Motivated planner and goals notebook next to typing on a keyboard

How to Motivate Yourself to Reach Your Goals

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It’s so easy to make goals.

You want to be healthier, you want to change a bad habit, you want to learn something new, you want to exercise, accomplish something you always wanted to.

You make great strides the first few days, and then.. oops.

Goodbye motivation.  It was good knowing you.

You then get back into old habits and keep making that same goal, week after week, year after year.

Does this sound familiar?

For many of us it does.

So how do we stay motivated to where we can reach our goals?

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It Can Happen For You

It was always the same thing.  I thought I had no willpower.

I thought I wasn’t meant to reach certain goals, because I kept failing, so figured it wasn’t meant to be.

That mindset was my first mistake.

It’s not lack of willpower, I just needed to treat it differently!

Since I changed my mind on that and went through the steps to change my habits, here is what I was able to accomplish so far:

  • Anxiety and depression no longer rule my life
  • My husband, Brownie, and I take daily long walks.
  • I am more positive
  • I quit smoking 6 years ago, after smoking for 14 years before that
  • My eating habits have changed significantly
  • My blood tests are normal
  • I have a website that has hundreds of goals every week I need to get done
  • My house is clean

Just FYI, It took a LONG time to get to this point and a lot of these I am still working on.  So I am far from perfect.

I just found a way to make major strides on my goals, when years ago, I thought they were all impossible.

I know it isn’t impossible anymore.

But the reason why I kept failing at them all is because I was making one massive mistake.

Goal: Quit Trying to Change Your Entire Life Overnight

I was always overwhelmed when starting new goals.

I needed to do this, get this done, do that, I wanted to change this, I wanted to accomplish this.  All while trying to do every day stuff and work.

And I always failed with hopes I could try again next week.

That didn’t work either.

Because while having a goal is great, I never had a plan to get there!

There are so many steps you need to take to reach your goals that it can get overwhelming and make you want to quit.


You didn’t develop bad habits in one day, so you can’t change them in one day.

So my solution is to set many tiny, obtainable goals, turn them into habits, and it will eventually lead you to your ultimate goal.

Write them down.

And stop setting the date for January 1st, or for Monday.  Start them now.

Scheduling them that far in the future not only tricks your mind into thinking it’s something that can be put off, but also gives you time to come up with excuses to not do it.

If you fail one day, that’s okay!  Keep doing it daily until it sticks. Don’t wait or set another scheduled day to start.  Keep starting now.

So write down your small goals and start checking those off the list, one at a time.

I will show you how.

What Your Goals Should Look Like

You can write this on a sheet of paper, you can do this in a planner/ calendar or you can make a goals checklist (the one I give to email subscribers in my article on conquering depression is a perfect example). I do it both ways.

Let’s say you want to be healthier.  I’m using this as an example because this is what I hear people say the most when making a goal.

You need to break it down and write very small, specific steps that should lead to this goal:

  • change morning snack to a fruit
  • change afternoon snack to vegetable
  • drink half my body weight in ounces of water
  • Walk for at least 20 minutes each day
  • change breakfast to something healthier like avocado toast
  • start prepping salads for lunch every sunday
  • Stop drinking soda and juice
  • Stop eating out
  • Change bread to 100% whole grain
  • Eliminate high fructose corn syrup
  • Stop eating added sugars
  • Don’t eat anything with artificial flavors, dyes, or ingredients you don’t recognize
  • Do stretches each morning
  • Buy small hand weights and work on building muscle for 10 minutes a day
  • Do an exercise tape or stairs for 20 minutes
  • Add a vegetable side to dinner

You see how long this is?  And this isn’t even a full list of everything you need to do to be healthier!

Hold on before you get overwhelmed.

You are NOT going to do all of this.  Not at one time, anyway.

When you try to do all this stuff at once, it can create overwhelm in your mind, and makes it seem too hard to accomplish, because you have to literally change your entire life in one day!

