How to Motivate Yourself To Do Anything

By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

If you’re like me, attaining goals related to exercising and eating healthy may not come naturally. It takes hard work to stay motivated and consistent with a healthy routine! And when you don’t achieve your fitness and health goals you may feel lazy, making it even more difficult to get on track. However, there are easy fixes you can make to build your motivation and stick with your wellness goals.

Remove Practical Barriers
Many of my clients don’t achieve their goals because of practical barriers, not because they lack motivation. For example, I recently set a goal to play tennis once per week, but haven’t been able to achieve it. This isn’t because I don’t want to play, but rather because of logistical issues like finding a court. When you find yourself not achieving a goal try to problem solve. Ask yourself: Is there anything I could be doing differently to make it easier to accomplish this goal? Through problem solving many of my clients have found solutions to help them achieve their goals. 

Make Working Out Non-negotiable by Putting it on Your Schedule
When we don’t put something down in writing (in pen), we are more likely to blow it off. Especially when it’s something like exercising. Try putting specific times in your schedule and making them non-negotiable. Working out is just as important as happy hour drinks or getting your nails done. And find ways to remind yourself to do your workout, like phone reminders or post-it notes in strategic places.

Use Coping Statements
Many people suggest reading motivational statements such as “just do it!” and “no pain no gain!” to encourage us to follow through on our goals. Personally, I find these platitudes empty and uninspiring (they remind me of those cheesy posters we used to have in elementary school). Instead, I encourage my clients to come up with their own personalized coping statements.

So what are coping statements? They are different from overly positive “just do it” messages because they incorporate the reasons we don’t like exercising and why it’s hard. If we skip acknowledging why something is hard, the statement won’t ring true. The most important thing about a good coping statement is that you actually believe it!

Here are some of my coping statements that I use for running:

  • “This hurts and I feel exhausted, but I know I’ll feel proud of myself when I get home and I’m closer to achieving my fitness goals.”
  • “I hate running and it seems like I’m never going to get better at it. But every day I get stronger, and if I keep running every day it will get easier.”

So what do you actually do with these brilliant coping statements? You find some way to internalize these statements so you can draw upon them when you’re wavering over putting on your gym shoes, or considering stopping in the middle of a spin class. How you do this is entirely up to you. Some clients write their coping statements on a notecard and review them several times per day, some have them in their phones and set reminders to read them, and others like to record their statements and listen to them when they feel like giving up.

I personally choose to record them. When I’m on a run and feel like stopping, I listen to my coping statements to give me that extra push. It’s important to also review your coping statements before you exercise because when you’re in the middle of that grueling workout it’s going to be hard to remember anything except how much it hurts.

These same principles can be used to get you motivated to do anything. Stay tuned for my follow up post on how you can use coping statements to stick to your diet.  

Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in NYC with office locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. If you are looking for support with motivation and achieving your goals, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn how therapy might be able to help.