At exactly 12:01am on November 1, Christmas season began.
Starbucks has its holiday cups out. Department stores are hanging wreaths. Big Lots and Home Depot for sure already had all the Christmas lawn ornament and outdoor lights on the sales floor.
And the season of treats was launched with piles of leftover Halloween candy brought to offices across the nation.
I’ve always thought of Halloween candy as a sort of gateway to holiday eating. People start baking, traveling, and having parties, and of course there are all those seasonal treats that only come around once a year. Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, Christmas shaped candies (Reese’s Trees, anyone?), stuffing, Christmas cookies . . . and an ocean of Prosecco. (Or whatever your drink of choice is that you over-indulge in during the holidays!)
With all of that merriment, and ten months of what feels like all work and no play behind us, it’s overwhelmingly tempting to just take an eight week hiatus and pick back up at the New Year with a list of resolutions and “New Year, New Me” intentions.
But . . . what if we carried our goals with us through the holidays? It’s admittedly a tough time of year to stay motivated. But here are my top five tips for doing so. No motivational Pinterest Boards required.
Know Exactly What You Want. This one seems simple, doesn’t it? “I want to stay motivated, Kelly. That’s why I’m reading this.” Okay, but what do you want to stay motivated for? What’s your ultimate goal? Vague ideas such as, “I want to stay in shape,” or “I want to go to the gym more,” or “I want to spend less this Christmas” won’t keep you motivated for long because there’s nothing that you’re driving at.
Think of it like target practice. There’s zero point in going to a shooting range to improve your accuracy if there isn’t a target to aim at. You can stand there firing bullets or arrows or whatever all day, but if you aren’t trying to hit something, how do you know if you’re getting any better?
Knowing exactly what you want is like having a target. If you want to do a better job staying on budget, look at what you spent last year and decide to spend $XX less this year. If you want to stay in shape, decide what that means. Does that mean ignoring the scale but being physically active every day? Does that mean not gaining even a pound of holiday weight?
Decide what your goal is. Exactly what it is. And shoot at it.
Surround Yourself With People You Want to Emulate. Personal development trailblazer Jim Rohn once said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I don’t know if there have actually been social studies conducted on this principle, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it holds at least a grain of truth. We are greatly influenced by those with whom we keep company. Those closest to us affect how we spend our time, the decisions we make, and the habits we have.
If you know exactly what you want but are struggling with how to get there, look to people who are already doing what you want to be doing. Learn from them and let them influence you in positive ways. It’s hard to make new friends and form new social groups when you have a full-time job and family responsibilities. A great resource for influence these days is the internet. Instagram, WordPress, YouTube, and other platforms are packed with people you haven’t even heard of yet who are out there doing what you want to do. Go find them.
Just as important, look at the people you’ve been surrounding yourself with and decide if their influences may be keeping you from achieving what you want. This isn’t to say go all out and have an epic judge-fest of all your friends. But it is important to understand how the people in your life are affecting you, for better or worse.
Make Mistakes, but Don’t Repeat Them. The path to reaching any goal is going to be riddled with setbacks. Everyone has difficulty overcoming these. This is why it’s so important to know exactly what you want and have that target at the forefront of your mind at all times. If you veer off course, you can still see the target and steer yourself back toward it.
That said, don’t make the same wrong turn over and over again. After you’ve made a mistake once, problem solve. Where did I go wrong here? How can I prevent that from happening again?
Owning and solving the problems in your life is empowering. One important skill for problem solving is to . . .
Be Willing to Make Adjustments When Things Aren’t Working. You’ve identified what you want. You have a plan. You’re surrounded by positive influences. But somehow, you’re just not gaining any momentum. What do you do?
When you put a lot of work and thought and feeling into something, you become emotionally attached to it. Stop that right this instant. If you’ve identified that something you’re doing isn’t propelling you forward, you must be willing to let go of it, no matter how much you love it or how proud of it you might be.
There are authors out there who have scrapped entire novels after spending months developing them because the final product wasn’t what they wanted it to be.
You will lose motivation if you run yourself ragged with no measurable results. Help yourself to stay motivated by regularly assessing your efforts and tweaking them to keep things interesting and to make sure you keep improving.
Exhaust Your Efforts. Don’t exhaust yourself. Exhaust your efforts. When you get home at the end of a work day, you’re probably feeling pretty depleted. You’ve been making decisions all day that ultimately don’t really affect or interest you. And you’ve probably had to deal with some people you’d just as soon not have. If you don’t have a standing desk, you’ve also probably been succumbing to inertia for the better part of eight hours.
All of those things are mentally exhausting, leave you dragging, and are quite often demoralizing. When you get home, you don’t want to think about anything, do anything, or put much effort into anything.
But are you really exhausted? Or are you just unmotivated? Let’s recap.
You’ve pretty much been sitting still all day. Maybe you’ve been beating your head against the wall trying to have be heard, or persuading people to your way of thinking, or reminding Susan for the umpteenth time that no, that’s not how that gets entered in the system, but sure I’ll do your job for you and correct it.
You’re frustrated, sure, and have to overcome inertia. But you shouldn’t be physically tired. If you can learn to switch your focus as soon as you hit the parking lot at the end of your day, you’ll be surprised by your second wind.
But this takes effort.
If it didn’t, everyone would leave work in a sunny mood and tackle the rest of their day like Olympians.
But if you have a goal that excites you, and you can see it clearly, and you are watching people you admire get after their own goals every day, you might be surprised how energized you feel when you leave the office. Sure, the 9-5 pays the bills, but now you get to start Part 2 of your day and hustle toward what’s most important to you!
A great way to help yourself switch your mindset is music. Cue up a playlist or a song during your commute home that makes you feel empowered and strong. Energize with a healthy snack and make sure you hydrate. Then get home and tackle your goals!
Making these five strategies a part of my day every day helps me stay motivated so I don’t get lost in the rat race, which is all too easy to do. Take action every day to be intentional about everything you’re doing to achieve your goals, and you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to derail you.