This is why most of us can’t get into the habit and we fail.

So the answer lies in making each one become a habit.

Creating a Habit

So by creating a list of things you need to do to reach your goal, you are actually writing down small habits you need to change.

Re-write your list to have to easiest stuff come first. This is because once you accomplish the easy stuff, the harder things will seem more obtainable.

Do the first one on the list starting tomorrow.

And do that one thing,  everyday, for at least two weeks.  You know you completed this when it feels natural to you and like you don’t know how to do anything but.

If you need more than two weeks, that’s fine.  Some of us, it can take up to 2-3 months before it becomes a habit!

Once you feel the two weeks is over and you succeeded in creating the habit, cross it off the list.

But here’s the thing, don’t even look at the rest of the list until you can cross the first item off the list. This is easiest when you do it in a planner, because you can write them on your to-do list each day for 2 weeks.

If you want to do 2 goals at a time, that’s fine, but make sure they aren’t both eating related or exercise related.

For instance, if you want to try the water goal and the walking goal at the same time, that’s fine.  Or eat a fruit in the morning and walking is fine.

Just don’t try to do an entire exercise routine at once or change all of your eating habits at once.

What if We Want Results Immediately?

The thing is, it isn’t going to happen for most of us if we try to do it all at once, without getting used to one thing at a time.

So you will have to be patient.

But here is a trick I learned that helped me trick my mind into thinking I am getting results right now.

I write down the goals as I mentioned above.

Let’s say I start with eliminating High Fructose Corn Syrup (because that was the easiest for me.  All I did was change the brands I bought).

I write down “Don’t eat or drink anything with high fructose corn syrup in it” on tomorrow’s calendar.

Then I write that every day for two weeks.

Each day, I cross it off at the end of the day if I succeeded.

By doing this, you are not only putting it on your to-do list, but it is such a simple task, that you know you can do it.

And by crossing it off each day, you activated the dopamine in your brain, making you feel good because it tells your brain you accomplished something.  You don’t feel exhausted or overwhelmed, but feel happy you completed something, and are more likely to do it again tomorrow.

You do this with all the things you need to accomplish each day.

Once I have made it a habit, and don’t need the reminder anymore, I no longer need it on my to-do list.

Trust me, it works.

Daily Planner Examples

I am writing this on a Sunday in December.

I have a ton of things I want to do for my daily stuff, my meals, my health, my website, etc.  It would be overwhelming, but I break it down to small portions and carry them out daily until they stick.

  • Drink a glass of green tea
  • Drink 3 refills of my refillable water bottle
  • Eat Avocado on 100% whole wheat toast for breakfast
  • Eat an apple for morning snack
  • Chop tomatoes and peppers for meal prep
  • Write article on goal setting
  • Wrap Mark and Kati’s birthday presents
  • Do one load of laundry
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Load dishwasher
  • Walk for at least 45 minutes (can be broken up into 15 minute increments)
  • Eat a salad for lunch
  • Make turkey sandwiches for dinner
  • Read for 20 minutes
  • Take a shower
  • Drink a glass of Rooibos Tea

These may seem like a lot, but most of these are stupid simple tasks!  And my husband will do half of them with me, so the walk, chopping, wrapping, dishes, and laundry will all get done in about an hour! And I get to spend time talking to my husband while we do those things together.

That’s 6 things I can cross off my list!

These are all goals I have worked up to.  I don’t even have to think about avoiding HFCS anymore, so I could take that off the list, since it isn’t something I have to deliberately “do” anymore.

I started walking 30 seconds multiple times per day (thanks to chronic pain and obesity), but now I’m up to 45 minutes, etc.

When I feel I pretty much have the habit down, but am not confident, I will leave a goal on there and start a new goal. For instance, drinking the water and tea are pretty much standard in my day and come very naturally, but I keep them on there for now, because I feel I need more time to make sure those are habits.

These are where I am right now, and from where I started, my habits changed significantly!

