All my life, I’ve been a quitter. My head has always been full of dreams and good resolutions, but every time I’d try to turn one into a reality, I’d find it too too hard.
I tried knitted but, when after a month I was still unable to make a scarf without huge holes in it, I quit. Next, I started to learn French but, when I realised I had no one to practice it with, I gave up. Exercising? I lost count of the amount of times I gave it a go only to abandon it a week later.
If I couldn’t stay focused and motivated enough to accomplish these simple resolutions, how could I possible make my dreams come true? I couldn’t, so I didn’t even try. I’d just wait for something to change so they’d come true on their own. Needless to say, that never happened.
It takes a hell of a lot of focus, commitment, and motivation to reach a goal and turn a dream into a reality. You need to push through all the hard times, the doubts, and the self-defeating crap your inner critic is constantly voicing against you.
Easier said than done, I know. But after a lifetime of quitting, I’m finally ready to give my dreams and goals the best shot at becoming true. And to do that, I need to learn how to stay on track and keep my motivation high every day.
Here’s what’s helping:
1. Start Small
When I tried to take up exercising, I’d put my running shoes on and attempt a marathon. Needless to say, after 5 minutes I was out of breath, hurting everywhere, wondering why I bothered. Then, last year, I decided to go for a short walk instead. The next day, I walked a bit more. The next, a bit more. Not only I’ve kept at it, but I’m now ready to take up running too.
Keeping your goals small and easy to achieve is key. You’ll never stick to them otherwise.
2. Celebrate milestones
Not only I started exercising one step at a time (literally), I always gave myself small milestones. 5km. 10km. Then, whenever I reached them, I celebrated them. Nothing too fancy or counterproductive (a chocolate biscuit is ok, two slices of chocolate cake isn’t). A small treat is enough. It’ll make you want to achieve your goals even faster.
3. Talk Yourself into an easy start
bribe reward isn’t always enough. On some days, I’d have rather slapped myself in the face than go for that walk. Just the thought of taking a few steps was too tiring.
So, I told myself I’d just put my shoes on. And then that I’ just go outside. And then that I’d take a few steps. Without even realising it, I found myself walking for a few kms before heading home again, energized and happy.
Just make a start. The rest will naturally follow.
4. Remember your why
Even talking myself into an easy start didn’t always work. Some days are just worse than others, and you can’t be bothered to do anything.
That’s when you have to remember your why. Your reason for doing something. In this case my reason was health. Mental health.
I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life. I’m fine now, and exercise played a huge part in my recovery. Soon after starting walking regularly, I saw an improvement in my mood. I felt better. More relaxed. Less anxious.
Now, I’m not saying that exercise alone can cure depression. I wish! But it does produce happy chemicals in your brain that help you, especially when paired with other therapies, to get better and prevent relapses.
I just have to think of that, and I literally jump off the couch.
5. Get a goal buddy
When I started going for walks, I’d bring my mom along. She has depression and needs the exercise too. Besides, walking with her made the workout a lot more fun.
You can enlist the hep of a friend. She doesn’t even have to share your same goal. Just sharing your progress with her will keep you accountable and motivated to do what you need to.
You can also join online communities and forums. Their members are going through the same thing as you, and will be able to offer tips, support, and encouragement to help you achieve your goals and keep you from quitting.
6. Always think positive
I have a scathing inner critic that’s always telling me I’m never good enough at anything. She makes even the smallest obstacle seem insurmountable.
When she starts talking, I had to learn to stop listening. Instead, I replace her negative thoughts with positive ones. “I can’t do that!” becomes “I may not be able to walk 10 km today, but I can walk 5. If I keep at it, in a few weeks, I’ll reach 10.”
And you know what? You will. It’s incredible what a little of positive thinking can do.
7. Never skip two days in a row
Sometimes, even armed with the best intentions, I missed a day. I was too busy with work. Or was ill. Or something unexpected came up. Or really, really, really didn’t feel like it.
It’s perfectly normal We are human. We’re not perfect. We’re gonna stumble sometimes. It’s ok. Just don’t use it as an excuse to quit. Miss one day, and get back on track the next. You’ll be glad you did later. I know I always am.
How do you keep yourself motivated?