relationships, or pursue our dreams. Understanding how we can increase and sustain motivation is central to achieving our goals. Below are 5 points that I have shared with patients that have been helpful in improving their understanding of how to set and achieve goals.
1)Visualization is key—Stephen Covey, the author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, likes to say that things are created twice – first in the mind and then in reality. The more specific we are when we envision our success, the more emotion and motivation we will have to persevere until it is achieved. Part of visualizing our goals entails writing them down. Highly successful people have specific, well defined goals which drive their behaviors. Successful corporations are founded based on a clear and compelling “Vision” or “Mission” statement.
2)Our goals need to be SMART:
Specific—Vague goals don’t inspire. For example, having the generic goal to lose weight is much less compelling than having the specific goal of fitting into a swimsuit, tuxedo, or wedding dress.
Measureable—i.e. I will lose 1 pound a week, I will lose 10 pounds by Christmas.
Actionable—Is it something that can actually be achieved?
Realistic—With our goals we typically overestimate what we can do in the short-term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term. For example, we may not be able to lose 60 pounds in 6 months, but this goal is definitely attainable if we realistically set out to achieve it in 1 year or 2 years.
Time Limited—By placing a time limit we will be more intentional about tracking our progress and committing to daily action.
3) Our level of motivation is directly tied to our emotional state. The French and Latin roots for motivation and emotion are similar and denote movement. Hence, emotion is the energy of movement or motion. Our emotions can either propel us or delay us in acting on our goals. We all have had times when we were in love and were willing to endure any hardship for our beloved. In contrast, we also have had times when our sadness or anxiety were so extreme that the simple act of getting out of bed was difficult. Three quick takeaways about motivation and our emotions: both are transient, both are contagious, and both cannot be faked.
a) anticipate periods when your motivation will naturally transition or wane. During these times, focus on related activities that will keep you moving towards your goal. For example, if your motivation to exercise is waning and your goal is to lose weight, focus on changing your exercise routine from yoga to cardio or shift your emphasis to nutrition more while you continue to exercise.
b) Since motivation is contagious, surround yourself with like minded people who are actively pursuing their goals. Insight and encouragement from their efforts will re-energize you.
c) Since motivation can’t be faked, reframe your goals to develop more attainable endpoints so that your efforts can be sincere and intentional. We know when we are fooling ourselves and the longer we go before confronting ourselves, the more time and motivation we lose. If we find ourselves in this state, just learn from it and start again.
4) We can’t have what we want, until we want what we have. Whatever your goal, be grateful for where you are as you embark on achieving it. For example, loving and appreciating your body as it is, will consistently lead to gratitude over any small improvements in weight or shape. On the contrary, hate and disdain may supply the initial motivation to start losing weight, but they are poor sources of inspiration when progress seems minimal and success seems distant. Start from a place of gratitude.
5) You already have everything you need to achieve your goal. A lack of resources never kept anyone from achieving their goals. A lack of desire, hunger, commitment, and passion have and do prevent people from reaching their goals everyday. Each of these traits comes from within. If you can search your mind and heart to find the reasons why you deserve to achieve your goal, these traits will naturally grow within you.
I hope this has been helpful. I look forward to assisting you in more blogs to come.
Mark Cheltenham, M.D.