Defining a specific and definable goal to achieve with exercise gives you a clear direction for your workouts, and a yardstick to measure your progress. It’s important to state your goal in a way that can be measured.
More useful goals include details, such as:
- I want to be able to fit into that outfit
- I want to be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop
- I want to be able to complete five full push-ups
Less useful goals are so general they can’t be quantified:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to be fitter
- I want to be strong
The goals that don’t have a measurable component are hard to track and are likely to shift as you approach them, making them hard to accomplish and this can be demotivating. The goals with a specific and measurable point to aim for allows you see how close you are to achieving your goal. It also offers a way to break your goal down into mini-goals that you can check off as you make progress, which is a great motivation booster! It feels great to actually reach a goal that has a hard endpoint, which gives you a great motivation head-start on the next goal you set from there.
Visualisation is closely related to your goal setting. Picturing yourself as the person who has achieved the goal you set gives you an emotional connection to that goal, and solidifies the aim from just words, to something that feels real. As you visualise yourself at the endpoint of that goal, picture how you feel having achieved that goal. This hooks into powerful empathetic and emotional parts of the brain that are closely tied with reward and motivation.
If you ever feel your motivation waning, checking in with your goals and re-visualising and thinking about how you’ll feel when you achieve them can be the boost you need to refocus your motivation.
Taking pride in taking the small steps towards being more active and practicing forgiveness for yourself when you don’t complete everything you wanted can prevent you from getting into a negative headspace that destroys your motivation.
Often the hardest part of exercise is starting each workout, so committing to completing even just 5 minutes of exercise is an achievable task when your motivation is feeling low. Often you will find that once you have started, the motivation will increase, and you can complete a full workout. On the days where you complete 5 minutes and you do not feel up to more, then that’s often a good sign you just need a break that day, which is fine!
In the beginning, motivation gets you started with exercise and helps you complete regular workouts, but as you continue to work out, it becomes a habit like brushing your teeth, and instead discipline keeps you regularly exercising in the long term.