We’ve all been there; its January 1st and we’re filled with motivation and determination to make lasting life changes. Fast forward to February 14th and all your left with is a mouth full of Hershey’s Kisses, dwindling incentive, and good intentions that failed to translate into change. This is what we would refer to as the willpower model. Willpower is unpredictable emotional fuel that drives you when you are feeling excited or energized. Fortunately, the secret to lasting change doesn’t rely on willpower; rather, self-discipline- which is structured, well thought out, and consistent.
There are many reasons why people choose to start therapy, and all of them are equally important. From mood fluctuations to relationship issues, all people struggle at times. While willpower might have you feeling fired up and like you’re cooking on the proverbial “front burner,” sometimes no matter how driven you are the motivation just doesn’t carry over when obstacles rear their ugly head on the path to healing.
It’s easier said than done to find ways to motivate yourself, but it’s certainly not impossible. Below are some key factors that can make your goals appear more attainable and manageable.
Focus on The Bigger Picture
Some people come to therapy with a very clear vision of what they want to change in their life. Others are committed to change but aren’t quite sure where to begin. It’s important that you and your therapist work collaboratively to set concreate goals that will help you remain hopeful and accountable throughout the course of treatment. Having said that, it isn’t enough to say your goal is to “feel less depressed” or to “stop binge eating,” for example, those aren’t goals; they are means to reach your goals. And while it can be motivating, you increase your odds of success by seeing the bigger picture. Begin by asking yourself how your life will be more meaningful if you were not feeling as depressed or what your life would be like if you stopped binge eating. Maybe you would be able to start socializing with friends again or resume activities that you have been avoiding because of depression. Knowing you’re making an effort to create a life worth living is empowering and significant in maintaining interest and enthusiasm throughout the course of treatment.
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve begun working towards your treatment goals, you might find yourself feeling energized to apply what you’ve learnt to your life outside of session. After all, therapy is usually once a week for fifty minutes; therefore, it is imperative that the skills and insights gained be generalizable to your day-to-day life. Be that as it may, the word “Homework” (regardless of our age) can elicit a lot of dreadful feelings and memories, so I like to think of what goes on outside of session as action plans or experiments. But really, it’s just a matter of what resonates with you and what inspires you to spring into action and try something new. Ultimately the rewards of therapy are commensurate with the amount of effort that goes into it. If you would like to see meaningful results from your therapy sessions and incorporate the identifed changes to improve your quality of life, you and your therapist can work together to develop action plans to boost the impact of your therapy between sessions and encourage you to celebrate your progress on a daily basis.
Call in Reinforcements
It takes a lot of courage and bravery to look at yourself, your life, your patterns, and share your truth with someone you just met. While there are a host of benefits to attending therapy, the path is not always easy or comfortable. Alas, sticking with therapy, even when it’s tough to sit with painful thoughts and emotions, is sometimes essential for your mental health. And as you start to take important steps towards your emotional and psychological well-being, you will start to notice improvements. These mini growth spurts will feel good and give you further encouragement to continue on your path to healing. However, for some, taking the first important steps in this journey can be hard. As a result, it is necessary to reward yourself for your accomplishments. These rewards don’t have to be expensive items. As humans, we can find rewards in many day-to-day things. The idea is to find something that will entice you to work hard without getting in the way of the goal itself. Rewards can range from treating yourself to a bubble bath after a challenging session or preparing your favorite meal after achieving a goal. That little treat can put a light at the end of the tunnel for tough days. So don’t be afraid to show yourself a little bit of love and celebrate the fact that you accomplished something- be proud of yourself because you deserve it!