How to Maintain Motivation

A patient told me once that the concept of motivation is simple. If you want something bad enough, you will be like Nike and “Just Do It.” While I agree in some way that motivation is that simple, there can be so many factors that influence whether we “just do it” or not. I find for myself that a lot of motivation and adherence to new goals stems from my mental capacity on any given day. I wanted to provide a few tips of things I have learned from personal experience and from working with my clients to help increase your motivation and follow through on new goals and commitments.

Strengthen Your Internal Dialog

Motivation to adhere to a new exercise regimen, diet program, or any health goal is very high initially, but as life progresses and stress and emotion come into play, it’s easy to lose lust for the goal. Even one mis-step can make it difficult to stay on track. That’s when we want to rely on our inner voices to support us. Knowing what types of encouragement you respond to can help a lot, especially so you can learn what to say to yourself and when is best to say it. For example, develop a mantra that is pointed at an issue close to your heart, and it will remind you why this goal is important, such as, “Getting on the treadmill is better than diabetes,” “Just walk away from that sugar! You will feel so proud of yourself when you do,” or even the old, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” These mantras can be created from previous experiences, which strengthens your response to them. I strongly encouraged you to keep them positive. Very few people respond well to negative comments like, “Come on you lazy piece of work! Get to the gym!” Most of us tend to fight negative thoughts about ourselves frequently, so make sure your mantras are positive and suited for you.

Create Visual Cues

If you are a visual person, having a picture of what you are working for or trying to achieve can be very helpful and will assist you with adhering to your program. I have had clients hang a bathing suit in their closets, if they are trying to get in shape before an upcoming vacation or create a chart and check off the days that they followed through on their goals. One patient of mine taped an insulin pen to his bathroom mirror to remind himself of what could happen if he does not make the dietary changes we discussed. While it may sound extreme to some it worked for him because it was a daily reminder of why these changes were important. It is hard to maintain your motivation to make a new change in your life if you do not remember WHY this is important to you. Visual cues are an extremely simple and effective way of keeping your passion present for your goal and will result in more devotion to your plan.

If you are exhausted and stressed… WAIT!

Take it from a new mom, when you are exhausted and stressed due to a life change or an outstanding circumstance, do not start a new goal at that time unless it is very small and very achievable. Getting a good night sleep is vital to resetting your will power daily, and if you are not getting a solid 7-8 hours each night, fix that first. In terms of stress, it sucks up so much of our mental capacity. Making a new habit requires a lot of decision making and discipline, so it is beneficial to have the stressor coped with first, prior to making a change. Things like meditation, acts of gratitude, and getting fresh air can assist with improving both sleep and stress. Try to address both areas prior to the start of a new goal.

Review and Reinvent

If you are someone who has worked at a goal for a long time, using the same motivational strategy can get stale and lead to inconsistencies in implementation. If you begin to have difficulties with meeting a goal, take the time to review the past few months, assess what is going on, and reinvent your “why” factor, as in, why this is important to you now. Our desires and motivators in life change as we age, get married, become parents, or learn new things about who we are. It is important to ensure you are using what you learn about yourself to assist you with motivation. As a new mom, my motivation for working out is to keep myself mentally happy and to ensure I can run around with my son for hours as he grows. But before he was born, I trained for competitions and aesthetic reasons. While those factors may become my motivators again in a few years, they were not cutting it now, so I reassessed why routine exercise was important to me and then built my new motivators from that.

It is always important to remind yourself that health and weight management is a journey, but since life throws us curve balls every day, having strong motivation and reasons to stay on track is important. It is also important to know yourself and be able to tell yourself the right things to stay on track in a positive light. So, you can be like Nike and “Just Do It,” but make sure you have the motivators and mantras to keep that up each day!

In Health & Happiness, Jessica Murgueytio MS.RD.LD.CDE

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