Wisdom//

How to Rebuild Your Motivation When It Starts to Dwindle

When you’re falling off the wagon, these smart tips will help you regain the momentum you need to keep going.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

The process of committing to a new habit rarely goes exactly as planned. Most of us will fluctuate in our motivation levels or face setbacks that can send us off track. And that’s OK, as long as we recommit and keep going. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the ways they rebuild their motivation when it begins to dwindle, and how they recommit to a habit when they fall off the wagon. Which of these tips will you try the next time you start to lose motivation?

Take a moment to reset

“I hit the ‘reset’ button to recommit. For me, this means going for a walk outside, calling a friend, journaling, taking a nap, drinking a glass of water, or doing a short meditation. The simple act of giving myself some breathing room allows me to shift my perspective and come back re-energized and recommitted.”

 —Lisa Abramson, executive coach, Menlo Park, CA

Remember your original “why”

“When I start to feel my motivation slipping away on a goal that I’ve been focused on for a while, I stop and ask myself, ‘Is this something I actually want?’ We often pick goals and put things on our vision board that we think we should want, so it helps to ask yourself if you truly want what you think you should be motivated about. This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the goal if your answer is no. Instead, I ask myself how I can tweak the goal so that I can renew my energy and excitement about it again.”

 —Cassie MacKenzie, life coach, St Petersburg, FL

Acknowledge the progress you’ve already made

“I rebuild motivation by looking for evidence of all the things I’ve done so far. Even if I’ve fallen off track, I’ve usually made at least a little bit of positive movement toward my goal – and sometimes a lot that didn’t give myself credit for! Next, I recalibrate. I ask myself, ‘What’s the next little step I could take?’”

—Erin Davis, women’s health coach, Orlando, FL

Try again

“I am currently committing to a Microstep of decluttering my home for fifteen minutes each day. At first, if I skipped a day, I would try to make it up the following day by doing thirty minutes. But I realized that I would feel overwhelmed, and instead would skip the next day as well. Now, if I miss a day, I don’t chase my losses. I just accept it, and start fresh the following day by setting my alarm fifteen minutes earlier so I get the decluttering done before work.”

—Donna West, coastal facilities manager, Perth, Australia

Reassess your timeline

“When my motivation begins to dwindle, I find that it’s a good time for an honest reassessment of the habits that I’ve set up to achieve my goal. I set a four-week weight loss goal, but felt that I was working out too often and wasn’t eating enough, so I was very tired. I decided to stretch that goal to eight weeks instead, and I was much happier. I was able to reassess, pivot, and reach my goal.”

 —Alisha C. Taylor, engineering program manager and coach, Greenville, SC

Create a concrete plan

“To rebuild motivation, I separate the planning from the doing. I find that when I plan in advance and create a list that is truly executable, I don’t need to rely on motivation or internal reserves. I just execute the list according to how I’ve time-blocked it. We are more likely to be caught up in the moment of what we want to be doing versus what we should be doing.”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Ask yourself if you’d be OK with giving up

“When I feel my motivation dwindling, I ask myself a simple question: ‘Will I feel OK if I abandon this idea in my life?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then I consider that I may be ready for a new direction. If I know that I will not feel OK letting it go, I realize that I have a deeper level of commitment. I have found this very empowering during times in my life when I have felt like giving up. Uncovering this deeper commitment has reignited my drive on countless occasions.”

—Elizabeth Bishop, educator and consultant, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Tap into the “after” feeling

“I try to work out in the morning, but I often find it’s easy to skip it because sleeping in seems so much better in the moment. I know I will be so much happier throughout the day if I just got up and worked out, so to get myself out of that unmotivated state, I try to tap into the feeling I get after just working out, and I immediately start feeling energy. As soon as I feel a glimpse of motivation, I sit up, drink some water to help get rid of the grogginess, and go.”

—Jon Vassallo, general manager and director of partnerships, Toronto, ON, Canada

Create a daily list

“When my motivation begins to wither away, I know that it is time for me to take a look at the bigger picture. I will make a list first thing in the morning of what good I want to accomplish that day. I then look at how my work will help me obtain that goal. After writing those things down, I take a walk. I then repeat the exercise, but this time, I make a plan of action.”

—Danny Trifone, director of content, San Diego, CA

Reach out to a friend

“To rebuild motivation when it starts to dwindle, I start by reaching out to my community. It’s helpful to reach out to those that you love — the ones that lift you up and support you in times of need. Helping and serving others is the greatest gift that we have. It gives us a sense of higher purpose, and the motivation to go on when we think we cannot.”

—Tara Laval, yoga and meditation instructor, Tampa, FL

Recite your go-to mantra

“If I ever feel like I need a burst of inspiration, I recite mantras in my head to put myself into a better mindset. These might include phrases I have recently read that have resonated with me, or ones I have used for a long time. I have at least five that I often turn to, whether at work, in the gym, or when I’m going to sleep. They help me stay focused and on track.”

—Jodie Cook, social media agency owner, Birmingham, UK

Talk to your fear

“My motivation most often wavers when I’m afraid. As the founder of a new social enterprise, I’m constantly stretching myself past my comfort zone. Recognizing fear is often the hardest part, but it helps rebuild motivation. Tune into your belly full of butterflies, sweaty palms, tight heart  — and say, ’It’s fear!’ I find it helpful to tell myself, ‘I know you’re trying to keep me safe, but you can’t be running the show here. Move to the backseat.’ If you thought talking to fear like a friend was weird, just wait.”

 —Shannon Mannon, founder of 3-Minute Storyteller, Phoenixville, PA

Identify why you veered off track

“Rebuilding motivation when I’ve fallen off track can definitely be difficult, but I find that it helps me to acknowledge how I got off track in the first place. If I can control the reason I was derailed, I try to reevaluate how I can commit to my goal. Most of the time, this requires me to put my goal on the calendar and commit to the  steps that need to occur to get there. If I block out the time and set up digital reminders, I’m more likely to stick to my schedule and feel prepared for the task at hand.”

 —Kaleen Skersies, real estate development, Seattle, WA. 

Remember how you felt when you first committed

“I find the best way to get back on track is to revisit why I wanted this in the first place, and reflect on how good it felt when I was putting it into action. I journal a lot, and I find that reading my original motives for starting this new habit helps me to recommit and start taking action.”

 —Heather Chapplain, sustainable style coach and designer, Toronto, Canada

Do you have a go-to tip that helps you recommit when you lose motivation? Share it with us in the comments!

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