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How to Become More Motivated


Several times a week, I have discussions with clients about why they’re not fulfilling promises they made to themselves about better eating, moving their bodies more or improving self-caring. Having spent much of the first half of my life involved in similar internal debates, I understand the distress you’re in, so here’s some advice: figure out what’s preventing you from having sustained motivation.

In my view, motivation has two phases: jump-start and maintenance. The first thing to figure out is which phase you’re having problems with. Some folks just can’t seem to begin, forever standing at the starting line but never crossing it. Others begin again frequently, stopping and starting over. Whichever problem you have, you’ll want to determine what’s been preventing you from starting on keeping on. Here are my ideas: 

  • You have mixed feelings about doing whatever it is you propose to do: cook more healthfully, walk three times a week, have more structured meals or stop weighing yourself. Without resolving your mixed feelings, it’s highly unlikely that you will reach your goals. You might head off in the direction you want, then begin to waffle and give up. Read my book Starting Monday which is all about resolving conflicting feelings about make permanent eating, activity and self-caring changes. 
  • You lack life skills to transform your behaviors more positively. Life skills are abilities to manage life effectively rather than using food, weight or over-exercising. Lacking life skills, you may begin moving towards your goals, but you can’t sustain movement because you’re not equipped for life without your old habits. Once you learn new, effective habits, you’re far more likely to succeed. Read more about acquiring life skills in my book Outsmarting Overeating.
  • You engage in ineffective self-talk. If you’re trying to calm down because you’re late to work—again—the last thing you want to tell yourself is “I’m overwhelmed.” If you want to eat a handful of M&Ms mindfully, you don’t want to be reminding yourself, “I usually eat the whole bag once I start, so what’s the point of trying to eat just a few.” If you want to take a walk, you won’t do it by saying, “I’m too tired. I’ll do it tomorrow.” You need motivating, not de-motivating, self-talk to get you started and keep you going and you’ll find that in my new book Words to Eat By.

So there you have it. If you spend way too much time struggling in your head about doing something positive for yourself, stop. Instead, use the time to learn how to motivate yourself. Constant internal debate is emotionally debilitating and will make you want to give up. Instead, read and learn and practice and change.