Keep Your Motivation Up

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When we start out with lifestyle changes our motivation levels are usually pretty high, we feel ready to take on the world, confident that we’ll be able to follow through with whatever it is we’re trying to do. But these motivation levels almost invariably taper off, leaving us with the usually unconscious question of whether to keep going or to choose some acceptable rationalization that will let us off the hook.

The New Year is especially suited for thinking about how to keep nourishing those motivation levels because you can understand what we’re talking about experientially not just theoretically. January 1st is a powerful human symbol, it compels us to come to terms with another 365 in the books, reminding us that time keeps marching forward, that we’re not immortal, that our self-actualization can’t wait because time doesn’t wait. Most of us make resolutions in the hopes of improving our situations.

The problem is that all of the energy and excitement you’re feeding off of is transitory. People are going to get back to their routines, and so are you. The question is how to keep your motivation up in the long-term, to follow through with your lifestyle changes. Psychologically speaking, the best insight is that these levels simply aren’t sustainable. It’s like at a foot race where the gun goes off and everyone sprints madly out of the gates. You really want to get off to a good start, plus everyone around you is sprinting, so you follow suit. But no one can keep up that level for long. Each runner has to find an individual pace that can be sustained throughout the race.

You’ve got to do the same with your New Year’s resolution. Use that energy out of the gates while you have it, but be aware that it’s not sustainable. Try to be mindful in the coming days or weeks when you start to feel your motivation levels tapering off. You’ve got to find a pace that works for you, just like a long distance runner. Unconsciously, you might think the choice is either to find a way to keep going at the same pace or to quit entirely, but like we wrote recently doing a little is better than doing nothing. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice, the ebb and flow of motivation levels is normal, something all of us who are in it for the long haul must come to terms with and work around. This means finding a level of activity that keeps you on course but doesn’t burn you out. Stay mindful of when to pull back and when to push forward, adjusting your behavioral output to what you’re actually capable of doing that day. Most importantly, hold fast to your underlying determination, refuse to give yourself an out, decide right now that you’re going to keep going, staying focused on your goal no matter how you are feeling.