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Motivation: How to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated! (The Ultimate Guide)

how to get motivated for exercise and stay motivated

How to Get Motivated

Motivation.

It’s a word we often use to beat ourselves up. At some point, you’ve likely thought, “if I had the motivation, I’d (fill in the blank)” or “I just need to get motivated to (fill in the blank)” about weight loss, meal planning, exercise, you name it. I’d like to dig a little deeper into my perspective of motivation. Hopefully, this will remove any guilt you may have about your current lifestyle habits to assist you in moving toward your health improvement goals!

Motivation is a finicky thing. It’s something we all wish we had more of and have a hard time conjuring up. Why is that? What’s to blame? Often clients blame a lack of progress on their ‘lack of willpower’ or ‘laziness’.  I respectfully disagree.

I believe a perceived lack of motivation or willpower can stem from a number of different things such as:

  • Not knowing your ‘why’
  • Starting a goal too soon
  • Not analyzing the pros and cons of a change
  • Not having a plan before starting a goal
  • And/or working on too many goals at one time

I challenge you to take 5 minutes to think about the goals you have for your life. They could be physical health, mental health, spiritual health, financial health, or work/ life goals. Answer these few questions:

  1. What is the first goal that comes to mind?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how are these goals going?
  3. How motivated do you feel about this goal?

If you answered the last question saying you feel motivated, then feel free to skip ahead (although reading this entire blog post will likely still benefit you)!

If you answered the last question saying that you are less motivated than you’d like, keep reading! Here’s how to get motivated.

how to get motivated and stay motivated

Know your ‘why’ is key to getting motivated!

Why is that you are wanting to make a change? What are you hoping to gain by accomplishing this goal? Try to be as specific as possible. If your goal is to eat healthier, maybe it’s having increased energy throughout the day. If your goal is weight loss, think beyond the number on the scale! Maybe your ‘why’ is reducing joint pain or being able to bend over more easily.

Having a specific why that you will notice on the day-to-day will help keep you motivated for the long-term. It will be easier to keep moving towards your goal when progress inevitable gets hard. When you have figured out your ‘why’, write it down! As the weeks go on, write how things are going, your successes (even small ones), and challenges (big and small). This will be a great reference point to see where you started from and remember how far you’ve come. Identifying challenges can also help you work through them.

Am I Ready for Change?

Before we start working toward a goal, we need to be at a place in our life where we are ready for change. Change is hard. It does not come easily.

There are 6 different stages of change:

  • Pre-Contemplation (Not yet considering change, unwilling or unable to change)
  • Contemplation (Considering the possibility to change, though no plans at this time)
  • Preparation (Committed to making change though haven’t started yet and still considering what to do
  • Action (Making steps toward change)
  • Maintenance (The goal has been achieved and working to maintain change)
  • Relapse (Resumption of old behaviors, cycle back to action phase)

In order for us to be ready to start working toward a goal, we need to be at least in the preparation phase. Anything before that is just wishful thinking. If we start a goal before we are ready, we can usually force the change for a week or two but will often find that we backslide pretty quickly. This is frustrating and can lead to self-doubt which doesn’t benefit anyone!

Goal Analysis- What am I Gaining? What Am I Losing?

When setting or working toward a goal, we often forget that we usually need to give something up or change something in order to meet that goal. In essence, there are pros and cons to every goal.

For example: Say you want to increase your exercise from walking at home 2 miles once per week to taking exercise classes at the YMCA 4x weekly. Sounds like all positive, no negatives, right? Well, let’s take a bit of a deeper dive into an example below…

Pros:

  • Improve physical fitness
  • Decrease chances of chronic diseases
  • Improve mood and attitude toward your body after exercising

Cons:

  • Increased time commitment (drive to YMCA, take class, drive home)
  • Need for childcare
  • Increased financial commitment of adding on a YMCA membership

In order for us to be most successful toward achieving a goal, the pros have to outweigh the cons. If they don’t, we need to do several things:

  • Analyze what we can do to reduce the amount of cons
  • Re-evaluate our goal to something more realistic

If a client had started on this goal without analyzing the pros and cons and found themselves not meeting the goal that was set, they may have blamed lack of motivation. In reality, I would argue that they had unintentionally set themselves up for failure from the beginning. This is because they did not think about the implications of this goal. We all have busy lives and there are a lot of factors that go into making any sort of change. We have to be careful not to underestimate the commitment (time, financial, or other) that we may need to be successful with our goal.

S.M.A.R.T.E.R Goals for Motivation 

If we know our ‘why’, have completed a mental check to ensure we are in the preparation or action stage for our goal, and have analyzed the pros/cons (and the pros win out), then it’s time to figure out the details. We have determined how we will get motivated. Now we determine how we will accomplish our goal!

When it comes to goal setting, S.M.A.R.T.E.R is a great acronym to make sure we are thinking through the plan for our goal.

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Time-bound

Evaluated

Rewarded

If you aren’t familiar with S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals check out this video where I talk about it more in depth!

Example:

Traditional Goal: I want to increase my exercise routine.

S.M.A.R.T.E.R: By next month I want to increase my walking from 5 miles per week to 10 miles per week. I will track and evaluate my progress on MyFitnessPal. If I meet my goal, I will treat myself to a new pair of running shoes.

Limit Your Goals

This may sound counterintuitive but as I mentioned above, change is hard. At the end of each session I talk with my clients about their goals. I try to encourage them to limit to 2-3 goals at a time and build on as they meet the goals they previously set. We obviously want to succeed at the goals we set, so we need to be careful to avoid over-committing ourselves!

how to get motivated to exercise

Overview: How to Get Motivated

It is essential to take the time to honestly determine your ‘why’, assess your stage of change, analyze the pros/cons of a goal, and create a S.M.A.R.T.E.R goal. In this process you may find out that you aren’t ready to start a goal, or that the cons outweigh the pros. That’s okay! It’s much better to be honest with yourself before starting a goal than to try to force it. That doesn’t mean you give up completely, it just means that you may need to be a bit more creative. Take some time to think about the following:

  1. Is there a way to modify the goal to be more realistic?
  2. Are there barriers in your life that prevent you from moving forward? If so, is there a path to remove or lessen these barriers?
  3. Can you cut the goal in half, decrease the intensity, or increase the time you hope to meet the goal?

For the goals that make it through the process, you will inherently have more motivation and success because of the planning that has gone into it! By doing this, you may find you reach your goal faster than you otherwise would have giving you the opportunity to work on your next goal and snowball into amazing lifestyle change!

The next time you are feeling down about your willpower, please remember this post and go through the steps listed above. You’ve got this!

Have goals that you are ready to move towards? Learn more about our weight loss coaching here.