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How to stay motivated: the key to sustained success

So you’ve set your intentions for the year, made some plans, and dusted off your self-care cobwebs. The tricky part now is finding ways to make sure that your enthusiasm lasts longer than January. It’s time to talk about that old beast: how to stay motivated.

Why motivation is important for success

If you’ve ever tried to change something in your life, however big or small, you’ll know that doing it once isn’t that hard. It’s doing it repeatedly until it becomes a habit that tests your mettle. Take flossing every night as an example. You can plot it in your diary, set a reminder on your phone, and tell your partner to send your butt to the bathroom at 10 pm to make sure you do it; but if you only floss once, you can’t really consider it a success.

Persistence is the key to truly mastering a new habit. Make sure that every night – not just once in a while – ends with you flossing and you can consider it a habit. But persistence is hard. It takes energy, foresight, and willpower to keep doing something, especially if it’s a mundane or unpleasant task.

What makes us persist? Satisfaction. If we get to the end of a task and feel good about it, we’re more likely to repeat it again tomorrow. This is easy to see with tasks that have a pleasant outcome, like reading or practicing a musical instrument. But it’s less apparent with others, and these are often the habits we’re naturally bad at and want to improve upon.

Immediate satisfaction

Mundane tasks are satisfying though. If you budget your finances monthly, you’ll have less debt. Less debt means more financial freedom – something that would be incredibly satisfying to accomplish. So why don’t we do it? Why is that not enough to stay motivated? Essentially, there is too much time between the habit and the reward.

We need to feel satisfied the moment we’ve completed the task in order to better our chances of wanting to do it again. When you put a piece of chocolate cake in your mouth, it tastes good. You want to do it again. And you do. If you eat some kale, not so much, so you’re less inclined to eat more of it.

Take some time to examine some habits you want to incorporate into your routine in order to live out your intentions. What will make them satisfying?

Pair things up

If you struggle to come up with an answer for some of these, you can look at pairing the habit with something else that is satisfying as a type of reward. For example, you might want to meditate every morning. Pair it up with waiting for your cup of coffee to brew. Once your meditation is done, you get to enjoy that first cup of coffee. Before you know it, it doesn’t make sense to stare at your coffee machine and not meditate – you’ve paired them up into one activity that forms a part of your morning ritual.

Here are some other ways to pair up the meh and the satisfying:

  • Doing 100 sit-ups every day + watching your favourite TV show
  • Cleaning the kitchen + listening to a podcast
  • Sorting your bills and receipts + enjoying a glass of whisky
  • Journaling + taking a bubble bath

In short, if you want to stay motivated, the secret isn’t flooding your Instagram feed with hustle quotes or trying to power through your day like Hercules. It’s persistence through satisfaction. Pairing up the pleasant with the not so pleasant is key to becoming the type of person you want to be.

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