With the start of the new year, tons of people are pumped up, excited, and ready to finally make a change. “2013! This is the year where things are going to be different! Woooo!”
It’s definitely a great feeling but don’t count on it lasting forever. Various studies show that this “motivation high” people feel at the beginning of each year drops dramatically within the first few months. A prime example is gym attendance.
According to an article in Men’s Health, “12 percent of new gym members join in January, with some clubs seeing an increase of 30 to 50 percent.” By March, new member attendance diminishes considerably. Of the members who keep their membership year round, the average person hits the gym only 54 times a year, about once a week.
While at the gym yesterday, I heard the DJ on the radio saying, “Are you tired of the gym being crowded all of the sudden? Don’t worry, by the end of the month, it’ll be back to normal.”
When your motivation is high, taking action is easy. Once it starts to dwindle down, it can be a lot tougher. You might not be aiming to get fit and that’s fine. I only brought that example up because fitness related goals are usually in the top 3 of top new year resolutions each year. This experience of crashing after a motivation high happens with all kinds of goals.
You’ve probably experienced this in the past. The new year starts, you’re determined and get right to working on your goals. Things are going well for the first couple of weeks or even the first month but then all of the sudden, you find yourself a bit less motivated. You might skip taking action for a day or two due to your very reasonable excuses.
The next thing you know, you start slipping more and more and before you know it, you feel like you have to “start over” and some of you do while others become discouraged and quit, at least until next January.
So what can you do to prevent yourself from giving up on your goals only to end up setting the same ones again next year when the motivation high returns? Here are 5 tips that can help.
1. Start Small
With your motivation at a high, it can be easy to want to do a ton of things all at once. It’s great to take action but aim for sustainable action. Assuming that your goal will take longer than a few months to accomplish, see the journey to your goal as a marathon rather than a sprint. If you go all out from the beginning, you will end up burning yourself out. This is especially true if your goal is fitness related.
Instead of changing your entire diet all in one day, try making small, gradual changes. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not just some temporary, quick fix diet. This mentality will help prevent you from getting on diets where you’re hating every second of it and feeling totally deprived.
If your goal is to advance your business, don’t go from working 8 hours a day to 16 hours a day the next day. If your goal is to learn an instrument, don’t go from zero practice to 6 hours a day. For some, drastic changes can work but for most of us, gradual changes is the key.
A big reason for this is when you’re highly motivated, taking massive action is easy. Making huge changes doesn’t seem to bother you so much. The problem is, your motivation level won’t stay high forever. Sooner or later, it’s going to decrease and once it does, these big changes you just made may suddenly feel completely overwhelming. This will likely cause you to take less action and just by taking less action, you may feel like you’re not as committed leading you to feel discouraged and quit.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. The point of starting small is to introduce a new set of actions that will eventually become habits. Once your new actions become habits, your level of motivation will play a less significant role on whether or not you take action. In other words, taking action on your goals will become a lot easier. This is the main goal of making gradual changes.
If you need some tips on creating new habits, check out my article on Habit Linking.
2. Get Support
Some people do fine pursuing a goal by themselves but for others, having some support can do wonders. From friends and family members who have similar goals to coaches or mentors who can push you and help keep you on track, having others who will encourage you will give you more reasons to stay on track.
If your goal is to get fit and you decide to find a workout partner, my advice is to tag along with someone who has already developed the habit of working out or at least someone who is actually serious. Partner with someone who constantly flakes and makes excuses and it will likely lower your motivation. This goes for any other goal you may have. Find someone who will lift you up and not let you go back on your commitment.
For people wanting to get fit and can’t find anyone to share the journey with, check out My Fitness Pal. It’s a forum full of people who will help motivate you to stick with your fitness goals.
If you want to read stories of people from teens to men to women to people over 40 transforming their bodies as well as how they did it such as their workouts and what they ate, see this page (scroll down toward the bottom).
3. Aim for Progress
Improvements, no matter how small, is a good thing. Instead of looking at the distance between where you are and where you want to be and feeling discouraged, look at where you were yesterday or last week and where you are today. As long as you made some progress, you’re headed in the right direction.
Here’s a trap that many people fall into. When they first start working on a goal, they will see some very good progress and because of this, they now expect to see that same level of increase every time and when it doesn’t happen, they become discouraged.
Take the average person trying to lose weight. They may lose 5 or even 10 pounds their first week and get totally excited but by their 4th week, they might only lose 2 pounds. So how do you mentally deal with this?
The first thing is to keep in mind that your rate of progress will fluctuate and is often times much higher in the beginning. In fact, there will even be some weeks where you’ll go in reverse in terms of progress. Don’t let that phase you. Keep at it.
The second thing you may want to do is to check your progress less frequently. So instead of weighing yourself once a week, do it once every 2 weeks. Sometimes, you just have to patient and not expect too much too soon.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts and progress may help as well. Often times, just the process of writing down your challenges will help you come up with solutions to deal with them as well as get your motivation back up.
4. Re-motivate Yourself
Motivation doesn’t last. If the goal is to take action until it becomes a habit, then it’s important to re-motivate yourself so that you can follow through on those actions. In other words, you need to resell yourself on why putting in the work and time is worth it.
If you’re on that new year motivation high at the moment, capture this feeling by writing down all of the reasons why you must accomplish your goal. Along with that, also write down how you’re going to deal with days when your motivation is low and you don’t feel like taking action. Better yet, record a video of yourself telling your future self why you need to keep pushing forward and why you mustn’t give up.
Another thing that can help is to break your goal down into stages and every time you complete a stage, reward yourself. Celebrate those milestones. You don’t have to wait until you reach the goal 100% to tell yourself you’re doing a good job. These small rewards can help link up the feeling of satisfaction to taking action. You can also use anchoring.
One more tip is to read inspirational stories and biographies from people who succeeded in hitting the goals you’re after. When we see someone who is successful at something, it’s easy to forget that it took them a ton of work which also involved overcoming a lot of challenges to get there. Reading success stories can help remind you that the journey isn’t always easy and you’ll have your ups and downs but it’ll be worth it.
5. Be Flexible
Just taking action isn’t enough. If you’re doing the wrong things, you won’t get the results you’re after. This is why it’s important to measure the results you’re getting from your actions. Take note of what’s working and what’s not working and simply do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working.
Sometimes, you may find that your entire plan is off and you’ll have to change what you’re doing completely even if it means changing careers or quitting your current path in order to follow a new path up the same mountain. It could even mean taking several steps back in order to move further ahead. You may even have to drop all of your goals and just focus solely on one goal.
There’s no point in continuing to do what doesn’t work.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun
When possible, come up with ways to make taking action more enjoyable. It’s going to be tough to stick to a new routine if you absolutely hate it. If you hate running, take up a sport. If you own a business and there is a task you have to do but hate doing, see if you can hire someone else to do it. Try turning on some music while you do what needs to be done. If you could associate positive feelings to taking action, you’ll be more likely to stick your plan long enough for it to become a habit.
New Years 2014
If you stick to your goals and accomplish them, think about how exciting 2014 will be. You can actually move up to bigger and better things.
At the end of the year, you will either be filled with regret and wish you had stuck with your goals OR you will be able to celebrate because you did.
I’ll end this article with a video of a little girl encouraging you to not give up.
Hopefully, if the times comes where you feel like giving up, you’ll be reminded of her voice encouraging you on.