I rarely set New Year’s resolutions. While I find that a new year is a great time to re-evaluate and reset my health behaviours, I am jaded by many years of watching my resolutions fall lonely by the wayside as the weeks move on.
Human motivation is an interesting phenomenon. Our behavior is commonly described as the result of internal (intrinsic) or external (extrinsic) factors that push and pull us towards a desired outcome. We are motivated to act based on elements such as rationality, drive, incentives, self-control, cognition and reinforcement, but are often passive participants – acting or not acting without taking the time to understand why.
This year, instead of making the New Year about resolutions or goals, I am making it about my motivations to achieve these goals. My hope is that by focusing my attention on how and why I am motivated to reach my goals, instead of on the goals themselves, that I might actually create some long term changes.
- My goal: complete a one-month workout plan
- My motivations: more energy; diversify my current (and boring) workouts
- My focus: feeling stronger; increasing my daily energy levels; boosting my self-esteem
- My goal: eat out 2x per week or less
- My motivations: save money; eat less processed foods; try new recipes
- My focus: saving for my wedding; spending quality time with my partner and our wealth of underused cookbooks
Ways To Stay Motivated
Break down goals and use bite-sized steps to get there. This allows for celebration and achievement along the way and can help identify the deeper motivators behind the goal. “Be healthier” is a tough goal to achieve unless you identify what this means to you and why.
Share your goals
Share your motivation and goals with a partner or friend. They can check-in and help provide additional external motivation, reminders, (or nagging) when necessary. Posting your goals/motivators can also help keep you accountable to yourself. A friend of mine even framed his!
Put an end to it
Studies have shown that long range and open ended goal setting can be problematic, even contributing to symptoms of depression. By setting a realistic end date (I might suggest 4-8 weeks), your goal is measurable, tangible and ultimately more achievable.
Identify your motivators
Tease out the specific benefits that you are hoping to achieve through your goals. This can help provide a deeper connection to the goal and a more personal motivation for seeing it through. Why are you setting this goal and how would you like it to impact your life.
Relapse, re-set and repeat
Forgive yourself if things do not go perfectly. Seeing your goals through to completion might require you to take a break, re-set or re-evaluate. Use this time to review goals, steps and roadblocks and then begin again.
I invite you to welcome the year 2016 with open arms. Take this month to delve deeper into the motivations that live behind your resolutions as it may provide you with the added value to carry on.
All my best,
Ways to stay motivated this month at UBC:
- UBC Recreation Free Week: Jan 11-17
- Dog Walkers Stroll: Jan 20
- Art Lovers Walk: Jan 26
- Free Bodyworks Fitness Consultation Sessions
Dickson JM, Moberly NJ. Reduced specificity of personal goals and explanations for goal attainment in major depression. PloS one, 2013, 8(5):1932-6203.
Litt MD, Kleppinger A, Judge JO. Initiation and maintenance of exercise behavior in older women: predictors from the social learning model. Journal of behavioral medicine, 2002, 25(1):0160-7715.
Harackiewicz, JM. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: the search for optimal motivation and performance. San Diego: Academic Press, c2000.