This time of year, everyone is getting excited to start a new year fresh with new ideas and inspirations. There is research stating we are more motivated to start working on goals at a clear milestone, such as Monday, the first day of the month, our birthday and especially the new year. Many people suffering from depression or anxiety notices a lack of motivation or excitement regarding previously enjoyed activities, what therapists call anhedonia. Goal setting is one of the ways we can treat a lack of motivation. ls give us something to work towards and when done properly they give us hope and pride that has been lacking in us for so long. Here are a few easy steps you can take to help create easy to follow goals and increase your motivation.
When depression and anxiety are at its worst looking at big daunting goals might just push us further into the dark hole. Although creating small goals can seem insignificant, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits reminds us that a 1% increase is still an increase and builds a lot of momentum over time. On the other hand, trying to increase by 15%, failing and moving back to 0% can do more damage to our sense of confidence than it does good. Instead, think of a very small action item, one that doesn’t require much thought or effect, so small that it would feel really silly if you didn’t do it.
Let’s say I have a goal to make sure my living room is picked up before I went to bed at night. A small action item could be to make a habit of picking up all the trash that I can easily see in my room before getting into bed that night. If that seems like too much for, go even smaller by committing to putting one thing away each night. Is your room going to be clean every night before you go to bed? No! But are you forming habits that you’ll be able to sustain in the long term? Yes! And your room looks slightly better than it did when you started.
Recognize the motivation
Let’s say after a week of taking care of all the trash you can visibly see in your room you feel more energized and want to do a little more. Great! Do it! Be sure to really take a second to appreciate the motivation while it’s here. Stop when you’ve felt you have had enough and allow yourself to go back to the simple goal the next day. Don’t feel any pressure to do more every day just because you felt
motivated to do more yesterday.
Get yourself some accountability
Find yourself a friend or family member that is willing to check in with you and see how your goals are moving along. If you’re seeing a therapist regularly, checking in with them is a great way to then process what might be keeping you from achieving your goal. If you don’t have an actual person or would prefer to keep all of this to yourself, be your own accountability buddy by writing a journal entry once per week stating what went right, what went wrong, and brainstorm possible solutions.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Accept that it is going to take some time before you feel more energized and willing to jump up and get things done. One way to keep the momentum going to measure your goals in some way. Create a scale of 1-10 that ranks your level of motivation for the day and keep track of those numbers. After a while you will start to see a small increase, and another small increase, and another until eventually you’ve reached your goal and can continue adding more if you choose to.
Don’t give up
Failure is often looked at as a negative in our country and it can be so easy to say, “Well, I didn’t follow through with that task the last two days in a row, so I’m going to give up this week and start again on Monday.” Shift your thinking to recognize that every time you practice it helps change neuro pathways in your brain helping you create long standing habits that increase motivation. Don’t wait for Monday to start again. Start right now, today.
These five steps will help you manage your goals to increase motivation and help you on your mental health journey. If you’re struggling with motivation to the point that it interferes with your daily life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist. If you aren’t sure what goals would help you the most look for our next post on using your values to set meaningful goals.