As the clock counts down from one year to the next, amid the cheers of 'Happy New Year, many people vow to pursue their dreams. This is because the new year brings a fresh start, and a starting point for people to go after their long-held goals. This surge of purpose goes hand in hand with the idea of setting new year resolutions, a practice that stirs up a dichotomy of emotions in people.
For some, when gym classes swell in size and pub goers swap a pint of beer for sparkling water and lime, it becomes easy to mock the ‘new year, new me’ mentality that so often accompanies January and its resolutions. Despite this, many people need prompts, like the start of a new year, when it comes to self-betterment. Furthermore, there is something comforting about knowing that your partner, neighbour and work colleague are all getting excited about drinking less or exercising more and there is also solidarity in knowing you might all slip up together. This is because, despite our best intentions at the start of the month, maintaining motivation towards a goal is tough.
These 4 strategies can help keep you on track to achieve your new year’s resolutions:
1. Understand that your motivation changes
Motivation isn’t a straight line, in fact, the way we motivate ourselves changes as we make progress toward a goal. A recent study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that in the early stages of pursuing a goal participant are motivated by hope and aspirations of reaching their goal. This is known as ‘promotion motivation,’ and this motivation is rooted in the positive things they can do to make progress.
If your goal is to lose weight, for example, then your promotion motivation will be around visualising how it will feel to be at your target weight. However, when achieving this goal come closer, the research found that people would switch to a ‘prevention motivation’ mindset. In this mindset, people start to focus on things to avoid and become motivated by their responsibilities and will to stop something negative. In the case of a weight loss goal, a prevention mindset would mean instead of focusing on your target weight, you would start to be motivated by smaller lifestyle changes, such as continuing to avoid sugary drinks.
Prevention motivation doesn’t have to be a negative experience, rather it is about shifting your perspective from getting going to maintaining in order to achieve your goal. This study is helpful in understanding how to keep motivation, as ‘generally speaking, people… are predominately promotion-focused, so they are good at starting goals but not as good at accomplishing them’, said Lead author of the study Olya Bullard, PhD. Instead, people may have better luck sustaining their motivation in the late stages of a goal if they focus on shifting their motivation.
2. Think about your self-talk
Self-talk is our inner voice that is usually tied to our sense of self, daily experience and actions. There are a multitude of ways this internal monologue can influence our behaviour and terms of maintaining motivation and understanding this can help us frame tasks better.
As research suggests that people who ask themselves if they will perform a task generally perform better than those who tell themselves they will complete the same task. A recent study from Professor Dolores Albarracin, Professor Ibrahim Senay and Kenji Noguchi found that people who asked themselves ‘Will I’ opposed to stating ‘I Will’ performed better on tasks and also showed high signs of lasting motivation. This suggests that by asking yourselves a question and opening up the task you are more likely to build your own motivation.
3. Aim for consistency
Motivation is a daily practice and in order to stay motivated towards a goal, the key is consistency. People who take action every day are more likely to achieve their overall goal and develop an attitude to push forward despite peaks and troughs. This is because people who commit to daily action, make a habit of moving forward even motivation is low. Furthermore, consistency and action will help you break your ultimate goal down into smaller, more manageable steps, which will prevent feelings of overwhelm from zapping all the inspiration you had when you were setting your initial goals.
4. Know why
It’s difficult to continue moving towards a goal if you haven’t tapped into why you want to achieve it. The long-lasting fuel is having a solid reason and purpose when pursuing a goal. When you are setting your goals or new year’s resolutions start with why you want to achieve it. It’s important to be clear about this sense of purpose, so avoid vague and lacklustre sentiments such as ‘I want to exercise to feel better’ and tie them to something deeper. For example: ‘I want to exercise daily so I am able to have higher energy and finally run a half-marathon.’ Understanding why helps keep your motivation as it is your overall belief in the goal that will continue to inspire you.
Keep striving towards your resolutions and remember that by shifting your understanding and state you can stay motivated towards your goal. Tell us in the comments below some of the ways you keep your motivation when you’re working towards a goal.
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Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Whether its putting off a work project, avoiding daily chores or even postponing your long-held goals, procrastination is an easy pitfall that even the most productive people can fall into. In fact, around 95% of us will procrastinate at one point or another, according to research by psychologist Dr Pier Steels.