Set SMART goals

To maintain motivation, establishing realistic goals is essential. “SMART” is an acronym used to describe a set of actions to consider when setting and working towards a goal, which include:

Download a handout on goal-setting strategies.

Identify potential setbacks

Experiencing setbacks or perceived barriers can derail your efforts. (7) When first setting a goal, take some time to recognize any setbacks that you may encounter along the way. Once you’ve identified these setbacks, create a plan for overcoming them. For example, if your goal is to exercise five times a week, but you frequently travel for work, identify some creative options and any resources available to you at each destination. Consider utilizing hotel gyms, packing lightweight resistance bands in your suitcase, or mapping out walking routes you can take each day.

Consider incentives

If incentives motivate you, try setting a specific goal using the SMART goals guidelines and establish a reward once you reach your goal. Extrinsic factors, such as a vacation, a meal from your favorite restaurant, or a new outfit, can serve as excellent motivators. Research shows that incentives are highly effective in initiating behavior change. (6) In one study, participants received various amounts of monetary incentives for fruit and vegetable consumption. Participants in the group receiving daily incentives reported a more significant increase in consumption during the intervention than the groups receiving delayed or zero incentives. The study also noted that participants experienced more substantial increases in self-efficacy and maintained their fruit and vegetable consumption post-intervention. (6)

Use productivity tools

If you struggle with balancing your tasks or staying focused, using a productivity app may help. ClickUp, Focus To-Do, Daily Planner, Habit, and TimeBloc are all great options to help you organize your tasks.

Find social support

Social support from friends, family members, or co-workers has a significant influence on health behavior and can provide accountability. Research has identified a correlation between social support and promotion of improved health behaviors, including smoking cessation, exercise, and fruit and vegetable consumption. (12) Try exercising with a friend, joining a support group, or sharing your goals and achievements with someone close to you.

Make pursuing your goals fun

If you’re striving for a goal that involves behaviors or activities that you don’t particularly enjoy, you may find your motivation dwindling. There’s no sense in engaging in something that you don’t find fun or rewarding. Instead, consider finding new and exciting ways to stay motivated. For example, if your goal is to be more active, try finding activities you genuinely enjoy. If you dislike running, give swimming, cycling, or dancing a try. A bit of variety has been shown to increase enjoyment and participation. (9)

Track and celebrate your progress

Keep track of your progress and identify milestones along the way. Celebrating your small wins can encourage you to push forward with your goals and further promote behavior change. (8) Research indicates that dopamine activity increases in response to positive feedback. (1) You can easily track your progress using a journal or wellness app.

The bottom line

Cultivating motivation can seem like an impossible feat, but you can accomplish anything you set your mind to with some strategic planning. Establishing realistic goals, tracking your progress, finding enjoyment in what you do, and utilizing incentives along the way can help you find success.