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4 Steps to Staying Motivated

By Beth Jennings, PT, MPT, CHWC

We at FYZICAL – Forest Grove wish you a happy and healthy 2023 and hope that you are living your best life. The start of the new year is a typical time to consider making changes to your health. 

Called "the fresh start effect" by Dai, Milkman, and Riis (2014), it's not limited to the new year. Did you know gyms are busiest on Mondays? People also use birthdays, the start of semesters, or the 1st of the month to make changes.  

The tricky part is keeping the momentum going after getting started. Here are some steps for staying focused on improving your health this coming year, whether you start on Jan. 1 or April 23.  

Step 1: Decide what you want regarding your health? 

Think about what you want to be doing or feeling in 1-2 years? Create a vision statement that describes this future self. Businesses are known for creating vision statements; it keeps them focused on the direction they want to go. So why not create a vision for the business of you?  

  • Write down words or phrases describing your best self:  
  • Healthy, strong, well-rested. 
  • Calm, energetic. 
  • Time for creativity, my family, me. 
  • Fulfilling, purposeful.

Now pull the words together in sentence form, in the present tense, making it as long or as short as you like. Most importantly, it should be meaningful to you. 

Examples of vision statements: 

  • I make time for my health so that I can be active and present with my children. I sleep well and wake up refreshed. My husband and I make time for each other as we raise our children in a safe and loving home. 
  • I am exercising regularly and am 20 pounds lighter. I have the energy to keep up with my busy life. I have healthy eating habits and am doing what I can to minimize my health risks.  
  • I am in charge of my health. 

Step 2: What is your "Why"? 

Write down the word, "Motivators" and list the reasons for wanting what's in your vision statement. 

Is someone else suggesting you make changes? Are you using the word "should"? These extrinsic motivators, driven by something outside yourself, involve receiving a reward, avoiding punishment, or using comparison. They sound like:  

  • The doctor says I should lose weight. 
  • I should be further along in my physical therapy progress. 
  • My mom yells at me for smoking. 

Instead, uncover your intrinsic motivators, the reasons YOU want to make a change: 

  • I want to lose weight so I can walk the beach with my wife like we did years ago. 
  • I want stronger legs after my surgery so I can hike with my friends again.  
  • I want to stop smoking because my father had a heart attack at 45, and I don't want this same outcome. 
  • These are all about you. Keep this vision statement and motivators where you can access it easily.

Step 3: Create goals and review them regularly. 

Goals are the small steps you make toward that bigger vision. Consider them as lessons and not markers of success or failure. Achieved part of a goal? You just learned what worked.  

Be specific and create a goal that is measurable and relevant, like:  

  • I will walk for 20 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday this week. 
  • I will turn off all screens by 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays. 
  • I will spend 30 minutes on Sunday writing a vision statement, listing my motivators, and setting goals for the week.

Read about SMART goals and post yours where you can see them. 

Step 4: Be flexible and prepare for challenges 

Challenges always arise, so be ready. Adjust when you realize you don't like that class you signed up for or get off track during vacation. It's normal. Refer back to your vision and your motivators as reminders. 

Rally support on your journey by asking a friend to keep you accountable when you go out to eat. Discuss your goals with your partner and ask for support. Or hire a professional, such as a wellness coach, trainer, or nutritionist. 

Do you know someone who has set some goals for the year? Share this post through the links at the top of the page. 

 

Beth Jennings, PT, MPT, CHWC is a physical therapist and a certified health and well-being coach.

Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

References:

Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, Jason Riis (2014) The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior. Management Science 60(10):2563-2582. 

Dickson JM, Moberly NJ, Preece D, Dodd A, Huntley CD. Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 17;18(6):3084. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063084. PMID: 33802749; PMCID: PMC8002459.

Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, Rozental A. A large-scale experiment on New Year's resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS One. 2020 Dec 9;15(12):e0234097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234097. PMID: 33296385; PMCID: PMC7725288.

Moore M, Jackson E., & Tschannen-Moran, B. Designing Visions. In Moore M, Jackson E., & Tschannen-Moran, B eds. Coaching Psychology Manual. 2nd ed. Philadephia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2016:129-132

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