Staying Motivated and Reaching Your Goals

“Help! I’m Not Motivated!”

How many times have you felt this way? You are not alone. It’s why New Year’s Resolutions are rarely reached. We start with the best intentions, go hard, and somewhere along the way lose focus and we are back to our old habits. For many it’s a cycle that unfortunately can last a lifetime. We KNOW what we have to do, but for some reason we can’t “make ourselves” do it. So, how do YOU break the cycle? Do you need help staying motivated to reach your goals?

When Motivation Is At Its Height

Before I became a nutrition coach and personal trainer, I was a yo-yo dieter. I was always looking for my next new workout or diet to motivate me and finally get me to my weight loss goals.

When was my motivation the highest? At the very start of a new program…. ahhh… the honeymoon phase!

I even had personal trainers and nutritionists of my own in the past. I would hire them to keep me accountable and force me to workout and eat right when I didn’t want to. I would say I wanted to work with them so they could keep me motivated.

I would tell them, “BE TOUGH ON ME! I can be lazy at times, but I really want this.”

When I had a new workout, and a new diet with a list of approved foods in my hands, I felt most excited and motivated!

But, did that ever work long for me long term? Unfortunately, I would do well for a while, but no matter what it didn’t last. Motivation would drop. The trainer or nutritionist couldn’t make me stick to my goals. I started finding excuses to miss my workouts or cheat on my diet. I was back to square one.

The Key Is Building Intrinsic (internal) Motivation Instead of Extrinsic (external) Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding. This contrasts with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishments.

When I was trying to get the personal trainers or nutritionists to be tough on me and help me stay accountable and motivated, that was an example of trying to build motivation from an external source. This is why it never worked long term. I did the same thing when trying 21-day workouts or diet detoxes.

And to be honest… I did this during my time as a fitness competitor or when I signed up to run a race. I used these events to challenge and keep me on track, hoping the results would simply stay after the competition or race was complete. Unfortunately, it did not work, which I believed, was because I simply lost motivation.

How do you build intrinsic (internal) motivation?

I’ve shared my TOP 5 tips below, but all of these tie into one thing…. CONSISTENCY! And weaving sustainable healthy activities (not hard-core challenges) into something you can easily do every day. Most important, it only works if it is tied to your deep desire to match your lifestyle to being the person you really want to be.

How do you start to do this?


1) Find Your WHY

It’s a difficult issue, but it starts with figuring out WHY you want to achieve this goal. To simply say, “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get fit” is not enough. WHY do you want to do these things and HOW will reaching these goals impact your life for the better. Once you figure that out, you are on to something!


Sit down and write a WHY list. Take a few days to be sure you are getting through the superficial reasons and uncovering the heart of WHY you want to get fit. I tell my clients you know you are on to something when you find a “WHY that makes you cry.” After writing your list, keep it out to review (and add to) during your fitness journey.

2) Surround Yourself with the Right Tools & People

Surround yourself with the right tools, the right people.

The Right People: Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Such a true statement.
The Right Tools: “What you focus on is what will grow.” You may not be responsible for everything that happens to you, but you are responsible for how you react to what does happen to you. We are 100% responsible for our thinking. What are you flooding your brain with daily?


Remind yourself of your goals daily by posting fitness quotes around your house, in the car (& on the fridge!). Some people like to post their “before” photo in the house or keep them on their smartphone (and bi-weekly progress pictures to stay motivated). Soon you will see that changes ARE happening.
Get a support system by making your goals public and telling your friends and family. Soon you will have a following of like-minded folks who cheer you on. Some people even do well getting counseling when struggling with emotional eating issues. Reach out for help where you need it.

3) Pre-Planning is Key – The Fitness Journey is like learning an instrument

Fitness never just “falls into place.” Fitness never happens on accident. It requires scheduling like the rest of your commitments. It took me 14 years to learn that, but now it is automated for me. It can be like that in time for you too, but you must proactively build time into your day to learn these new skills.

I use the analogy that learning the automated fitness lifestyle is similar to learning to play an instrument. You must practice daily (i.e. pre-plan your nutrition ahead of time – even pre-log on a food journal or an app like My Fitness Pal occasionally – if you struggle with nutrition).


Pre-plan and schedule your workouts for the week ahead of time. Keep your appointment with yourself to workout just like you keep all important appointments you have each week.
Just like learning an instrument, you can’t expect yourself to do well during your “concert performance” (i.e. – your weigh-in/cholesterol tests, etc) if you didn’t put the time in and practice and consistently practice your scales and music.
The things that feel difficult when you first start – i.e. learning the fundamentals of nutrition and workouts, DO BECOME more automated and easier – promise! Just like learning an instrument becomes more automatic and the instrument becomes easier to play the more you practice. Stick with it and these new fitness skills will become habits you don’t have to overly think about or plan each day.

4) Motivation Comes AFTER Action – Not Before

Motivation comes after action, never before. In fact, motivation THRIVES on action. Many times we wait until we “feel motivated,” to do something, but that rarely works forever. It’s unlikely you will feel motivated to workout or eat right ahead of time. You may be inspired to do so for a time, but true motivation comes AFTER you start putting the actions in place consistently.


Start doing the actions to live your healthy lifestyle FIRST. The “feeling motivated part” comes later. Even just 15 minutes of 1 healthy activity each day can be enough to light the spark. Try it! Trust me, as someone who has struggled and lived this lifestyle for years – it works.

5) Make Sure Your Fitness Program Is Sustainable

Sometimes it’s not your fault when you fail! Many diets or exercise programs are too extreme or do not fit with your lifestyle. If you can’t imagine yourself eating or exercising according to your program parameters 5 years from now, you probably need a less-restrictive program that will still yield weight loss. Not that you can keep eating exactly as you were before (or not exercising regularly). You will be changing habits and getting out of your comfort zone to make progress. Yes, some days are difficult and you won’t want to do it. Experts say it usually takes 3 weeks to create a new habit. I can tell you that seems to be about right. Keep going and your new habits will get easier to maintain.


Avoid fad diets and quick-fix programs. Make sure you are on a program you feel you could still implement 5 or 10 years from now.


Today I challenge you to dig deep and start by creating your WHY list (tip #1). And if you’ve already made one before (especially if you are a client of mine), I urge you to take the time to pull it out and read it again. Let’s review it together.