Milestone moments, such as a new year, are great motivators to get us on the path to start implementing behavior changes and habits into our lives.
We enter the year with the "Fresh Start Effect", a positive phenomenon coined by Wharton Professor, Katherine Milkman. Feelings of empowerment to work towards our goals emerge because we psychologically wipe the slate clean- turning the page on our past selves and current behaviors as we step into future versions of ourselves who exhibit new, desired behaviors.
I think it's wonderful to take advantage of the motivation that accompanies the fresh start of a New Year... but what will you do when the motivation wears off?
When you no longer feel like training outside of scheduled team practice?
Or when you're no longer massively enthusiastic about carving out 30 minutes a day to learn a new skill?
Let’s bridge the gap between intention and action.
Here are 3 tips to make realistic, sustainable progress towards your long-term goals once the fresh start motivation wears off.
#1: Break your long-term goal down into a daily habit
Long-term goal pursuit is simply the execution of small daily habits.
Commit every single day to do a relatively small piece of your long-term goal.
Make your daily habit as specific as possible - what you'll do, when you'll be cued to do it, and where you'll do it.
Note: Yes, life happens. These should be specific enough for you to do consistently, but also be flexible. Be prepared to adjust and adapt your daily actions if you have to execute the routines elsewhere. (ex. traveling, events, vacations, last-minute plans, etc.)
Here are a few examples of breaking long-term goals down into habits-
Big Goal: Upgrade the quantity and quality of my sleep
Daily Habit: Every night, 1 hour before my set bedtime, I will power off my devices and wind down by making tea and reading a book.
Daily Habit: Every night, I will tidy up my space, pick and set out my clothes for the morning, then be in bed by 10 pm.
Big Goal: Prioritize my physical health (ex. exercise and nutrition)
Daily Habit: Monday-Friday, before work I will follow a training program and exercise for 30 minutes at the gym.
Daily Habit: After work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will go to a group exercise class (yoga, spin, pilates, etc).
Find a workout that makes you feel good and that you can do consistently.
Daily Habit: After I finish dinner, I will meal prep a healthy breakfast/lunch for the following day.
Big Goal: Get stronger and move better for my sport
Daily Habit: Before every lift, as part of my warmup, I will dedicate 3 exercises towards improving my mobility.
Daily Habit: I will prioritize adequate and consistent protein intake - by consuming 3-4 protein-rich meals throughout the day.
Tip: To maximize muscle growth for resistance training athletes/individuals, aim for a total daily protein intake range of 1.8-2.2 grams of protein/kg of body weight/day. EX: 170lb athlete (77kg) could aim to eat 138-170 grams of protein/day.
Extraordinary change is possible in one year by making tiny, consistent daily improvements.
#2: Master The 2 D’s- Discipline and Do
When it comes to consistent, long-term results ... discipline wins.
Say what you're going to do, go do it, and repeat.
Even when you're not motivated to do so - flex your discipline muscle by taking daily action.
I'm a big fan of what best-selling author, Mark Manson, refers to as the "Do Something" Principle.
Movement creates momentum and motivation.
By DOING something (taking small action steps) you start to rack up tiny wins, AKA results. Seeing progress, no matter how small, creates momentum to keep going and spurs your motivation to take even more action.
Cultivate discipline as one of your core values.
Take action to become motivated ...
rather than waiting to feel motivated to take action.
#3: Establish a Mini-Reward System
If the only reward is reaching your goal at the top of the mountain, you're in for a slow, painful trek.
Enjoy the daily climb and the goal-pursuit process itself.
Create your own personal mini-reward system to incentivize yourself to complete those daily actions that are getting you closer to the long-term goal.
Action Step: Mini-Reward System (weekly or bi-weekly small-medium rewards and then a bigger monthly reward)
Display your reward somewhere you can see it
Come up with rewards that are not counter-productive to your goal (ex: if my goal is to upgrade my physical health I probably shouldn't go out, binge drink, and make poor eating choices as my weekly reward)
Your rewards are something you can look forward to if you consistently stick to your daily habits
Ex: Here's a sample from my personal mini-reward system
Small: A candle, book, or beverage of choice at a local coffee shop
Medium: Jade Yoga Mat, 1 item from Lululemon, or infrared sauna session
Bigger: A massage, Nespresso machine, an outfit from Lulu, taking an online course on a topic I'm passionate about
Brainstorm your own mini-rewards. What you can look forward to that will help you stay on track during the process?
Go make the day count.
You making the days count turn into dominating your week.
The weeks turn into a great month.
Those months become an extraordinary 2023.
Remember, a seemingly lofty long-term goal becomes very manageable if you think about it day to day.