Whether you’re training for a marathon, trying to finish your thesis, or sitting through a Netflix series that’s become tedious to watch, sustaining motivation to achieve our goals is rarely easy.
To get some sage advice on keeping the drive needed to reach the finish line regardless of the course you’re on, I spoke with a trainer who organizes the toughest obstacle courses on the planet –Tough Mudder's Official Trainer Eric "ERock" Botsford. Why? Because “toughest obstacle courses on the planet” seemed like a good metaphor for the other obstacles in our lives – obviously. And if anyone knows a thing about motivating a person who wants to literally throw in the towel, it's a trainer.
Here are ERock’s five tips:
#1 – Surround yourself with like-minded people.
“Personal accountability and accomplishment are elevated when you are among others who think, dream and push themselves the same way you do,” says ERock. “Communication with your friends or teammates allows for fears to be expressed, accomplishments recognized, and confidence in yourself and goals to be realized.”
#2 – Celebrate the small victories.
Oftentimes we get so focused on the process and the end result, we don’t allow ourselves to take a moment to celebrate the small milestones along the way – a way of positive reinforcement. “I have my clients keep personal workout journals to be filled out each day with notes on workouts completed, weights lifted, and their feelings about each session,” says ERock. “Just like your childhood journaling, this can be a release and provide an ability to be reflective on each day. Reflect on the little moments and celebrate them in a way that won’t throw you off track.”
#3 – Take a field trip.
In an article for Psychology Today, behavioral expert Gregory Ciotti wrote, “if you want to change your habits, you should change your environment.” ERock agrees. “No matter your goal, you should get outside your daily routine and put yourself in some place unfamiliar and inspiring.” Get out of the gym and go for a hike. Take your laptop and do some writing in the park or the library. Ask your boss if you can work out of an office in another part of the world. “Changing your reality can offer great perspective towards achieving your goals,” adds ERock.
#4 – Form new habits.
Now that you’ve changed your environment, hopefully, you’re starting to see some of your habits changing as well. We all have a few bad habits we’d like to fix – stop drinking soda every day, stop procrastinating, stop stalking the ex on social media until we convince ourselves we’ll be alone forever – just to name a few common ones. Changing or breaking a habit takes time. Studies say it takes about two months to change a habit. ERock says you should start small. “Starting small, like committing to working out three times a week is a great way to start and be successful. There are seven days in a week and all you have to do is make it to the gym three of those days. Life may change which days you get there, but if three days can become habit, you are off to a good start.” You can apply this same method to your other goals. Practice that foreign language at least twice a week to start. Get to bed by 10 p.m. at least three times a week. Only stalk your ex on Instagram and not every platform. #Babysteps
#5 – Go to bed.
True or false? When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re off your game the next day. You’re too tired to go to the gym. You make bad decisions like stopping by Burger King on the way to the office. And you’re definitely not going to apply for any jobs after work because you’re going to go home and crash. Researchers believe when you're sleep deprived, there's less activity in parts of your brain responsible for weighing negative outcomes. In other words, your brain is like, “Treat yourself. Eat that donut. Skip leg day. Buy that $200 sweater. Text your ex. What’s the worst that can happen?” Want to get a good night sleep. Turn off the phone, the TV, the computer and the lights. “Getting good, quality sleep begins with ditching the electronics before bed,” says ERock. “A deep, good night sleep will help you rise the next day recovered and ready to tackle your workout, your workday or whatever else you need to be your best for.”