How to Motivate Yourself: 6 Science-Backed Strategies to Get Yourself on Track
Whether it’s hitting the gym three days a week or finally finishing your novel, sometimes the biggest obstacle standing in the way of achieving your goals is, well, you. Here, how to motivate yourself with six research-backed (and totally doable) tricks.
1. Become a Morning Person
We hear you—mornings are so not your thing. But according to a recent study in Health Psychology, it’s easier to form habits in the a.m., when cortisol levels are at their peak. So instead of trying to fit the gym in after work, get your heart rate up before work. Can barely drag yourself out of bed to get to the office on time? Try the Yoga Wake Up app, which you can literally do on top of your covers. (No excuses.)
2. Tell a Friend (and Then Keep Telling Them)
In a study from Dominican University in California, researchers found that participants were 35 percent more likely to accomplish their goals if they wrote them down, shared them with another person and then checked in with weekly progress updates. The only problem? Not everyone in your group chat cares about how well your tap dancing lessons are going. Here’s an idea—team up with one friend who could also use a motivational boost and share weekly wins over coffee.
3. Set Deadlines In Days, Not Months
Here’s a cool trick—instead of telling yourself that you’re going to finish writing the first chapter of your book in the next month, give yourself a deadline of 30 days. According to a study published in Psychological Science, setting these kinds of deadlines makes it easier for you to connect your future self to your present self, which then inspires you to start working (even when you don’t feel like it).
4. Be Your Own Cheerleader
What goes hand in hand with feeling unmotivated? Negative thoughts. But the easiest way to turn things around is to tell yourself how great you’re doing. That’s according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, which found that cyclists who repeated positive phrases (like “you can do it”) when they hit the wall during a tough training session actually pedaled longer than those who didn’t. This “motivational self-talk” group also felt like they weren’t working as hard (even though their heart rate monitors indicated otherwise). But if the idea of talking about how awesome you are while on the treadmill feels, well, silly, don’t sweat it—saying a positive mantra in your head also does the trick.
5. Set Specific, Not Vague, Goals
Let's say your dream is to run your own business. If you're starting from scratch, it sounds pretty daunting. So in order to make it happen, it’s all about baby steps, like creating a business plan and finding an accountant. According to the American Psychological Association, people who set out to achieve a few small, specific tasks are 90 percent more likely to achieve them than those who aim for a large, broader goal. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, break down your goals into mini tasks. Just send that email and you’re one step closer. You’ve got this.
6. Believe in Yourself
It’s cheesy, but it’s true. People who think that they have a lot of willpower, do. In one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers followed 153 college students over five weeks and found that those who believed that willpower was an abundant (rather than limited) resource were less likely to procrastinate, eat junk food and spend impulsively. Even their grades were better. Time to change your screen saver to a killer inspirational quote.