Finding Your Motivations to Make More Lasting Changes

Looking toward the new year, many people think about change- things they want to do differently this time around. A lot of New Year resolutions focus on making (seemingly) simple daily changes- eating healthier, exercising more, creating greater work/life balance- so why are they so darn hard to keep?! Breaking patterns that we’ve lived for years is a daunting task, no matter how small these changes may seem! Life can be hectic from day to day, and creating new patterns takes time, patience, and commitment that is sometimes hard to come by.

However, one of the biggest factors to successfully reaching your goals is to look into your motivations for making changes. Once you are able to identify and verbalize your motivations, it will be easier to remind yourself of the “why” behind your actions (“Why am I waking up at 4am to go to the gym again?”), commit to your goals, and make the changes you want to see in 2019!

In general, there are two types of motivation: external motivation and internal motivation. External motivators are things outside of yourself that encourage you to take action, such as money, rewards, and recognition. Although external sources of motivation can be very effective initially, they do not always contribute to lasting changes. For example, if your goal is to lose weight and your motivation is that others will recognize your progress and compliment your appearance, you may lose motivation to continue to work towards this goal once others stop taking notice. As another example (not exactly resolution related), if your primary motivation for working a certain job is the money, you run a high risk of burnout, as the money will eventually not seem to be enough.

So, what’s missing from these examples? What’s the key to making lasting changes?? Finding your internal motivators, as these are the motivators that make your actions personally fulfilling and keep you going, even in the absence of external rewards. Internal motivators may include a developing a sense of mastery, finding joy, learning, having pride, cultivating self-love, and finding meaning/purpose. Using the weight loss example above, say that your motivation is to feel better about yourself (increased self-confidence), participate in an enjoyable activity regularly (exercise), or gain knowledge (learn more about healthy eating habits); these motivators cannot be given to you or taken away from you because they’re intrinsically rewarding and align with your values- what you (not others) deem to be important.

When attempting to clarify your goals for the upcoming year, it will be most important to think about the reasons behind the changes you want to make. What do I want to be different about my life? Why is this change important to me? And how will my life be different if this change is made?

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2019!

Brooke Hudgins