Tomorrow’s plan:

  • Drink a glass of green tea
  • Drink 3 refills of my refillable water bottle
  • Avoid added sugars
  • Eat an apple for morning snack
  • Do one load of laundry
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Load dishwasher
  • Walk for at least 45 minutes (can be broken up into 15 minute increments)
  • Eat a salad for lunch
  • Make chili for dinner
  • Read for 20 minutes
  • Take a shower
  • Drink a glass of Rooibos Tea
  • Make images for “Goals” post
  • Do SEO and coding for “Goals” post

So you see, the first 13 items on this list are everyday things that I am trying to make into a habit.

I was also able to remove my plan for breakfast because I feel I have that habit, so I added in avoiding added sugars since that is my next step (wish me luck!).

Every 2-3 weeks, the eating and exercise parts will either change to get slightly harder or will have another thing added.  The last items are new things i have to do each day.

The Benefit

Once i cross all these off my to-do list each day, I can’t even describe how content and satisfied I am and how productive I feel.

This is because the dopamine in my brain is telling me I did a great job.

It makes me happier, feel more motivated, and I am more confident in my ability to change.

I feel I can now get my daily chores done, I am clean, I have time to work on my website, and my eating habits are getting better and better, and I am moving around more!

You ever hear the saying that in order to lose weight, it should be a lifestyle change, not a diet?

This is true for goals too!  No matter what the goal is!

You are changing your habits, one small thing at a time.  Making it stupid simple to do so.

You can do this!

Let me know in the comments of this post if this helped you as much as it helped me!

If you want to join the Breaking Up with Inflammation Challenge that uses this concept to change your habits into healthier ones, by giving you the habits one at a time, learn more about it here.

You May Also Like:

How to Get Healthy With Zero Motivation

How to Get Motivated to Exercise (When You Don’t Want To)

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14 thoughts on “How to Motivate Yourself to Reach Your Goals”

    1. I was guilty of that too! It took me failing a ton of times before I realized it was all about making small habits! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  1. YES! Great post. I love making goals and checking them off my list. I can now say I have the strongest willpower ever. If there are cookies and junk around me at work I no longer want it. I’ve created a good mindset. Having “treats” is an actual treat instead of a couple times a week. Regular cookies and whatnot isn’t really appealing to me anymore, I love certain donuts and ice cream, but I don’t have it in the house. When I want a “treat” my husband and I usually have to change and go out to get it. 🙂 Which makes it more enjoyable and we know we really want it as opposed to boredom eating.

  2. Excellent article. I always tell people that motivation isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you cultivate. Taking small steps and being realistic and action-orientated are your best bets. Great little tips throughout!

    1. I love that saying that it isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you cultivate! Thank you for taking the time to respond!

  3. I love these suggestions! I am going to make a list today!! The only thing I would add is to make yourself accountable to someone. My husband doesn’t care about the little things I declutter, but I’m in a group that is doing a 30 days declutter challenge and we all do something little every day together! I get to post pictures and feel great about what I accomplished. I also did a weight loss bet through an app last year and won a bunch of money for meeting my goal! Now I am accountable to a friend to keep it off.
    Thanks for all the tips!!

    1. Great tip! I have a tip similar in my article on How to Get Healthy with Zero Motivation. Being accountable is a very overlooked but powerful thing to help someone reach their goals! Thank you for adding that! Congratulations on winning the weight loss bet! That must have felt amazing to accomplish your goal on that.

  4. This is such a great post! I use daily planners all the time and it honestly does wonders for me! Sometimes I just need to visualize in a lost form my tasks for the day. Helps with my motivation. Great read! Thanks for sharing

    1. Daily Planners are amazing. I never used one until a year ago, and it really helps! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  5. Great real life examples that we all struggle with and easy (doable) solutions! Yes, it seems like it’s the baby steps that make the most lasting impact! Cheers to you and your personal successes!

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