Motivation can be a fickle beast. Sometimes, you’re totally cruising through the day like a boss, and other times you’re ready for bed by 4 p.m.
Fortunately, there are ways to give yourself a boost even when you’re not feeling at the top of your game. Try sneaking these four easy strategies into your everyday mix to see what works best for you:
1. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
You need to change your passwords regularly to maintain cyber security, so why not turn the exercise into a motivational tool?
While still throwing in a heavy dose of good password practices — i.e., include numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters and symbols — tweak your combinations to reflect what you’re attempting to accomplish. Bonus: This habit makes them easier to remember.
For instance, if your goal is a 50-pound bicep curl PR, and you want to crush that by July 1st, consider this as a password: 701BiCurlPR#50. Or, if this is your year for cultivating more kindness toward yourself, you password could be: 2017+IAM+Love.
When you make these into passwords you use regularly, such as logging onto your laptop, it prompts you to remember your goals several times a day. That can strengthen your resolve and keep you motivated.
2. RESET YOUR GOALS
Lofty, broad goals sometimes have a place, but it’s much better to be specific and realistic, says Dr. Laith Jazrawi, orthopedic surgeon and chief of sports medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Just saying that you want to get fit doesn’t do much, because what does that mean?” he says. “Fitness is subjective. Being able to walk around the block is considered fit for some people.”
If your motivation machine seems lower than usual, set goals that you can achieve in a shorter timeframe, he advises. For instance, stating that you want to swim a mile when you struggle to get halfway down the pool on your first lap will be de-motivating because you’ll feel like you’ll never reach your goal. Instead, time how long it takes to swim half a lap. Then, aim to shave 5 seconds off that time on the second half of the lap. It might sound minor, but it won’t be minor to your brain, says Jazrawi.
“Your mind celebrates every victory,” he says. “So, instead of focusing on one big victory in the distant future, create smaller ones every single day, and you’ll soon develop the habit of meeting your goals.”
3. WRITE A LETTER FROM YOUR FUTURE SELF
When people set goals, they usually jot down what they’re going to do. But one trick that can be powerful is to write a letter from “the future,” describing your accomplishments in the past tense, and being very specific.
For example, instead of saying, “I want to run a marathon in the fall,” you would write a note that’s dated in October — even if that’s months from now — and say, “I ran the Las Vegas Marathon in September, and it was fantastic. I trained for it and fueled up properly, and I felt like I was flying the whole time. I’m so proud of myself!”
Guided imagery and visualization have proven to improve performance for athletes, and creating context by being specific and imagining yourself having already accomplished your goals — instead of always reaching toward them — can be powerful mojo indeed.
Like everything else from food choices to workout options, what works for other people may not be what you need. But by changing your tactics regularly, you can discover what gets you going again and keeps you motivated.
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4. RECRUIT A FRIEND
After Michigan-based home health aide Erika Maastricht underwent treatment for a chronic wound that wasn’t healing, she received ample support from her medical team about nutritional changes and exercises she could implement. While those insights were helpful, she was missing emotional support.
Then she started swapping cat photos with a friend in Minnesota, and the habit became a daily ritual. Sometimes, her pal would also throw in some encouragement, but Maastricht found the stream of random kitty pics to be even more motivational.
“It feels like she’s thinking of me, that she takes time out of her day for these moments of checking in, even if that’s not explicitly stated,” she says. “Knowing that she’s there helps to keep me on track.”
Another friend, who’s a personal trainer, also sends texts a few times a week, asking how she’s doing and offering advice. The combination of both friends’ texts helps Maastricht when she’s contemplating a spin through the drive-thru or canceling a physical therapy appointment.