Last week, I told you all about microresolutions, which I’ve found to be the best way to make a habit stick. I encourage you to read that post if you’re trying to make lifestyle changes and really want to make the actions that help you reach your goals run on autopilot. (Plus, there’s a bonus freebie in there for you...go check it out!)
Today, though, I want to talk to you about motivation.
Let’s just be honest here for a second. Change is haaard. Like, really hard. You don’t go from being a couch potato to running a 5k overnight (hence the very helpful C25k app). The thing that makes life changes stick is repetition. The more you do something, the more ingrained it is in your brain, making it occur automatically. But how do you motivate yourself to repeat something? How do you encourage yourself to keep chugging along with an action until it seems second nature to do it?
Everyone has different motivations: respect of their peers, self-pride, checking all the boxes, etc. For me, it’s the promise of a reward.
I don’t mean the metaphorical reward of reaching the finish line of mastering that life change. I’m talking about literal rewards that I can see, hold, feel, spend, whatever. I’m not going to lie to you—although I know that reaching my end goal is reward in itself, I am like that horse that needs to see that carrot dangling in front of them to get going. That’s my motivation and if it gets me to the finish line, I am not ashamed. In fact, you will often hear me mention the importance of rewarding yourself for your accomplishments (though not with food!), because time and time again, I’ve found that it just works.
Let me tell you a little story. I started cycling randomly. I’d always loved it as a kid, but had fallen off from it in my older years. A couple months after I’d quit my soul-sucking corporate job, I was walking down the street on a sunny afternoon just enjoying life when I ran into an old coworker. We were so happy to see each other that we had a long conversation, and it came up that she was giving her mountain bike away because she had gotten a new one and the old one was beaten up. Then she asked me: Do you want it? Uh, hell to the yes, I do. I love stuff, and I love free stuff even more.
Fast forward a year or two, and I’m (almost) a bike riding fool. After using a bike to get around when I was in Mexico and Costa Rica, I came to really love it again like I did when I was a kid, and I just kept it going when I got back to the States. I decide it’s time to level up and actually pay for a decent bike, so I got a shiny new hybrid. Hybrids are affectionately known in cycling communities as a starter bike, because it’s slightly more advanced than a traditional 10-speed, but it’s relatively low in cost and more sturdy than a road bike. When I bought that bike, my father said that within a month, I’d want to buy a new bike. I scoffed at the time. A month later, I wanted to buy a new bike.
I couldn’t, however, justify buying another bike so soon. So, I set a goal for myself: Ride this bike 1000 miles, and you can get a new, fancy-schmancy, expensive bike. I made a little chart, and I logged every single mile I rode. When I (finally) reached 1000, I got my new bike.
Setting a reward for repeating a habit helps me get it done (almost) every time. I’m going to share with you three ways to help motivate you to adopt a habit, along with the tool I use for that extra motivation.
1 // Daily Habits: Habit Tracker
Surprisingly, physically marking your achievements on a piece of paper is oddly satisfying. It’s easy to beat yourself up if you miss a day or two and fall off the wagon completely, but seeing a visual representation of your streak really helps you to keep it going. You get an extreme sense of accomplishment racking up the marks and seeing your actions in physical form. Paper habit trackers are great for daily habits especially, such as drinking water everyday, because you can set a goal to keep a chain unbroken. There are many ways to track your habits physically—you can mark Xs on a calendar for each day, you can get fancy with a bullet journal, or you can use what I use, the 30 day habit tracker seen above (download it for free!).
Treat yo’self: Set a reward for yourself before you start tracking. My habit tracker has a space to specify the reward built in already. Remember, we are always striving for progress, not perfection, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a perfect, completely filled tracker. Set a threshold before you begin that’s acceptable, such as 20/30 or 25/30. If you want to get really fancy, you can set different reward levels for each amount (i.e., a manicure at 10/30, a pedicure at 20/30, a spa day at 30/30).
2 // Regular, but not necessarily daily habits
Trying to get a streak going for a daily habit is nice, but what do you do for things that only occur a few times a week, or once a week, or not on a set schedule? For things like this, my favorite way to rack up my accomplishments is a jar full of marbles (any small object works, really). You’ll need two jars and a set of marbles or small rocks, which can be purchased very cheaply at craft stores, dollar stores, Walmart, or even Amazon (like these).
Here’s how it works:
- Fill up one small jar with a set amount of marbles. I usually do about 30-50, depending on the action I’m tracking. Set the other, empty jar beside it.
- As you do your assigned action, move one marble from the full jar into the empty jar.
- Watch your “empty” jar become full as you make your actions a habit!
This tracking method of course works for daily actions as well, but it’s great for things you may not do daily, like workouts, skipping the coffee shop in favor of brewing your own, or biting your tongue when your partner says something ridiculous. *upside down smiley emoji*
Treat yo’self: As with above, seeing your stones accumulate is a powerful motivator, but you know I had to sweeten the pot. I decide what my reward will be for emptying the “full” jar, and I put the cash it takes to get it at the bottom of the full jar before I put my marbles in it. When that jar is empty, it’s time to get my reward!
3 // Motivate by Saving Money
This is one of my favorite motivators. What if every time you completed an action, you put aside some money in a special savings account automatically? That’s the idea behind Qapital, an app that links to your bank account and works by initiating savings whenever your set “rules” are triggered.
This is how I saved for my new bike while racking up the miles—each time I logged my bike rides in Strava, my bike app (and I always log my rides), a specified amount of money would be transferred from my bank account into my Qapital savings account. I set $2 for every mile, and by the time I hit that 1000 milestone, I had both earned the bike through activity and could pay for it with the money I’d saved. You can use your savings for a trip, a new outfit, or something else that tickles your fancy. Try it out and start saving today!
When you need just a little more help
Can you guess what I’m going to say here? Get an accountability partner! One study showed that 76% percent of participants with accountability partners accomplished their goals, as opposed to 43% for the group with no accountability. To make your commitment to each other official, download the free accountability partner agreement.
These motivation strategies have been extremely powerful in helping me form new habits. I’d love for you to try one (or all!) and let me know how they work for you! Are there any special methods you use to keep you moving forward? Share them below! Have you used any of these before? Let’s hear about it!