During quarantine, you (unless you are an essential worker) have extra time on your hands to consume new information. It is in your hands to decide what sort of information you allow your brain to absorb. You might be using this time to consume news around COVID-19, binging on Netflix shows or trying new recipes for sourdough starter from a YouTube channel. You might also be overdosing on social media and assuming you are utilizing the positive side of it, searching for motivational content, to either help you through these times or to give yourself a boost to change some habits.  Unfortunately, habits are often ingrained and resistant to change. So how do you capitalize on motivational moments and make them stick?

Beware of Social Motivation

Through never-ending social media, you might follow several motivation-focused influencers, from fitness gurus to well-experienced entrepreneurs or life coaches. These influencers are mostly well intentioned, and might provide you with a daily dose of motivation. But, of course, it’s short lived and wears out fast. You start a goal, but in a matter of hours you are back to square one. Then this vicious cycle repeats, with you finding different motivational messages for a spark. This dynamic does not create long-term habitual change.

It is not a bad habit to check social media and use it for sparks of positivity. But it is important to recognize the time spent on such platforms versus driving actual results.  Moreover, social media often provokes anxiety and feelings of uselessness. Especially during the current pandemic, you’ll see many posts about people risking their lives, performing good deeds or simply doing well in their personal lives while majority of the world is going through crisis. It is easy to get down on yourself for “not doing enough” and making other unfair comparisons. It is important to emphasize here that it is perfectly okay to take this time to focus on mental wellness, whether this is through taking a break or occupying yourself with an activity that reduces the stress. But, it is also okay to strive for self-improvement and motivation and use this break as a time to have a personal breakthrough.   

Work Towards Tangible Results

The consumption of too much motivational information is akin to fueling up the car, but then driving aimlessly, or leaving the car in the driveway. The bursts of motivation are useless without tangible results, those results are not possible without action, and action requires discipline. 

Tangible written plans are an ideal way to generate the discipline that will produce accountable actions and longer-term results. Create a clear plan that details when you will do something. For example, “I will go for a walk every day except Sunday at seven in the morning” is more powerful than “I’m going to try to walk most days to get healthy.” Prepare the night before. Lay out your clothes and walking shoes, set your day’s route, and prep your phone with a new workout playlist.  Bundling together these small actions further reinforces the habitualness of your plan and motivation. Once your walk is complete, take a moment to bask in the endorphins and use that positive energy to reinforce your positive habit.

How long will your motivation turn into repeatable habits? This is where I’d suggest one of my personal favourite books, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. The book that popularized the 21-day rule Some habits develop sooner, while others will take longer due to the nature of that habit and your personal makeup. Thankfully, you don’t have to go on this journey alone.

Rely on a Support Structure

With the help of Zoom and other online platforms readily available these days, even though we all are in quarantine during the pandemic, we can all be well connected. Use these technology tools to create and connect with other people who share the same or similar goals. Engage the power of social expectations and pressure in a positive way through an accountability group. Set structured meetings at the same time every week to keep each other on track. Consider establishing a “pact” of accountability to further motivate you and the others to reach goals together. Accountability partners are useful regardless of your actual habit. If you want to write more, then meet with a group of writers to discuss progress and goals. If it’s a nutrition habit, then discuss healthy food options, and share your weekly weight gain or loss. Sharing with the group and providing each other with support keeps the initial burst of motivation going.

Build routines and you will be on the pathway to establishing long-lasting positive habits. Establish the vital details of your plan while remaining realistic. You cannot become fluent in another language in two weeks or go from sedentary to triathlete in a month. Create a longer-term incremental process, while setting nearer-term benchmarks.

The pandemic and all the related stressors and restrictions can be very difficult to handle. So, stay motivated, but cut yourself some slack when you feel overwhelmed. Introduce habits for relaxation, meditation, and self-reflection to help you through the pandemic and a more peaceful life post-pandemic. Remember, the point of motivational bursts is to spur a change to make your life happier and more productive. Shifting your motivation into transformative habits is long yet satisfying journey, so stay the course.