Research Backed Ways to Stay Motivated

Staying motivated is a daily struggle for many people. Whether you are trying to lose weight, get promoted, practice more self-care, be a better partner, or a more present parent, motivation is key to accomplishing your goals.

Lora Park, associate professor and director of the Self and Motivation Lab at the University of Buffalo, is quoted in this article where she says, “Motivation tends to drop when you feel a deficit in three key areas of life: your autonomy, competence and relationships. Unfortunately, the pandemic challenged all three of these areas for a lot of people this past year. The good news is you CAN feel motivated again!

A psychology professor at Harvard University, Ron Siegel, suggested that the key to following through on motivation boils down to this: bring optimism and fun back into the picture. In my opinion, these are two things we should all be focusing more on right now!

Here are 5 research backed ways to stay motivated:

  1. Create daily rituals. Creating rituals is something I work on with my clients. We don’t realize it but brushing our teeth is a ritual. You automatically brush your teeth every day. For instance, if you are wanting to workout first thing in the morning, a common ritual I recommend is to put your workout clothes out before you go to bed. Eventually, this becomes automatic and you have created a new behavior.
  2. Visualize a full-body experience. Visualizing yourself accomplishing your goal (however big or small) can help you to feel more motivated to stay the course. Think about how you will feel (mentally and physically) if you get up 15 minutes earlier to meditate. Then, your motivation will be driven by joy instead of fear.
  3. Reward yourself. The key with rewarding ourselves when we accomplish “x” is to make sure we are rewarding ourselves in the moment. Research shows that in order to increase intrinsic motivation, it is important to pair the activity with something you enjoy either during or right after the activity. You could listen to your favorite podcast while you are jogging or have a piece of dark chocolate while you finish up emails for the day. Remember, the reward does not have to be big or expensive.
  4. Acknowledge your triggers and take breaks. We all have days where we feel unmotivated! This is common and normal. It is important to acknowledge your triggers so that you can get back on track. If you are completely burned out at work or home, ask for a break or help. It is okay! Research shows that when you have a simple plan for when things are not going the way you had hoped, you are more likely to go back to your automated behavior. Take a break and come back.
  5. Celebrate small victories. Big goals are wonderful to have but they won’t happen overnight (if only we had super powers!). It is important to celebrate small victories along the way so that you can stay motivated on a daily basis. One of the most common goals I see working with patients is to lose “x” pounds. Oftentimes, people feel lighter, have more energy, can keep up with their kids, and experience less brain fog on their weight loss journey. These are amazing byproducts of hard work and should absolutely be celebrated along the way!


Remember that, whatever you are wanting to accomplish, you can do it! If you put your mind to it and use these tools, you will be able to keep moving forward. And don’t forget to have fun!

If you would like to learn more or need support in figuring out how to incorporate these things into your life, I would love to meet with you! You can book a session here.

Be well,

Stephanie Watson