HEALTH AND WELLNESS: Motivation—mystery or mastery?

First Posted on Williston Observer, December 6, 2012

By Dr. Stuart Offer

Let’s be honest, we all do it or have done it. I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions. Some of us do it formally and others by just hearing a little voice in our head saying, “This is the year I am going to lose those 10 pounds, start exercising or putting more money into our savings account.” Unfortunately for many, these goals appear as elusive as finding Champ or the Holy Grail. The good news is this does not need to be the case. The problem is not with you, but with the way most people set themselves up for failure. With a little knowledge and the proper outlook, any goal can be achieved. I have personally achieved goal after goal by applying a simple three-step process that can work for you, too.

Step one is choosing the right goals. Second, I find the intrinsic, not the extrinsic motivation within myself. Last, I understand that willpower can be strengthened with practice, but fatigued with overuse. By applying these three pillars of motivation and willpower, you will be able to achieve your goals and sustain them for the long haul.

One of the worst saboteurs I see is goals that are either too easy or too hard. If your goals are not challenging it is easy to lose interest. If they are too hard, you will just run into obstacle after obstacle. When getting started, take into account where you are now and make goals that are easily within reach. Success will build more success. For instance, if you eat out five nights a week and you want to cut back, do not make a goal to never eat out again. Try eating out only one or two times per week and see how this goes. Another example: if you are starting an exercise program for the first time, it is unrealistic to think you will hit the gym five days per week.

In his book “Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” Daniel Pink calls this sweet spot “Goldilocks Tasks.” Once you master your initial tasks, up the ante and reach a little further. Make sure the challenges you face are matched to your abilities. Making progress is the single most important thing when it comes to motivation.

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