The best way to stay motivated

July 13, 2016

Hey there! Hope your week is going well.


I recently watched a video called “The Science of Motivation” by asapSCIENCE and it got me thinking about how challenging it can be to stay committed to our goals. I found the video really interesting and I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it (it’s a quick one, I promise!).


If you didn’t watch it – no worries. Here’s the gist: researchers sought to explain how and why we tend to lose motivation for our goals – sometimes right after we set them. According to a 2015 study by US News & World Report, 80% of people who set New Year’s resolutions end up dropping them by the second week of February.


Of course, there are numerous reasons for letting our best intentions slip away from us, but when it comes to staying motivated, the researchers at asapSCIENCE wanted to know the best way to commit to our goals. They found that sticking with our goals is directly related to the enjoyment we get from them – rather than the end reward.


If we like the activities we are doing then it’s easier to stay motivated.


While this might seem fairly intuitive, it made me think about how this relates to our health goals. There are so many reasons why we choose to exercise and make healthy decisions. Maybe it’s to feel comfortable in a bathing suit, maybe it’s for more energy, or maybe it’s for mental sanity. We all have our own motives for showing up and making an effort. But in order to stick with something, you need to actually enjoy doing it. I honestly find running on the treadmill to be boring which is why I prefer to mix in intervals or run outside. I love lifting – it’s a hobby for me – and it just makes me feel good, but I also enjoy the community found in group classes. My point is, you need to figure out what works best for you and what activities you will want to commit to long term.


Avoid the “What the Hell Effect.”


In addition to choosing activities we like to do, researchers suggest going beyond positive thinking. Yes, imagining a favorable outcome can be extremely helpful (I do this all the time), but we should also think about the various obstacles that could prevent us from reaching our goals. By anticipating these challenges we can come up with alternatives, and more importantly, avoid the “What the Hell Effect.” This is what happens when we make a decision that goes against our intentions and then we throw in the towel completely. For example, we say “I’m never having chocolate!” and then we eat some M&Ms…and then reach for the cookies and cakes, thinking,”Oh what the hell, I already ruined things for myself.”  Me -> every holiday.

Mental contrasting for the win!


Mental contrasting was incredibly helpful for me when I completed my first Whole30. In fact, the Whole30 guide encourages you to think about the moments or occasions when you’d be most likely to make poor food choices and then make a plan to combat the temptation. For me this happens at the end of the day when I’m hungry and trying to make dinner. Or holidays and other big get-togethers. If you can identify your “moments”  then you can come up with alternative plans to keep you from going off course. This could be having dinner in the crockpot so you don’t eat your way through the fridge while you cook (Me). Or try eating a small meal before going to a party so you won’t be tempted by some of the unhealthier items there (also Me). Maybe you should head straight to the gym after work rather than going home first since you’d be less likely to go back out. You get the idea.


I’d love to have a conversation about your thoughts on staying motivated.

What keeps you committed?

Do you enjoy an activity so much that it’s easy to stay motivated?

Did you know “The What the Hell Effect” is an actual condition?

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