How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Hard

We all have bad days. Sometimes setbacks catch us unaware, like a sudden medical problem. Other times, we just fall off the wagon. Here are five ways on how to stay motivated, push forward and keep the flames of passion burning, even when motivation is hard to come by.

How to Stay Motivated in 5 Steps

Stay calm and remember the fire that burns within you.

Set SMART goals

The difference between an achievable goal and an impossible goal is planning. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. People who have decided to lose weight or quit smoking on a whim struggle to succeed because their goals aren’t SMART:

Specific: Setting a specific goal with as much detail as humanly possible leaves no room for error during harder days. There’s no need to hesitate when you know exactly what you’re doing.

Measurable: Tracking your progress is both practical and psychological; you won’t be able to gauge your success if you can’t measure it, and looking back on how far you’ve come in the future is great inspiration!
Attainable: An attainable goal has an outcome that can be reasonably reached by the person setting it, given what resources are available to them at the time.

Realistic: While attainability focuses on the finish line, a goal is realistic when the steps leading up to that goal aren’t too demanding or unrealistic. Running a 10k is an attainable goal, but running five miles a day as practice if you’ve never run before is an unrealistic way to get there.

Timely: Due dates are necessary. Due dates are what mobilize people. They act as a beacon to keep us in sight of our goals.

Start small and add gradually.

It’s like what my late grandpa would say: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Whenever you lacking motivation, breaking your goals into the smallest steps possible, or chunking, does two things: For one, it soothes the anxiety that naturally comes with taking on big projects. Writing a 100,000-word novel sounds impossible, but what about writing one chapter? One paragraph? One sentence?

The second thing chunking does is keep you moving forward by giving you small victories to keep you motivated. Even minimal success triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical of the body, and builds “success momentum,” which raises our spirits and gives us the confidence to move onto the next task.

Get a support system

You are more likely to succeed in achieving your goals when you have a support system! Loved ones don’t just keep you accountable, they also give you the care we need when things go wrong. A support system can be as large or small as you need it to be; what matters most is quality, not quantity. Surround yourself with people who are willing and able to help you achieve your goals, people who inspire you and keep you motivated when you can’t motivate yourself.

Having a support network can be an invaluable safety net.

Prepare for setbacks

It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but obstacles are an inevitable part of growth. Learning how to stay motivated is not easy, change is not easy! Change can be uncomfortable or downright terrifying. That’s why it’s so important to have a disaster plan ready for when circumstances throw you off track.

Get a pen and paper, list some of the potential things that can go wrong, and ask yourself: What can I do to mitigate these obstacles? For example, instead of lighting a cigarette when you’re stressed, call a friend to talk. If you’re worried about not wanting to exercise in the morning, lay out your workout clothes the night before so there’s no fuss when you get ready, or even sleep in them if you must! Trying to convince yourself that you won’t ever screw up will only lead to disappointment when you inevitably do. It’s human nature to screw up; do yourself a favor by being ready for it so you stay motivated despite any challenges.

The difference between an achievable goal and an impossible goal is planning.

Celebrate your achievements!

This may be the most important step in learning how to stay motivated! Think back to when you were very little and learning how to tie your shoes. When you finally got it right, any adult watching would make a huge deal about it! They’d cheer, or tell you what a great job you did, you might even have gotten a hug or a treat for your efforts. Why do we do that? Because rewarding good behavior drives people to repeat that behavior. Even adults like to be acknowledged for their hard work!

So, when you do succeed, or overcome a hurdle, or whatever sort of victories come your way, celebrate them out loud! Cheer for yourself! Treat yourself to a reward. Not only do you deserve it but it will help you maintain that success momentum.

We perceive motivation as some magical source of passion and energy that successful people can tap into at will, but motivation is really where discipline meets desire. Desire is the easy part; discipline takes work, but like any skill, it can be fine-tuned with practice. We can also help with our Sphere Journey, Build an Iron Self-Discipline. Check it out in the Fabulous app!

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