Motivate Yourself by Listing the Stuff You’re Already Doing Right

Motivate Yourself by Listing the Stuff You’re Already Doing Right
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When we focus on improving our health, we often end up with a mental list of things we aren’t doing: I should exercise, I should drink more water, I should eat a vegetable sometime. But what about the healthy habits you’re already doing? There are probably more than zero.

This isn’t some goofy feel-good tactic, like writing “make a to-do list” at the top of your to-do list and crossing it off. (Although, honestly? There’s nothing wrong with making yourself laugh as you begin a daunting chore. I’m all for the goofy feel-good stuff.) There’s a well-accepted psychological theory that underpins it. We’re building our self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is your belief that you can do the thing. (Whatever that thing might be.) Think about how you feel when you do something you’re good at and that you’ve done countless times before: you’re confident, you’re probably in a good mood just thinking about it, and you know you’re going to nail it.

If you’re a runner, you probably feel this way when you head out for your Tuesday morning run. But if you don’t think of yourself as a runner, it’s all new and uncomfortable, isn’t it? You don’t know if you can make it through one run, much less the whole new habit you’re hoping to start.

Good news, though: You can build self-efficacy in multiple ways. And one of those ways is looking back at things you’ve done well in the past. Even if you haven’t built your running habit yet, you can look at the habits you have built. Maybe you walk the dog every day. Maybe you already pack sorta-healthy lunches. Maybe you manage to get to bed on time at least some of the time. Those can all go on your list.

Looking over that list, you’ll see that you have been racking up wins, even if they’re small ones. Give yourself credit for them! And then ask yourself how you can set yourself up for more wins, and start gaining momentum.

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