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.


  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

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