5 do's and don'ts for staying motivated

Recognizing the meaning behind your motivation will help you stick with your health goals — Even when times get tough. Learn five do's and don'ts for staying motivated.

By Mohamed A. Osman

What motivates people often varies, but to create a level of inspiration that will stick, you need to get clear on your values. Ask yourself: "What are some things that make my life complete? What gives me meaning?" Then ask yourself why. Recognizing the meaning behind your motivation will help you stick with your health goals — even when times get tough.

Not all strategies you might use to motivate yourself are actually helpful. Consider the following do's and don'ts of staying motivated:

  1. Do set goals that are appealing to you. Making a change is easier when you value your goal. You'll be more likely to stay the course because you will be doing things you generally enjoy. Living a healthy lifestyle isn't always easy. But it doesn't have to feel like a chore.
  2. Don't act on fear-based goals. If a doctor told you to lose weight to avoid getting diabetes, you'd probably clean up your diet and start exercising immediately. But would those healthy habits last? Probably not. People tend to be driven by fear only for a limited time. Fear captures your attention, but it isn't conducive to lasting change.
  3. Do dig deep to find your inner motivation. Ask yourself why you want to get healthier. The first thoughts that come to mind might be superficial, but keep digging. You'll eventually come to conclusions that will give you a burning desire to succeed. For example, you might discover: "I want to lose weight so I can have more energy to play with my kids and set a good example for my family" or "I want to exercise more because my joints feel less achy when I stay active."
  4. Don't follow pressure-based motivators. If you do something to impress someone else or because you are being pressured, then it will be hard for you to stick with it. Examples of pressure-based motivators are: "I am doing this because my spouse wants me to" or "I will force myself to do this because if I don't, I will feel ashamed or guilty." Instead, put your wants and needs first. That way, you'll be less likely to give up when you face obstacles.
  5. Do act on your strengths in order to maintain motivation and achieve goals. You're more likely to do things you're good at or that you enjoy. So focusing on your strengths can help you stay motivated and reach your goals. For example, if you like spending time with friends, make some of your get-togethers more active: Go for a walk, bike to a coffee shop or attend a yoga class.

Now that you know how to boost motivation, don't throw in the towel when a roadblock arises. For example, if you miss a workout because you had to work late, look for ways to exercise when you get home — take a walk after dinner or do a few yoga poses in the living room. Coming up with solutions and facing challenges with positivity will help you stay the course, no matter what comes your way.

Experiments

  1. Recall a time when you failed to meet an unrealistic goal. Then break that goal into three smaller actions that you can easily achieve. This will help you stay motivated and positive.
  2. Find your inner motivation by ranking your top three reasons for making healthy changes. Consider posting the list where you'll see it often, such as on your fridge or bathroom mirror.
  3. Stay motivated during plateaus and roadblocks by reassessing your goals. Make a list of your current challenges and come up with solutions for them, even if it means taking a step back or coming up with a plan to recharge.
Dec. 15, 2016 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3 ways to get closer to achieving your goals
  2. Make healthy habits stick
  3. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  4. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  5. Energy management
  6. After COVID-19 vaccination: Is it OK to visit with friends and loved ones?
  7. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  8. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  9. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  10. Bone health tips
  11. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  12. Cancer-prevention strategies
  13. Cellphones and cancer
  14. Colon cancer screening
  15. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  16. Coronavirus travel advice
  17. Plastic surgery
  18. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  19. COVID-19 and holidays
  20. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  21. How well do face masks protect against coronavirus?
  22. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  23. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  24. Do adults need shots?
  25. Don't save leftover pain pills
  26. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  27. Find meaning in the small things
  28. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  29. Functional fitness training
  30. Overcome obstacles to your goals
  31. Healthy holiday habits: How to get back on track
  32. Hand drying
  33. Hand-washing tips
  34. Healthy habits that boost happiness
  35. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  36. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  37. Home Health Hazards
  38. Brown fat
  39. How social support spurs you
  40. Break the busy cycle
  41. How to take your pulse
  42. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  43. How to take your temperature
  44. How well do you wash your hands?
  45. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  46. Investing in yourself
  47. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  48. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  49. Liposuction alternatives
  50. Lost in Space
  51. Making progress towards your goals
  52. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  53. Make over your mindset to make time for your health
  54. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  55. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  56. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  57. Medical family tree
  58. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  59. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  60. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  61. Personal health records
  62. Personalize your wellness journey
  63. Stick to healthy-eating goals at social gatherings
  64. Posture: Align yourself for good health
  65. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  66. New Year's resolutions
  67. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  68. Secondhand smoke
  69. Creating a wellness vision
  70. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  71. Good posture tips
  72. Back exercises
  73. Proper lifting techniques
  74. Stay healthy during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
  75. Stop multitasking and focus
  76. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  77. Thirdhand smoke: What are the dangers?
  78. Want good health? Build a solid base
  79. The benefits of gratitude
  80. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  81. Travel Safety
  82. Triclosan
  83. Using if-then statements
  84. Fight coronavirus transmission at home
  85. What are superbugs?
  86. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  87. Air purifiers and smoke