Matthew Morris is a hospital worker and therapist in New Jersey.
He provides family and individual counseling, and also runs www.CNACareerAgency.com, a site for students and career changers interested in entering the field of nursing and health care.
Even for those of us who love exercise, the commitment to work out is difficult to maintain. Sometimes the option of sleeping in or vegging out on the couch can be far more enticing than a trip to the gym!
Luckily, there are some psychological principles that can get you motivated and get you moving. Here are four mental hacks to keep you motivated, keep you committed, and get you toned and healthy!
Increase your “Want Power”
Have you ever wanted something—truly wanted something—and been amazed at how hard you worked to get it?
That’s not a surprise.
Maintaining discipline is incredibly difficult, and maintaining discipline simply because you made a decision to maintain discipline—let’s be honest, that never, ever works. That’s basically New Year’s resolution get set, and it’s why they get broken.
The only way to achieve a goal is to WANT it. When you truly desire something, you work to get it. No matter who you are, there has been an instance in your life when you truly wanted something—even if it was something small—and you didn’t quit until you got it.
So forget will power. Develop your desire.
How do you do that? By reminding yourself, time and time again, what you want. If you’re working out because you want better health, imagine yourself fit and happy, and imagine all the ways your life will be better when you’ve achieved your goal. If you want to tone your body and become more attractive, visualize how you want your body to look, and how you will feel when your body is the way you want it. The body visualization technique is the same technique that Arnold Schwarzenegger used, and it’s safe to say it worked for him!
Find Out What Motivates You
Everyone is motivated by different things, and whatever it is that gets you to stick to your workout routine—that’s the thing you should use! It can be obligation (“I need to be fit to give my kids a good example”), or watching clips from movies (the workout montage from Rocky IV always seems to do it for me), or it can be something even more personal and quirky: I know of one woman who gets pumped up after reading self-help books, so an hour before she needs to go the gym, she starts reading.
There really is no wrong answer. If it gets you to the gym, helps you lace up your running shoes, or inspires you to roll out the yoga mat, it’s what you’re looking for.
So what motivates you? Test different things, and pay attention to what works. It may be take a while to figure out, but if it’s the key that gets you moving, it’ll be worth it.
Have an Accountability Partner
Researchers have found that people who want to stick to a goal are much more likely to follow through when they enlist a partner. Being accountable to someone else for your own actions seems to have a very strong effect on goal achievement, so get on the phone, and make some plans.
But here’s a trick that seems to work wonders: don’t make plans with your best friend. Go with someone you’re only somewhat close with.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? The crazy thing is, it works. Here’s why:
Your best friend understands you, and cherishes your friendship. He or she is much more likely to forgive you, or look the other way when you miss a workout, because s/he doesn’t want to be angry with you.
People who are friends or family forgive little things like that all the time. But people who you’re only somewhat close with? They’ll be irritated if you cancel on them.
Ever notice how you think it’s ok to be 20 minutes late to a family event, but you’re on time for every other appointment you make? Same principle applies.
So get an accountability partner, and make plans to work out together. The research shows you’ll be much more likely to follow through and meet your fitness goals.
Mix It Up
There’s been a great deal of research into what makes a happy marriage. There are numerous factors that affect a couple’s happiness, including community supports, personality compatibility, and shared activities. But the surprising factor that researchers didn’t expect?
Psychologist found that the happiest couples made efforts to introduce novelty into their relationship by engaging in new activities, hanging out with new friends, and going on vacation to places they hadn’t been before.
So how will this keep you motivated and fit?
We love new things, but even moreso, we love new experiences. They keep us intellectually stimulated, and keep us curious. If you’re losing motivation in your workout routine, make some changes! Try new things. If you’re a gym guy, try a yoga class. If you’re a yoga person, try a kickboxing class. If you’re a kickboxer, try aerobics.
Mix it up! You might find that it opens up a new and interesting world of fitness for you.
Here’s a bonus tip: any physical activity that has an intellectual counter-part—that is, any exercise that teaches you a skill or requires learning new techniques—is likely to keep you interested.
That means martial arts, dance, indoor rock climbing, or anything else that you can think of that takes a little brainpower.
Get Out There And Get Fit!
I have to be honest, after writing all this—I’m feeling kind of motivated myself! Use the psychological principles above to get out there and get fit!