About 80% of people never set goals for themselves and of those who do, approximately 70% will never achieve it.
Research shows about one-third of individuals abandon their New Year’s resolutions by January 31. When it comes to health and well-being, the same pitfalls may happen unless you know how to direct yourself.
Here are five effective techniques to motivate you towards achieving your health goals.
1. Identify your intrinsic motivation
Human behaviour is based on rewards and incentives. Our motivation, either intrinsic or extrinsic is the reason why we behave in a certain way.
Intrinsic motivation refers to a behaviour driven internally within the individual. It seeks internal and long-term rewards compared to that of extrinsic motivation. Consequently, intrinsic motivation is said to have a stronger influence on behaviour.
For example, wanting to lose weight to become a healthier version of yourself, to be able to function better at work and have more energy to look after your family is intrinsic compare to the extrinsic motivation of trying to lose weight to look good at a wedding.
In order to succeed with your health goals in the long-term, you must identify and address the aspects that intrinsically motivate you to keep going. You can do this by visualisation.
Close your eyes for three minutes while visualising a happier and healthier you. Try to focus on what you see and how you feel in this vision. Think about the main motivation or drive behind you wanting to get healthier.
You can focus on inner goals such as feeling healthier and enjoying the surge of endorphins from exercising.
Most importantly, ask yourself what truly drives or motivates you in life for the long term.
2. Set a SMART goal
The SMART framework formula is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-related.
This ensures that the goal you set is not only realistic and tangible, clear and well defined, but also measurable within a time frame and relevant to your intrinsic motivation.
A good SMART goal can be something as simple as being able to take the stairs at work five days a week within a month so that you can track your progress and maintain it.
Because we are creatures of habit, it is more motivating if we incorporate our health goals into our daily routines (such as walking for 15 mins to 30 mins a day after work) so that it becomes a part of our lives rather than assigning a specific time that we may dread.
To identify the appropriate goal, ask yourself what healthy changes you would like to work on to achieve your intrinsic motivation. Start with something doable from today. After 60 days of practising the desired behaviour, your body and mind will start to crave for healthier activities and foods rather than dread them as you start to reap the benefit.
3. Choose a health goal you truly enjoy
Although we may start off dreading the routine of our health goals, we will soon be determined to maintain it if we choose the kinds of activities we enjoy.
Undoubtedly, we tend to get attached to a behaviour that gives us a rise in endorphins like exercise. The association of exercise to increase positive emotions and thoughts will help us reinforce the behaviour.
Similarly, identify what is most enjoyable and incorporate it into your health routine. If listening to music or watching instructional YouTube tutorials is your hobby, listen to music as you walk on a treadmill or follow a step-by-step cardio tutorial on YouTube.
4. Prepare for roadblocks
Nobody is perfect and everyone is capable of failing to commit to their routine. Relapse rates are sometimes high among those undergoing health programmes. Therefore, recognising your setback early on can help you bounce back up faster.
It is okay to fall off the wagon but the most important part of any self-improvement behaviour is to get back up.
Sustained change in health behaviours is imperative to ensure health goals are followed through the long term. People are said to be more successful in maintaining their health goals when physical and psychological resources are abundant.
A good tip would be to not allow one roadblock such as a night out feasting with friends to cause you to give up on your goals entirely. Have a motto to continue being strong, forgive yourself and get back on track the next day.
Allow yourself one cheat day or guilt-free day and get back on schedule the next day.
5. Reward yourself and celebrate small wins
Praise and acknowledgement increases a person’s self-esteem. Obtaining immediate rewards also tends to increase an individual’s intrinsic motivation. Hence, try to focus on improving areas you may be weak at no matter how small it is and strive to make it stronger.
A goal to work on can be physical, such as weight loss, increasing strength, speed or energy.
It might even be emotional, such as managing past hurts, stress or anger.
It may even be cognitive such as nurturing more positive thoughts of success rather than failure.
Whatever the goal may be, focus on improving yourself and doing better each day. After achieving new but small goals, acknowledge it as a win. This ultimately helps boost your self-esteem and motivates you to set new goals.
After every win, reward yourself. Take a photo of yourself or record the achievement in a positive thought journal as motivation for the future.
Keeping a journal of your victories not only builds self-esteem but reinforces your desire and passion for that activity to which your brain associates with positive emotions.
“Motivation is an ingredient that needs to be refreshed daily to help you rise every morning with renewed strength and passion to pursue your goals.” says clinical psychologist Pamilia Lourdunathan.
“Every individual has it within himself to fuel his inner fire to be the best version of himself. Are you ready to rise above your obstacles and soar with motivation towards your goals?”
Perhaps it’s time for you to set your health goal.
This article was written in collaboration with Naluri and appeared in hellodoktor.com. It was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.