How to stay MOTIVATED to achieve your New Year’s resolutions – Shannon Moule, Clinical Psychologist

Ilze Groblergeneral, Psychology

This time of year brings about reflection of what has been and hope for a better tomorrow. For some of you this has transitioned into setting yourself goals (i.e., new year resolutions) to take action to achieve something that is of importance to your life. This may be to lose weight, get fitter, climb a mountain, start dating again, socialising more, learning to dance, changing jobs….well, you get the picture. To achieve these goals we need this thing called MOTIVATION.

So, what is MOTIVATION exactly????? Unlike what is often perpetuated in our language, “I don’t feel motivated”, motivation is not a feeling that you either have or don’t have, but something that can be modified and elicited through a number of deliberate practices. According to Miller and Rollnick, the developers of Motivational Interviewing (MI) a therapeutic approach to help clients achieve change through exploring and resolving ambivalence, MOTIVATION is the probability that a person will start, continue and maintain a specific new behaviour. Below are 8 tips to help you elicit the MOTIVATION needed for long lasting change.

Tip 1   Connect with the value underpinning your goals

Values are the desired qualities of one’s behaviours. Knowing and connecting to one’s values helps us to provide a long lasting motivation to stick to our goals and get back on track if we’ve slipped. To identify your values ask yourself: What am I standing for in the face of this goal? How is this important to me? How would taking this action add to my life? When we can link our goals to something personally meaningful to us, we are more likely to continue with it, when the going gets tough.

Tip 2 Plan wisely

Often the reason for failing to reach our goals is because we have failed to plan wisely in the first place. Effective planning is key to being and staying motivated. To plan effectively set S.M.A.R.T. goals?

S = Specific:         What specific actions will you take?

M= Meaningful:     How is this linked to your values (see Tip1)?

A = Adaptive:       How will this action enhance your life (benefits)?

R = Realistic:         Is this goal realistic considering the current climate you find yourself in (energy,

money, time, health, work commitments, etc)?

T = Time-framed: When will you do what is needed to achieve the goal and when by?

Tip 3   Be compassionate not critical

So often we are critical towards ourselves for not meeting our goals and sometimes fall into the trap of self-criticalness. When we are fused with self-criticalness we often feel despair, disappointment, disgust and sometimes depression. Research has indicated that a more powerful motivator is compassion. Compassion is when we meet our failures with acceptance, understanding and resolution; that is we accept that we have slipped, we understand that everyone slips (we are not the only one), we confront the costs of our actions and we look at ways in which we can improve on this to avoid failing again. Compassion is a type of self-correction that doesn’t rely on negativity to get us going again.

Tip 4   Know your mind

What thoughts run through your mind when you are setting goals, working towards them or dealing with setbacks on the way to achieving your goals? Do you notice your mind telling you any of the following when in the pursuit of your goals:

Reasons why not to take action   e.g. “I’m too tired today”

Expectations on what you should be doing e.g. “You should go to gym 5 times this week”

Judgements for not achieving e.g. “You are lazy”

Comparisons to others   e.g. “I wish I could look like her (e.g. a supermodel)”

When our minds hook us into these kinds of thoughts they can lead us away from rather than towards achieving our goals. This is because they often drive an emotional climate that drains our energy rather than fuels it. It is important to notice whether these thoughts are at play and the impact they are having whilst pursuing your goals: Are my thoughts helping me towards what matters or away?

Further draining our much needed energy to achieve our goals is the way in which we respond to our mind. Often we try and deal with our unhelpful thoughts by arguing with them, trying to get rid of them, trying to change them to more positive ones or doing things to ignore them. Although these strategies may work sometimes in getting rid of our thoughts or helping us be in a more positive mindset we find that these thoughts just come back anyway so it’s wasted energy.

So instead of fighting your mind, let it be. Letting your mind be means that when you become conscious of being hooked by unhelpful thoughts take a moment to notice what impact these thoughts are having on you emotionally, mentally and behaviourally and then unhook by simply labelling them “There is my reason giving thoughts” or “There is judgement”. Simply labelling our thoughts gives us enough separation then to focus on putting our energy into taking action towards our goals rather than ruminating on unhelpful thoughts. Let the mind be and keep moving in your valued direction!

Tip 5   Identify and plan for obstacles

Prepare for obstacles to taking action aligned with your goals. Ask yourself what might get in the way and look at solutions to work around this? Two big obstacles are time and energy. You may need to do some shifting of priorities before setting about on your goal. What might you have to give up, do less of, or say no to in order to achieve what matters in your life? You are not a superhero so you won’t be able to do everything at once.

 Tip 6   Be willing to be uncomfortable

Change can be very exciting, especially when it is something we really want and know will bring richness to our lives. However I will put money on it that there will be times where it will be uncomfortable. This discomfort can be a range of things including boredom, impatience with how long it is taking, anxiety with being out of your comfort zone, physical (e.g., cravings) and so on. If we are unwilling to make room for this discomfort, you will not take action in the first place and, or will give up in the face of the discomfort.

A simple way to help you be willing to be with discomfort in the pursuit of your goals is to remind yourself of the value behind this pursuit by writing a willingness statement. For example, I am willing to accept the discomfort of [e.g. the craving for sweet treats] in the service of my value [e.g., of taking care of myself so that I am in better health to take care of my family which will allow me to engage in physical activities with my children]. Write your willingness statement to help you in times of discomfort whilst pursuing your goals.

Tip 7   Recruit support

A war can’t be won without an army. Well you don’t need an army as such but one or two good people who are able to support you along this journey.

Not everyone can be the support you need so ask yourself, what kind of support do I need? Often people find the support they need is someone who is willing to listen and who offers encouragement. The support we don’t need is the judgemental kind.

If for whatever reason an army is not available to you at the start, don’t despair, you can be your own best recruit. Remember tip 3, be compassionate not critical. Being your own best support means bringing compassion to your journey every step of the way. You never know who you will find along your way.

 Tip 8   Set a routine with reminders

Very important. When establishing a new behaviour it is not going to be automatic to get up and just do it. We need to take some purposeful action to help it to become routine. To help make your new habit automatic set reminders in your phone, schedule it into your diary, download an APP that helps you set and achieve goals. I can recommend the STRIDES APP as a personally useful one. Use the scheduling and reminders for as long as is needed for this new behaviour to become routine.


I do hope the above tips are helpful towards fuelling your MOTIVATION to achieve your goals for 2018 and beyond. If you need help in cultivating the above tips to achieve your goals book in to see me or one of the psychologists at Zest Infusion, this is what we know and what we do, so feel free to pick our brains.



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