We’ve been talking a lot about goals these past few weeks, but that’s because setting and achieving goals is hard! This is especially true if you’re trying to make a lifestyle change. “Getting healthy” means breaking old habits and creating new ones that stick, which is no easy feat.
Dhruti mentioned rewarding yourself, but that can also be tricky. The reward must fit the effort and it shouldn’t undo any of the progress that you’ve achieved. For instance, don’t reward yourself for losing five pounds by celebrating with a cheeseburger, french fries, a soda, and a brownie sundae. Rewarding yourself is no different than planning out how you’ll achieve your goals—you still need to be strategic.
When you’re starting out, it may help to schedule regular, small rewards to keep you motivated. Aim for inexpensive rewards that celebrate your achievement for just sticking with a plan. Say you start with 40-50 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for your first week, and then slowly increase that by 20 minutes every 1-2 weeks until you’ve reached a goal of 150 minutes per week. Rather than waiting several weeks to reward yourself for achieving that goal, you can motivate yourself to follow your plan by scheduling small rewards every 2-3 weeks. These small rewards can be relatively inexpensive items or activities that you may otherwise think twice about getting or doing, like:
- A metal water bottle,
- A new workout shirt,
- Your own yoga mat (freedom from other people’s sweat and stink!),
- A cookbook,
- Taking a nap or going to bed early.
Remember, you have to actually follow your program to get the rewards. While these motivational rewards may help ease you into the rhythm of working towards your goal, once you feel like you’re in that rhythm, shift towards rewarding yourself for achieving bigger goals. These bigger goals, like achieving the 150 minutes of exercise per week, deserve something a little more exciting, like:
- New shoes or hiking boots,
- Base layers to keep you comfortable outside,
- A subscription to a music streaming service,
- A cooking class,
- A pass for specialized exercise classes (yoga, boutique spin class, rock climbing).
Just because you may have reached your goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week, doesn’t mean you’re done. You want to strive for that amount of exercise until it becomes a habit. So you can also use those rewards to celebrate, say, six months of regularly exercising 150 minutes/week.
Once you’ve adopted your goal as a lifestyle (you’ll know when you start thinking about new goals), then you get to have some real fun with bigger rewards, like:
- Tickets to a comedy show, concert, sporting event, or play,
- Upgrading your blender or slow cooker—or even, hand tools,
- A massage,
- Sessions with a personal trainer,
- Part of a day to be on your own and do what you enjoy.
These ideas are just some of my favorite things. To make sure you’re effectively motivating and rewarding yourself, choose something that excites you and fits your goals.