Going the distance: maintaining motivation in long projects

At the beginning of September, my husband and I started a new way of thinking about our food with the goal of getting down to a healthier weight. We got professional help and we made the decision that we wanted to succeed.

Now six weeks into the goal, we are on track, having lost an encouraging and healthy amount of weight, despite having birthday parties and Canadian Thanksgiving to tempt us into giving up. My husband continues to be motivated, but I have to recognize that I care much less. I’m now down to my average weight from the past six years and I’m more or less comfortable. My husband, however, has a bit to go before getting down to his usual size.

It’s common part way into a project to lose motivation and make less effort. In fact, I mentioned how in my Bullet Journal experiment, I’ve given up tracking my weekends and how I have to be extra vigilant so as not to let the experiment slide.

When this point in a project arrives, it’s important to re-examine motivations and maybe find new ones.

For example, my husband is still motivated because every day he can get back into a piece of clothing that he hasn’t been able to wear in at least a year. All my clothes fit me, however, so I’m not motivated by the same benchmark. If I want to continue dropping pounds, I’m going to have to find myself a new way to get myself excited about the goal.

In your home or office organizing projects, different family members will have different motivations and over time those motivations will change. And sometimes what seems like a logical motivation won’t carry enough emotional power to influence behaviour.

I’m at this point. I have food issues, being borderline celiac. If I eat gluten, my rosecea flares up, my moods soar all over the place and I get quite distracted and forgetful. It doesn’t work for me as a motivation ignore though because it’s a negative motivator. Yes, I feel better when I stay away from gluten, but it’s hard work, especially when eating outside the home.

I still want to continue to lose weight, ideally getting down to my wedding weight back in 2011. I’m already almost halfway there, but I need to find some sort of motivation that grabs me and drags me along towards success without a fight.

Forbes has a good article about motivation and I’ve always been a fan of Gretchen Rubin, but none of what Forbes suggests excites me, and I really don’t feel like re-reading any of Rubin’s books.

So, I’ve decided to crowdsource my motivation. What tricks and tips do you have for maintaining motivation when the excitement of a new project wears off?


7 Comments for “Going the distance: maintaining motivation in long projects”

  1. posted by Dawn E on

    Gretchen Rubin’s new book “The Four Tendencies” will help you a lot. And once you learn your tendency you can just read that section if you don’t feel like reading the whole book. (Although I do recommend it). Her thesis is that it’s not about motivation. Depending on your core tendency there are other ways to change habits and reach your goals. But what works for one tendency does not work for others. I’m sure what people suggest in the comments will be interesting, but you need to find what works for you. Not other people.

  2. posted by Lisa on

    You need a bigger long term motivation for weight loss. High school reunions are a good one. Works like finding out company is coming motivates you to clean the house.

  3. posted by surreal_girl on

    Last year I did a 20 mile night walk for breast cancer charity, with a girlfriend who had lost her mother to that awful disease. Being able to a) finish the walk and b)keep up with my friend were powerful motivators to do lots of training!
    Losing some weight and raising some money were nice bonuses

  4. posted by Sara on

    Perhaps you need a new goal. Instead of weight loss, which continues to be your husband’s goal, yours might now be “improved health.” That one could also be measured by resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, lower BMI, etc. or, your new goal may be something outside yourself, such as participating in a charity walk or run, as the other commenter suggested. I guarantee that training for a physical event like that will result in the side effects of weight loss, and yes, improved health!

  5. posted by Diane on

    A couple years ago I lost 80 pounds. When I was getting toward the end, and kind of losing my motivation, I would go shopping at my favorite store. I would find something I absolutely loved, and buy it in a small too small, but almost fit. That got me through the rest of my plan.

  6. posted by Diane on

    Sorry, In a SIZE too small

  7. posted by Rachel S. Heslin on

    Gamify the process. I have set up weekly charts where I track (1) specific foods I avoid (sugar, wheat, nightshades, etc.) and ones I *do* want (fish and veggies), and (2) activities that support my general well-being (walking, exercising, journaling, prepping for the next day the night before, and similar things.)

    I decide how many check marks per week constitute a Win, choosing a balance between challenging but not overwhelming. It’s not a perfect system, but there have definitely been times when I didn’t want to do something but made the extra effort so I could check off the box.

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