Self-improvement tricks to gear yourself up to the challenges of the new year

By Jen Horn | Photo by Alex Radelich/Unsplash

Motivation, not unlike physical skills like running, swimming or lifting, requires “muscles” be exercised in your brain gym. It has been a critical determinant for those who excel and those who don’t because motivated individuals manage to keep at it where others might pack up and leave. And while you may have had your share of struggles in the past, it’s not quite so difficult to maintain if you keep in mind these four simple tips:

Tackle One Major Change at a Time

You are a creature of habit, and trying to change two things simultaneously can take quite a toll on your reserves of willpower and desire for routine, comfort, and familiarity. So even if you’re tempted to do a life overhaul, consider focusing your energy on one aspect and doing that well, because as the concept of keystone habits by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit suggests, this has the potential to cascade change in other areas of our lives, too.

Set Small, Measurable Goals to Track Progress

Mammoth feats seem a lot more manageable when we break them down into mini-projects. So, if your goal is to run a half marathon, swim five kilometers per week, or transition to a healthier 100 percent plant-based diet, break that down into weekly or even daily goals. This way, what may otherwise seem quite daunting can be more doable when you think that you can start with a one-kilometer swim thrice a week (which you can eventually build up), or a green smoothie instead of tapsilog in the morning (which you will cascade to your other meals). Celebrating these small wins can do a lot to boosting you with more motivation for the road ahead.

Create a Clear Vision of Yourself Working Towards Success While Embracing the Power of Negative Thinking

One of the most regular and crucial parts of Michael Phelps’ training is playing the videotape of himself swimming to victory in his mind’s eye. He visualizes this every day so much so that in the event of a mishap like water seeping into his goggles at the Beijing Olympics, he managed to stay calm, relaxed, and act accordingly with focus and determination. Furthermore, when you already train your brains to also imagine negative scenarios, rather than these serving as downers, these serve as buffers to prepare you for when these events actually happen.

Make Yourself Accountable to a Community or Someone Else

Whether it’s a public declaration on your Facebook feed, a regular fitness or health meet-up group, or an exercise or diet buddy, having someone else to answer to can work wonders in making you follow through on your pledge to work towards a goal. This simultaneously creates a support system from which you can draw knowledge or experiences from (sometimes unsolicited advice included), and more importantly, sets you on a path where you want to prove to others that you can do it.