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July 09, 2018 / Emily Polson

How to Stay on Track with Goals When Motivation Fades

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We all know what it feels like to hit a wall while trying to achieve a goal. Maybe things started out great, but suddenly you’re not seeing results and your motivation has waned. Without that internal willpower you had at the beginning, every day is a struggle.

Motivation is a key to success when it comes to achieving a goal, whether that’s losing weight, eating healthier, or quitting a bad habit. So how can you tune into your motivation when the going gets hard? Here’s the science behind motivation and 6 tips for tuning into that willpower.

The Science behind Motivation

Achieving your goals has a lot to do with the source of your motivation: is it internal or external? According to Psychology Today, those with internal motivation (like the desire to be healthy to live longer with your kids) are more successful in weight loss than those with external sources of motivation (like a parent’s nagging advice).

This was confirmed in a 2007 study by researchers from the Technical University of Lisbon and the University of Wales, who helped a group of overweight participants tune into their internal motivators.

6 Ways to Tune into Your Motivation

So we know this intrinsic motivation matters–how can this information help us change our perspective? Even those with a strong sense of internal motivation still struggle to find the willpower to hit the gym sometimes.

Here are 6 ways to rethink your goals that will help you push through even when it isn’t easy.

  1. Remember who’s boss. Maintaining motivation is all about giving yourself control over the situation. We’ve all experience a decreased interest in doing something that we’re being forced to do; this can often happen if you find yourself stuck in a too-strict diet or proscriptive exercise program. When you give yourself more choices, you can regain a sense of autonomy. You’ll have an easier time working toward your fitness goals when you allow yourself to decide whether spin class, swimming, or Zumba sounds like the most fun for that evening’s workout.

  2. Consider the values. The Scientific American noted that people tend to stay motivated when their goals align with their personal beliefs and values. It’s important to think of the “why” behind your pursuit of weight loss. You’ll have an easier time going for a run at 6:00 am if you think about how it will help you live a long, healthy life with the people you love.

  3. Set reasonable goals. Our motivation suffers when we doubt our capability of achieving our goals. If you set out with an ambitious target weight, you may struggle to keep going when you hit a weight loss plateau. Rather than constantly pushing your limits, set reasonable milestones for yourself and celebrate each small accomplishment along the way. Don’t let doubt get you down before you really get started!

  4. Write it down. It may seem simple, but it really works. Astudy by the Dominican University showed how those who recorded their goals were far more likely to achieve them. Write yourself a note or make a milestone chart for weight loss, and remind yourself every day what you set out to do.

  5. Keep it fun. It should come as no surprise that those who enjoy the activities that help them lose weight are more successful in the long term. If you don’t like the food you eat or the exercise you’re doing, it could be time to make a change. That might mean taking up a dance exercise class or learning how to prepare new healthy dishes that still taste indulgent.

  6. Get a buddy. Even with all this talk about internal motivation, sometimes we do just need someone else to make sure we show up for a workout session. Having a weight loss buddy can give you the accountability you need to follow through on the goals you set for yourself. This can also become a source of internal motivation, too. Consider losing weight together to be a bonding experience. You’ll strengthen your friendship when you pursue a goal together, whether that be going on chatty afternoon walks or making delicious almond butter fudge to unwind.

Emily Polson

Emily is a writer, reader, and traveler from Iowa who has visited twenty-one countries and lived in three. Her first publication was an article in Muse magazine about her summer job as a corn detasseler. She’s a Slytherin, an amateur ukulele player, and a Peter Pan enthusiast. You can follow Emily on Twitter @emilycpolson.

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