10 Tips to Help You Stay Positive and Reach Your Goals
Want to develop healthier habits or get through a tough time? Here's how.
Posted May 28, 2019
You can't underestimate just how hard it is to change your thinking and behavior in order to adapt to the changes necessary to move your life forward. At some point, we all become resistant to change, even when we know it's good for us.
Whether you are trying to eat a healthier diet, get more exercise, get out of a rut, make a move, or accept a loss, you have to find the motivation to keep your head above water, stay positive, and stay committed. It's time-consuming and it's a lot of work, seemingly more so when you're just not feeling up to it, but when change is necessary, you have to make it a priority.
The trick is to give it whatever you've got to give, without expectations and without putting any more pressure on yourself than you're able to handle from day to day. Always keep your goal in mind, continue taking steps, large and small, to improve your chances, give yourself a break from time to time, and you'll get there when the time is right.
- Whatever your goal is, write it down (in a journal). You have a larger, long-term goal—to get fit, be more social, get a better job, get out of a slump, move on from grief—but to reach that goal you probably need to set mini goals along the way. Try this: Every morning, write down even the smallest positive steps you can take that day to feel better, stay motivated, and feel good about yourself at days' end.
- Accept that you will have good days and bad. That's just the way it is, and that's why you have to keep the bigger picture in mind. It's not a failure when you can't push yourself to exercise, prepare a perfectly healthy meal, or finish polishing your resume. You'll get to it. Do what you can, try to make some small effort in a positive direction, then call it a day. Remember that on a good day, when you're feeling more motivated, you'll make up for lost time, and maybe then some.
- Acknowledge your limitations. Have reasonable expectations of what you can accomplish each day. Yes, you have to push yourself, but if you push too hard, you'll just exhaust yourself and maybe even give up. It doesn't help to set yourself up for disappointment.
- Monitor your self-talk. You may have developed a habit of negative self-talk—putting yourself down, kicking yourself over mistakes, blaming yourself for not doing better—that only makes you feel hopeless and defeated. If you form a negative opinion of yourself, you won't think you deserve better than what you have, and you'll stop trying. To make changes in your life, you often have to start by making changes in the way you think. Whenever you have a negative feeling about yourself, such as "I can't do this, it's not going to work," immediately change it to a positive "I'm doing the best I can and it will only get better."
- Start slow and ease into change. Don't try to give it your all at once. There's no point, because adjusting to permanent change is always a gradual process. Stick with whatever you're doing and make small modifications to your eating/exercise/life plan only when you feel ready to make a change.
- Don't sweat the mistakes. Just pick yourself up right away and start moving forward again by doing something productive to counter or move on from the mistake. Did you blow a job interview? Who hasn't? You can try to rectify what went wrong, if that seems appropriate, or learn from the mistake and move on to the next application.
- Don't do anything you hate doing. You're not likely to stick with it. Don't try to eat food you don't enjoy just because you think they're good for you; there's always something else that's equally healthful. Don't sign up for another gym membership if you know you won't go; instead, sign up for swimming or tennis lessons, join a hiking group or try to find a walking buddy who's available when you are.
- Focus on how good it feels to accomplish something rather than on how difficult it is to get there. Small successes add up to big ones. Give yourself some credit for every little step you take toward your goal, just as you would credit anyone else.
- Stay motivated by continuing to set and revise your short-term goals and keeping your larger goals in mind at all times. Keeping your thoughts and goals in a daily journal gives you the opportunity to look back and reflect on how far you've come and what you still need to do.
- Try to avoid people and situations that make you feel bad about yourself. Keep developing relationships with people who understand what you're going through, make you feel good about yourself, and help you stay motivated. That may be a friend, a counselor, a family member or, on some days, even a stranger. Their support may be key to your success.