Motivation is hard. Getting motivated is even harder. Pop culture likes to give you these quick fixes to help you “get your life together”, yet holding yourself to those standards to make those changes is half the battle. Unfortunately, there isn’t a shortcut to becoming intrinsically motivated, but there are small habits you can implement to help keep you on track. Making tiny changes over time can help you stay motivated to build a routine full of healthy habits.
1. Make Your Life Easier on Autopilot
You know when you’re driving to work and pull into the parking lot, only to reflect how you arrived there in the first place (while having an internal freak out)…It seems as if you got into the car and, moments later, appeared at work. This is when your brain is on autopilot, saving your habitual steps of operating a vehicle for something more useful later. After some time, when driving a car, you no longer have to think about the steps to turn it on, buckle your seatbelt, or even back out of the driveway. You’ve solidified those habits in your brain, transitioning smoothly between the various steps, making the ride more enjoyable and like second nature.
In fact, you can use this same process in other aspects of your life to make your day run smoother. For instance, if you’re trying to implement more movement into your daily life, try scheduling it at the same time every day. You wake up, get dressed, brush your teeth then immediately go on a walk. Adding that walk-in right after brushing your teeth will prompt you to get started on your walk, then doing it repeatedly at the same time every day will become habitual. You are eliminating the need for your brain to wonder when the workout will be by making it a habit right in the morning. The decision for when the movement will be is taken out of the equation, making space for your brain to focus on more important tasks.
2. Create Habits that can be Carefully Created and Changed
When I think of creating “healthy habits”, which seems to be the rage right now, I have to visualize it. However, not in the sense of visualizing my future self-completing the new habit (although that is helpful), but more objectively. I like to detach my emotions and feelings from the situation, dehumanize it, and imagine myself installing a new app on my phone. This new app has lots of new potential features that make it appealing to download, but it won’t install itself. You have to choose to buy it and complete the steps to see it on your homepage.
I like to think of habits in that same way. One day you’re not going to wake up and have all of these beneficial habits in your life, you’re going to have to make an effort to create and keep them.
The same idea works for unhealthy habits. If you notice a repetitive routine that no longer serves you, you can change it- that’s the beauty of habit forming. This is a little more tricky, but by changing the reward, you can modify the habits you’ve already established. Let’s say you’re trying to eat a more balanced diet, but the pattern of opening the pantry and finding nothing healthy to eat is established, leading you to reach for the bag of chips. Replacing the bag of chips with an apple or other healthy alternative in the exact location will still give you the satisfaction of fueling your hunger while reaching your goal of eating healthier. So when you open the pantry and are prompted to look for the chips, an apple will be ready to go.
3. Find the Habits that Keep You Accountable
The great thing about habits is since they are already wired in your brain for autopilot, you don’t have to think about them intentionally. This is especially beneficial when you don’t feel like doing much of anything at all. Your motivation and morale can be low, but habits can help you stay on track.
Simple healthy habits like brushing your teeth and taking a shower are some most people can relate to, they’re just part of your routine. Yet, some days if taking a shower and brushing your teeth are the things that’ll going to get you out of bed, then it’s a good habit to have. Although it might sound silly, habits need to be something obtainable that you know you have the time and energy to commit to. The small conscious changes in your life will make the most impact over time.
4. Set Foundations for Reaching Your Goals
Goal setting is needed to keep you on track for where your life is headed. To take control of your success, setting a goal and identifying the variables required to get there takes time. Those variables will turn into small steps that can be implemented into your daily routine. Reaching your goals becomes part of your routine, automatically making those steps into your daily life. If you’ve aligned your goals will your values, making those changes to your routine will be part of the growth process, yet it still takes perseverance, determination, and willingness to consciously make that change.
5. Start Now
When debating whether to try something new in your routine it can be intimating at first. Thoughts of doubt, shame, or guilt are common with the idea of failing to reach our self-standards. Ultimately stopping us from trying in the first place. However, when learning to better ourselves, it takes some trial and error to determine what works best for our lifestyle, there’s not a one size fits all.
So if you’re looking for a sign to take that leap, go for it. By defaulting to not trying at all will hurt you more than experiencing a learning curve. Try waking up at 5 am, your bed will be waiting for you later. Try a vegetarian option one night a week, if you hate it McDonalds is open 24/7 for a late-night snack. Try reading 10 pages a day, your Netflix series will happily wait for you.
Ultimately try it for you, to say you did it, failure or success, the thought behind the action is what matters the most. Get out there.
By Kennedy Baker