I think the hardest part of making any kind of lifestyle change is to motivate yourself to stick with it. You can be trying to lose weight, clean up your house, get out of debt, or be a better parent, motivation IS the key to success.The hardest part of creating any major lifestyle change is managing your motivation!
I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on the subject, but I have picked up some pretty good tips on the subject over the years. Here are some of the best tips I use to motivate myself:
Don’t break the chain
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is credited with thinking up this one. It’s simple to do, but very powerful. Get a calendar and mark an X on it for the first day you are successful in using your new behavior. On the second day, add another X and draw a line linking them together. If you don’t do your behavior on the third day, you have to start a new chain on the fourth day. What you are doing is competing with yourself to see how many consecutive days you can get for your chain. It’s surprisingly motivating.
Picture the prize
I love this one because it’s so visual. Works well for both kids and adults. Decide on a reward – whatever you feel is appropriate for about a month’s worth of progress towards your goal. Can be an outfit, dinner at a restaurant, a CD, whatever you can afford. The find a nice full-color picture of the item and cut it into about 30 numbered pieces. You stick them in an envelope. Every time you have a good day towards your goal, you earn a piece of the picture. When the picture is complete, you have earned the prize.
Set a financial penalty.
I got this one from my former pastor. He was like any other father, sometimes he would get mad and yell at his kids and he wanted to change that behavior. So, he decided that he would have to pay them a dollar if he yelled at them. He had four kids and a pastor’s salary, so this was a really good incentive for him to change his behavior.
Another version I’ve heard is to give money to a cause you really dislike. That could be a very good motivator, but you’ve got to have someone to act as a referee to keep you honest and make sure you actually follow through on your donation or pay your penalty.
Enlist a Coach or an accountability partner to motivate you
This one is a little bit tricky because you have to find someone who is willing to be a little bit mean to you, or at least very strict with you. You don’t want a person who is going to cut you a break or let you off the hook.
I tend to be a major impulse buyer, so I have a friend who is a money blogger. Before setting out on a shopping trip, I will text her with a summary of what I need to buy and how much I want to spend. Knowing that I’m going to have to ‘fess up to her if I come home with extra stuff, is a powerful motivator. Read my post on Teach Your Bank to Yell at You if you struggle with money issues.
Rig the System in Your Favor
The flip side of this is to get a partner to reward you rather than yell at you. I did this for my husband when he had been dragging his feet on finishing up some household projects. I had a $20 gift card to his favorite restaurant that I’d won somewhere, so I tacked it up on the fridge with a note that if he completed the projects by the end of the week, he could have the gift card to enjoy a nice lunch. The projects got done in record time.
One of my decluttering clients tried this with great success. Her husband had been after her to clean out their guest room for weeks. She asked him if he would take her out to dinner if she completed the project. He said he would be delighted to. She completed the project in just a few hours and then they enjoyed a nice dinner together, so it was definitely a win-win situation for both of them.
Power of Post-It Notes to Motivate Yourself or Your Family
Another systems tactic that is surprisingly motivating – Post-It Notes. It is so silly how a little piece of sticky paper can be motivating, but it totally can. Here are some ideas to use Post-It Notes to motivate yourself or your family (I’ve used all of these with great success).
- Want your kid to brush their teeth or do a chore? Stick a bunch of Post-It Notes on the mirror that say “I did it!”. Every time they do the task, they get to pull off a note. Instant positive reinforcement.
- Want to stay away from something? A simple Post-It Note on the fridge “I will not open this fridge after 9 PM”. “Adrian is not allowed on this computer until 11 AM”. “Johnny can only play this game AFTER he has shown Mom his completed homework”. “This is a clean counter, you may not set ANYTHING here”. It is just surprising how much effect little notes like this have.
- Kids carrying snacks all over the house and leaving crumbs EVERYWHERE. Make a little fence of Post-It Notes on the kitchen floor. “No food or drink past this line”. It’s like magic!
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Helpful Books on Motivation
If you are really serious about how to motivate yourself – I have a bonus tip for you. I am the queen of self-help books. I have a whole shelf full of them, along with videos, CD’s and audio tapes from every motivational expert under the sun. However, the best one I have found so far is a new book called Change Anything. It’s got some seriously brilliant tips for changing any type of behavior.
It’s definitely a book to read with a highlighter in your hand because there are so many simple and clever strategies.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Extra bonus tip to motivate yourself
I just found this on the interwebs the other day and I wanted to share it with you. I draw these beautiful little intricate black and white drawings called Zentangles. It’s fun and very calming, sort of like those adult coloring books.
This lady figured out a way to use them to motivate herself to pay off debt. Every time she paid $25 on one of her credit cards, she got to color in one little section. I thought that was a brilliant strategy! Here is one of my drawings – I can see exactly how much fun it would be to color in one section every time you pay a bill.
I hope these ideas will help you. Be sure and drop me a line to let me know how you are getting on with it. Or if you have any great ideas to share also. I’d love to hear them. I am always interested in more great motivational ideas.
Photo credit: Whitneylayne @ Fiverr.com