How to get and stay motivated

Motivation: 5 Ways to Get and Stay Motivated

Motivation is the ability to consistently do the things that bring us closer to our goals, whether we feel like it or not. Psychology Today defines motivation as ” the desire to act in service of a goal,” and says it’s “having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.” Motivation is tricky because feelings are fickle. Feelings come, go, and change over time. This can make taking consistent action is difficult.

I know because I can be highly-inspired to take action at one moment and feel like giving up entirely, only a few hours later. Interestingly enough, this is normal. Human beings do not naturally stay motivated. One example of this is found in Romans 7:15, where the Apostle Paul writes “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Can you relate to this lack of motivation? I certainly can! Consider the following:

  • I’d like to set a new personal best time in the next marathon I run. But sometimes I sleep in, binge on junk food, and avoiding runs around the lake when the weather is anything but perfect.
  • I want to finish writing my next book. But instead of doing the work, I get sidetracked by emails, small projects, and nearly anything urgent even if it’s not that important.
  • Maybe you would like to have a better marriage, but don’t take the time to connect.
  • Or, perhaps, like me, you want to be a difference-maker. You have a message to share with the world, but you keep getting distracted instead.

If any of this sounds like you, then keep reading. I’m not motivated all of the time. But I have found ways to consistently act, even when I don’t feel like it. Here are five motivation hacks that help me make steady progress toward my goals.

Simple Hacks to Get Motivated and Keep Taking Action

1. You Don’t “Have To.” Decide You “Want To” or “Get To” Instead.

  • I have to run.
  • I must eat healthy foods.
  • I should exercise.
  • I have to write.

Thoughts like these are motivation killers. They drain the energy out of the project at hand. And, truth be told, you don’t “have to” do any of these things. If you are an adult, then you have a choice. You can choose to take action toward your goals. You can choose not to. Thoughts that include the words have to, should, and must add undue pressure and are disempowering. In short, they are motivation killers.

Consider the difference this minor pivot makes.

  • I want to run.
  • I want to eat healthy foods.
  • I want to exercise.
  • I get to write today!

The thoughts we think and the language we use matters. Shifting our words and midset from I have to… to I want to… or better yet, I get to… is energizing.

Don’t believe me? Try out this tiny mental pivot and watch your motivation rise. Think of it as an experiment!

2. Start Early and Plan for Motivation Dips

Motivation is highest in the morning, which is why morning people tend to be more successful. After coaching 100+ authors, I’ve found that even night owls make progress faster if they start in the morning. Did you miss your morning writing time? Great! You have all day to make it up. But if you schedule big goals in the evening and you miss them, then you have lost momentum.

If your goal is to eat healthier or to lose weight, then you may need to have a contingency plan for the evening, when motivation dips. For me, this means having plenty of popcorn, veggies, and semi-healthy snacks readily available. This leads us to the next point. Make things easy.

So don’t wait. Supercharge your motivation by starting early and starting now!

3. Stay Motivated By Making Things Easy

When eating junk-food is easy, my healthy eating plans are toast. This is why we don’t keep chocolate in the house—it’s kryptonite! And it’s why we have plenty of popcorn available. Of course, popcorn is not the healthiest snack, but it’s much better than chocolate and peanut butter—an all-time favorite.

For many people, junk food before bed leads to a downward spiral. You may be familiar with this pattern. You binge before bed, then wake up feeling sluggish. As a result, you don’t exercise, feel unmotivated, and then end up eating more junk food. On and on the vicious cycle continues.

Fortunately, a popcorn binge is recoverable. Ideally, I won’t stress eat at all. On a good day, I’ll go for the veggies. During bad days, I’ll go for the popcorn. On a terrible, awful, horrible, no-good day, I might drive to the grocery store to buy chocolate and peanut butter.

The bright side is that on exceptionally bad days, I don’t have the energy to shop. So I binge on popcorn instead. This is why making our goals easy works so well.

4. Set MTO Goals

MTO stands for minimum, target, and optimal. It’s a great system for building massive motivation momentum.

  • Minimum: When aiming for a big goal, this is the least amount of work you will do. For writers, this might mean writing for 15-minutes, or 300 words.
  • Target: This is the average daily goal. For writers, this might look like 30-minutes of writing or 700 words.
  • Optimal: This is what you will do on days you are in the zone. 3-hours of binge writing or 2,000 words might be what you aim for on exceptionally good days.

MTO goals work because they make starting easy. On bad days, it’s tough to convince me to run my usual 9.25-mile loop around the lake. But running around the block with my Kindergartner is something I’ll still do. Sometimes, a short warmup run is all it takes to get motivated to run more. After all, if I’m already working out, I might as well keep things going.

And, even if I don’t keep running, the tiny progress does add up over time. In fact, a small writing habit is the exact strategy I used to publish 20+ books. So keep pressing forward. Even on days you don’t feel all that motivated. Trust me, it’s worth the effort!

MTO goals are an excellent way to stay motivated when life sends unexpected detours our way.

5. Find Your Positive Habit Triggers

To increase your motivation, find your positive habit triggers.

Do you want to have a better relationship with your loved ones? Great, then set connection triggers. The first time I see Jenny in the morning is my cue to close my laptop, pause my writing, and take a moment to connect. This time together is important because, in relationships, it’s often these little acts of kindness and connection that matter most!

Bedtime serves as a reminder to read and pray with our kids. Finally, after the kids are in bed is the trigger for “us time.” Positive habit triggers are a great way to rack up quick wins. They are a momentum game-changer!

During our evening connection times, Jenny and I might watch a movie, sit by the fire, enjoy a favorite dessert, or simply chat. Connecting is easy because we’ve already decided this time is reserved just for us. Work and solo activities are simply off-limits.

Motivation is all about doing the things we want to do, even when we don’t feel like it. The good news is that feelings follow actions. This is how our bodies are waired. So what’s the best way to get motivated and to keep making progress toward our goals? That’s simple. Take consistent action. To stay motivated, keep doing the work, and the feelings will follow!

To get motivated, keep doing the work, and the feelings will follow! Share on X

Supercharge Your Motivation

As a coach, I love helping busy professionals supercharge their motivation. Often, this involves helping them build tiny habits that form into mega-habits over time. If you’d like to dive deeper, start by requesting your free coaching consultation.

You can also check out my text-based, tiny habits coaching options. These are perfect for anyone looking to gain momentum by writing consistently, developing a gratitude habit, or who wants to connect to their loved one daily. Click on this link to start.

I’d be honored to partner with you on your momentum building journey! I wish you much success as you move toward your goals!

Sincerely, Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at