THE BLOG
02/03/2011 07:46 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Key to Getting Motivated

If those New Year's Resolutions you made haven't stuck, chances are something was missing in the formula.

The word "motivation" comes from the Latin word for "to move." Motivation is not something you have or do not have, but more like a throttle that has a low, medium and high gear. Highly motivated people know how to rev up this mechanism every day. Focusing on finding your personal form of motivation will prove to be a far more effective way to achieve your goals and maintain them for the years to come.

It's always easy to get going at the beginning of the year when expectations to begin a new program are high, but it's the continuing maintenance of that enthusiasm that most of us find challenging. In order to keep the momentum going into February and beyond, it is important to not only make your goals long-term, but to own them "in the now" and actually embody your goal on a day-to-day basis. How do you do this? Begin with your outlook.

Often, resolutions begin with, "In the new year I want to quit _____," or, "I won't do/eat/drink/smoke _____ anymore." This is a very negative way to approach your goals. Instead, think positive! Specifically, use "I am" statements:

Think of three positive statements that describe the new you -- the healthier, leaner and younger-looking you that will come as a result of your "turnaround." A host of studies confirm that among hospital patients, those who have positive expectations of their outcome tend to heal faster than those who are less hopeful about reaching their goals. It may be because positive expectations trigger a physical healing response while they motivate patients to be compliant and stick with prescribed therapies. In one review of literature, researchers concluded that the association between positive expectations and reaching a health goal was the greatest in studies of people who were trying to lose weight. Further, a 2010 study in the European Heart Journal found that people with positive attitude were about 20 percent less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease.

As you identify positive expectations for your turnaround, ignore statements that describe what you were ("an overweight, middle-aged woman," or "a junkfood addict whose hobby is watching television"). Rather, imagine the person you want to be. Come up with a positive statement in the present tense that describes what you want to personally accomplish. Some examples are:

"I am an incredibly healthy person who eats nutritious, whole foods."
"I am an athlete. I thrive on exercise, especially walking and swimming."
"I am a nondrinker. My body functions much better without toxic chemicals."
"I get plenty of sleep, going to bed early and waking up at least eight hours later."
"I crave water and what it does for my body and skin."
"I enjoy trying whole foods, substituting these for packaged or prepared foods."
"I practice self-care and block time to meditate and practice my deep abdominal breathing each afternoon."

Write down your statements, and then read them out loud. Memorize them, and say them as you fall asleep tonight, and then again upon awakening before you get out of bed.

Finally, make sure you are pursuing your goals for you. Some revealing research has distinguished a key difference between people who make a lifestyle change for extrinsic reasons (for someone or something else) and those who do so because of an intrinsic reason (a strong personal belief). Those who make change for extrinsic reasons, such as their doctor tells them to exercise to reduce the risk of heart disease, usually start out enthusiastically. Yet while the need for change remains in their minds, it is never realized in their heart or emotions. Some studies show that 70 percent of those who make a lifestyle change for extrinsic reasons do not stick with it after a short period of time. In contrast, those people who make lifestyle changes for intrinsic decisions -- because they have a strong inner belief and conviction for making the change -- usually stick with the program and see a dramatic improvement in health and emotional well-being. For instance, when you believe in the health benefits of exercise and you enjoy and are grateful for the time you spend exercising, your belief can spark a profound commitment that keeps you focused and on track.

How do you know if you are an intrinsic exerciser? If you can say to yourself during exercise, "I love to exercise, this feels so good," then you are in! It's like Madonna says; "Exercise is like prayer -- there's no reason to pray if you're not a believer." If you are forcing yourself to stay on the treadmill counting down the seconds until you finish, you haven't yet found a program that works for you, and you will be less likely to maintain this activity in the long run. Keep experimenting until you find that activity that excites you and keeps you coming back for more.

For more Turnaround Tips, read "The 24 Hour Turnaround: The Formula for Permanent Weight Loss, Antiaging, and Optimal Health - Starting Today"