On Keeping Momentum After New Year’s Excitement Fadesby Alex Mathers
It's that time of the year when our enthusiasm for New Year resolutions, audacious goals, and big plans begin fading. That January excitement gets replaced with old habits, languishing, and procrastination. So, how can you stay on track for the long term, maintaining that intention and excitement you started the new year with? Here's how.
1. Understand where motivation comes from
Sometimes we struggle to maintain motivation to follow through with our New Year goals because we assume it comes from sources outside of our control. In other words, we believe it's extrinsic. This means that certain conditions need to be met to motivate us. One such condition is feeling good. We're motivated at the start of the year because we view a fresh new beginning and boundless opportunity as exciting before we lose willingness to work hard to actually make those changes happen. This is far less likely to happen when we understand that motivation is something we have full control over. We create it ourselves.
Intrinsic motivation means we approach any goal, get to work, and act with purpose regardless of how we feel, as it’s all about inner work, discipline, and consistency. If we expect to feel motivated every time we go to the gym, work on a long-term project, or build a new healthy habit, we will find excuses. People who stay motivated over the year understand the nature of motivation. They know they will feel motivated after the task is completed, not necessarily before doing it.
Action creates motivation. And this makes all the difference.
2. Expect boredom and frustration
Motivated people manage their expectations realistically. In other words, they anticipate that their goals won't be composed of only joyful activities that always go to plan. When our expectations are high– which they tend to be at the start of the new year–we are far more likely to be disappointed when such high standards are not met. Endure enough repeated disappointments (as you see them) and guess what? You'll want to quit. And many do.
Whether we openly admit it or not, the main reason so many of us quit new goals, fail to show up at our desks, and decide to procrastinate is that a part of us expects the process to be entirely fun. We use our sense of boredom or resistance to avoid sitting down and doing the work.
It's not about the nature of the work that should be the indicator of what to discontinue, avoid, and procrastinate on. It isn’t because you aren’t cut out for doing something that is a valid enough reason for you to stop doing that. What’s important is your willingness to persevere through moments of annoyance, discomfort, and boredom.
To extend your momentum indefinitely, be willing to get uncomfortable.
Know that things won't always be easy, be ready to tackle challenges and embrace the moments of failure, and understand that what you want will almost always take far more effort than you anticipated.
3. Attach a system to your goals
Most people who leap into a new year with fresh resolutions rarely take a moment to devise a system that will help them get there. Their goals provide the what, but they need a system – or a how.
Systems bring our thinking out of the future (goals) and back into the present (system).
Goals are still important, but they need to be attached to action today. A system can be as simple as starting your day with a mindful morning ritual or writing every day. Those are systems. Goals will fall off a cliff if you don't figure out the daily habits needed to make them a reality.
Set your key priorities, build the foundations and systems that make your goals possible, and define values that can hold it all together. Show up for yourself, make yourself accountable, and do the work.
4. Stop making things personal
A critical factor in ensuring so many of us fall back into our old ways is this: we make any change about us.
For example, someone might say they want to get into their best physical shape this year (run a marathon, lose weight, work on washboard abs – you name it). They may even have a clear understanding of how they will achieve that through diet changes and regular exercise. But then they start to experience some discomfort, face day-to-day challenges of not having enough time, and experience a setback. And they say:
“Maybe I'm not cut out for this.”
“I don’t have motivation to do that.”
“I lack willpower and self-discipline.”
They take their failure personally. And this is the reason number one why we stop making any positive change in our lives.
Instead of making it about you, benefit from turning your focus back to your system, as mentioned in the previous point. This takes the human and emotional components out of the picture. Now, you are back to fully focusing on the action.
Your system isn't built on your feelings. It's built on your consistent actions. You simply do it. And that’s how to stay on track.
5. Find a way to enjoy the process
If you're to stay with something for the long term, there are two essential truths you have to understand and remind yourself of:
1. Things will not always be easy.
2. You don't have to love what you do to enjoy what you do.
Enjoyment is on offer, and it's yours when you choose to enjoy what you're doing, regardless of what that is. Everything, no matter how seemingly difficult or monotonous the task is in your head – EVERYTHING – can be enjoyed. Even those taxes. Find a way to enjoy all that you do, one step at a time.
Powering through the initial sense of boredom will turn into enjoyment if you can push through inner resistance. I guarantee it. That’s the secret at the heart of it all. You can make anything enjoyable by bringing your consciousness to it like light to dark.
Picture this. You're back at school on the football field with your friends in the pouring rain. You're soaked and covered in dirt. People are cheering you on, and there is thunder rumbling in the distance. And you know you're about to get home for some warm pie and tea. You feel happy and alive. This is the kind of enjoyment I'm talking about. Savor both the ups and the downs.
Now you have the tools to continue building your momentum and working on your 2023 goals.