Five Ways to Become Motivated and Embrace Change

This may not be the most therapeutic way to phrase this—but, sometimes life wakes you up by slapping you right in the face.

My moment happened recently when I went to my new primary care doctor’s office for a check-up. I hadn’t been to the doctor’s in some time (you know COVID and all) and I needed a physical exam and blood work completed. Although I was dreading this appointment, I knew I HAD to go. I went, got my physical and my blood drawn and a few days later I got a message from my doctor.

It turns out that I am pre-diabetic (*sound of slap in face*) — and let’s just say that this ‘slap’ has sparked my motivation to change for my own physical health and wellness.

Change, in general, is difficult. It’s hard to engage in change because we need to evaluate our behavior patterns and learn to identify areas where we experience deficits. Change is scary and can be unpredictable. At times, change can feel tedious and strenuous — after all, making a change requires mental strength and effort.

On the other hand, change can lead into something greater and positively unexpected. If we allow ourselves to embrace change, it may benefit us and help us to move forward in our lives. Here are some ways to become motivated and embrace change:

1. Identify the change that you need.

The first step towards change is to identify the specific and needed change. What is it that you wish to change in your life? Why do you want to make this change

When considering making a change it can be beneficial to assess all of the options. One technique you can apply is examining the costs and benefits.  To do this:

  • Draw four boxes
  • Write “Stay the same” and “Change” across the top boxes
  • Write “Costs” and “Benefits” along the side
A grid with four squares, labeled benefits of staying the same, benefits of changing, costs of staying the same, and costs of changing.

Take time to evaluate each area and write down your thoughts in each box. Examining both costs and benefits may help to motivate you to consider making a change and moving forward.

2. Explore your motivation.

When embracing change, it is important to identify our motivation. There are two types:

Intrinsic motivation is engaging in change when change is personally beneficial for you. When someone is intrinsically motivated they have an internal “drive” to engage and move towards change.

Extrinsic motivation is engaging in change due to external factors such as avoiding consequences or receiving a reward. When someone is extrinsically motivated, outside factors (e.g. court, kids, family, etc.) influence motivation to engage in change. 

Both types of motivation are important; however, each has a different effect. Intrinsic motivation has been proven to be more effective in the long term for achieving goals as it makes one feel more fulfilled. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation has been helpful in certain situations but it can lose effectiveness over time. A combination of both motivation types can help you to be successful in your change process.

Answer this question: What is motivating you to embrace change?

3. Identify barriers to success.

If you are moving forward with making a change in your life, you need to address barriers which may make it difficult for the change to occur — this can include examining our own behavior and identifying how our actions negatively impact our ability to move forward and embrace change.

Take time for self-reflection. By reflecting and examining our behavior, we can learn to identify and address barriers. For instance, in my own journey towards living a healthier life, I observed that in times of stress or feeling that I don’t have “time,” I tended to eat unhealthy foods. I noticed that I engaged in this behavior when it was tied to the emotion of feeling stressed or to make things “easier” for myself.  

By reflecting on my actions, I was able to identify how my emotions influenced my behavior. I used this information to problem solve and choose healthier behaviors (e.g. packing a healthy lunch and/or having healthy snacks in my car to eat while on go).

4. Set short- and long-term goals.

When you’re getting started with motivation and embracing change, it’s usually best to start off with setting short-term goals. By setting short-term goals, it’s easier to stay on track and move toward accomplishing our long-term goals. For instance, a long-term goal may be to stop engaging in alcohol use and maintain sobriety. Although, this long-term goal is beneficial, it may be difficult without setting short-term goals (like not drinking for today) to help move towards this long-term goal of sobriety.

When setting goals, remember to follow the format of SMART goal setting. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time frame

Using this format it helps us to keep in mind specific goals while making sure these goals can be realistically met within a certain time frame. For instance, I have set the goal of engaging in exercise 1- 2 times per week for one month. Overall, I have done well with meeting this short-term goal and it has helped to keep me motivated and feel accomplished. This short-term goal also adds to my long-term goal of achieving a healthy weight and living a healthier lifestyle.

5. Focus on progress – not perfection.

This phrase is brought to you by Alcoholics Anonymous and it cannot be any truer. We know change is difficult and takes time. In fact, as we engage in change, we may revert back to old ways and behaviors.

More than likely, we will make mistakes. Relapsing into old patterns of behaviors is part of the stages of change. If we fall down, we get back up again. Just remember that this is part of embracing change and continuing to move forward in our journey. We cannot expect ourselves to be perfect.

I hope these tips help you to feel motivated and ready to embrace change. Sometimes we need to be ‘slapped in the face’ with reality in order to recognize that something has to change. It’s up to you to take those steps. Are you ready?

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