How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Hard

The last week of January is just about the time when all those New Year’s resolutions start to get really challenging.

The cheer of the holidays has worn off, the days are cold and dark and short, and it’s difficult not to feel well and truly exhausted.

Those new behaviors aren’t quite habits yet, and the motivation we felt for doing them in the first place can start to wane.

So how do we keep our motivation up? Here are 5 ways to maintain motivation when things get hard.

1. Remember Why You Set the Goal in the First Place

Whether it’s working out, writing every day, or building a new business, one of the keys to staying motivated is making—and reviewing—a list of the reasons you set the goal in the first place.

Exercise for the sake of exercising is meaningless. Looking good on the beach or staying alive long enough to see your kids graduate college? Much more motivating.

2. Break Things Down into Manageable Chunks

How do you walk across the country? One step at a time.

No matter how big your goal is, breaking it into manageable chunks helps significantly.

3. Visualize Success

It’s one thing to know why you’re working towards a goal. It’s quite another to picture what it will feel like to reach it. I used to be skeptical of visualization, but after trying it regularly I’ve changed my tune.

Try closing your eyes for a minute and picturing the way it will feel to reach your goal. You’ll be amazed at the motivation that simple exercise generates.

4. Get Some Help

Nobody can go it alone all the time. Finding a person or community to support you can be an incredible motivator.

Join a meetup, find an accountability partner, or chat online with people working towards the same goal. Whichever option you choose, you’ll find it far easier to keep going and overcome common obstacles with the help of a like-minded community.

5. Reward Yourself

The more long-term your goal is, the harder it can be to keep motivated. Setting interim goals, and rewarding yourself for meeting them, is a powerful psychological tactic to help you keep focused.

Each small success triggers the brain’s reward center, releasing dopamine and helping turn what was once a chore into a habit.