It can get pretty deceiving when you’re not seeing automatic results.
There was a study back in 1972 conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel that turned out to be one of the most famous experiments.
He brought children one by one into a room with a marshmallow sitting there. He told them he was leaving the room and that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow while he was gone then he would be rewarded with two marshmallows. Approx 1/3 of the kids ate the marshmallow right away. Another third waited a bit but still ate the marshmallow.
Years slowly go by. Some of the children in the experiment happened to be his daughter and some of her classmates. Mischel saw a correlation between the kids that were not able to wait getting into trouble at school and not having the best grades. Interesting right? The ones who had waited were scoring high on their SATs and getting admitted to the best schools.
20 years later: Mischel was able to prove that the ability to delay gratification correlated with academic and professional success more than almost any other measure – more than intelligence, more than standardized testing, more than household income, religion, persoality tests, gender – everything. 2
Psychologists then went through with similar studies and found that those who were able to delay gratification longer were, on average, physically healthier, academically more successful, financially more stable and overall, rated their subjective quality of life higher. 3 They also produced better SAT scores, got better jobs, had more stable relationships and suffered fewer mental illnesses. 4
I don’t know about you, but these studies kinda light up a light bulb inside me. I personally never considered myself someone with the best willpower. I gave in pretty easily. I liked the idea of instant gratification which, let’s be honest, isn’t always the best way to go about things. I knew successful people that were able to hold back from certain things because they knew what they wanted or they had a bigger goal in mind and it always left me so inspired. I can now say I do consider myself with enough willpower to be pretty damn proud. What kept the motivation alive? Little step by step. Keeping the bigger picture in mind and knowing that even if the results aren’t bright and clear in your face that they will come with hard work. So here are what I consider 5 tips to keep the motivation alive to get through those steps towards your goals and dreams.
1. Having a Clear Idea
Have a clear idea and a passion/determination for what the end result is that you are looking for. Whatever it is, make sure that the idea of succeeding or achieving this state – whether it be physical, mental, etc. is so powerful that you are well aware that you would be much more happier at the finish line then where you are now.
You have to make a commitment to yourself here. I’ll use health as an example. No matter what your goal is, you have to want it and know that you are doing this to yourself. With health, you are making this commitment for you. Don’t look at it as a chore, but as an investment for yourself. Make a pact with yourself stating that you are willing to put in the hard work. It won’t be easy turning down your sugar cravings or maintaining a good exercise routine.. it’s not all suppose to be fun, but it can become fun when you feel like it’s become a reward and investment to yourself. Wake up with a different mindset. Instead of being grumpy or listening to that lil voice telling you to go back to bed or to eat that donut maybe take a second and commit to making that first step towards gratification. Remember Mischel’s experiment.
Some other tips: Write it down. Put it up in your bathroom, by your bed, on your phone. A reminder of your commitment can go a long way.
2. Having a Clear Plan
Once you’ve got this grand plan, a key way to keep motivated is to make sure your plan is clear and concise. “Become healthier” might seem like a bigger mountain to climb than “walk for a half hour after dinner each evening”. You can keep this big goal as your motivator but a good way to keep the hard work going is to break it down into something more achievable..
3. Small Achievable Steps
There’s nothing more un-motivating then setting out big unrealistic goals and not meeting them, and feeling defeated. You might wake up and think “I want to live a healthier lifestyle” and while that’s great and all, you do have a higher success rate if you start small. If you’re like me you want to go big or go home and do it all right away. I’ve found over time that this tactic does not tend to benefit me. I would not always hit my target and slowly get more and more unmotivated to keep going.
How to fix this? Set smaller achievable goals. Even if they seem almost too easy. Remember you can always build upon. You are creating a routine for yourself here. Like every other routine or habit, you must build up. Trust me, checking off your list and going to bed at night knowing you achieved something is a far better feeling then feeling like you can barely keep up.
4. Be Hard, but not Too Hard on Yourself
We all have those days. Something comes up, you just need a day off, you don’t get it done, you choose play over work.. we’re human. Sometimes you gotta pick the fun times to keep a healthy balance. Just don’t let those days bring you down. Don’t let the one day, two day etc. off track set you off to never jumping back on that train. Just get back up, get back at it and keep trucking on. You got this! Just remember, there’s a difference between making excuses and something coming up/an off day. It’s easy to get side tracked but a healthy habit or routine isn’t built off excuses!
5. A Reward System That Works
Instead of the instant gratification, replace those cravings to opt out of your routine or habit with a set time that you can indulge in a reward. Think of how satisfying it would be to put in all this hard work knowing that in 2 or 3 days from now you have a beautiful day off to reset and recharge. Whether it be fitness with the cheat days or a day off putting in work towards a goal to do absolutely anything you want.. there’s such a positive outcome both towards your goal or habit but also mentally. Knowing that reward was so well deserved gets you super recharged to do it all again. Like a domino effect. This is a great way to stay motivated and have something to look forward to while you are pushing through.
Most powerful thought of it all, it’s all mindset.
Outfit in photo: SLEEH
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2 Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 54 (4), 687–696.
3 Moffitt, T. E., et al. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,108(7), 2693–2698.
4 Mischel, W., et al. (2010). “Willpower” over the life span: decomposing self-regulation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience