9 Secrets of Motivated People

Real-life strategies that will help you to actually accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself this year from ©Real Simple

New year, new you. It’s the perennial January catchphrase that holds such conquer-the-world promise. And then, well, you get sidetracked with conquering your to-do list. But even the loftiest resolutions (running a marathon, writing a book) don’t have to fall by the wayside come February. Staying motivated―and achieving what you set out to do on that bright New Year’s Day―is surprisingly possible. Just follow these nine mantras, provided by researchers who study motivation and backed up by women who have used them to realize their biggest ambitions.

1. When you make a plan, anticipate bumps. Before even trying to achieve a goal, target potential pitfalls and troubleshoot them. Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University, in New York City, says that people who plan for obstacles are more likely to stick with projects than those who don’t. In a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Gollwitzer compared two groups of women who wanted to be more active. Both groups were given information on leading healthy lifestyles. But the second was also taught how to foresee obstacles (example: “The weather forecast is bad, but I’m planning to go for a jog”) and work around them using if-then statements (“If it rains, then I’ll go to the gym and use the treadmill rather than skip exercising altogether”). No surprise, those in the second group fared better. Michelle Tillis Lederman of New York City practiced this strategy when she was writing a book last year. She installed blinds on her home-office door to minimize disruptions and hired an editor to give feedback on each chapter so she wouldn’t get stuck along the way. She also established rules, like checking e-mails only after she had written for two hours. “It was easier to follow this plan,” says Lederman, “than to wrestle with every distraction in the moment.” Her book, The 11 Laws of Likability (American Management Association), will be published later this year.

2. Channel the little engine that could―really. A person’s drive is often based on what she believes about her abilities, not on how objectively talented she is, according to research by Albert Bandura, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. His work has shown that people who have perceived self-efficacy (that is, the belief that they can accomplish what they set out to do) perform better than those who don’t. That self-belief is what helped Ingrid Daniels of Newark, New Jersey, leave a stable corporate job to develop a T-shirt line after the birth of her first child. “It never occurred to me I could fail, even though I had no experience,” she says. Today Daniels runs two successful small businesses (the T-shirt company and a line of stationery), which allows her to stay at home with her three children.

3. Don’t let your goals run wild… When your sights are too ambitious, they can backfire, burn you out, and actually become demotivating, says Lisa Ordóñez, a professor of management and organizations at the Eller College of Management, at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Instead of aiming unrealistically high (such as trying to save enough money for a down payment on a home in six months), set goals that are a stretch but not an overreach (come up with a doable savings plan for your budget).

…But work on them everyday. According to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us ($27, amazon.com), taking small steps every day will not only help hold your interest in what you’re trying to achieve but will also ensure that you move slowly, but surely, toward your goal. So, for example, set up a down-payment-fund jar and dump your change into it every night. You’ll get a sense of accomplishment each day, to boot.

4. Go public with it. Instead of keeping your intentions to yourself, make them known to many. “Other people can help reinforce your behavior,” says James Fowler, a political scientist who studies social networks at the University of California, San Diego. After all, it’s harder to abandon a dream when you know that people are tracking your progress. Take Stefanie Samarripa of Dallas, 25, who wanted to lose 20 pounds. She created a blog and told all her friends to read it. “I wanted something to hold me accountable,” she says. Samarripa weighs herself weekly and announces the result on Desperately Seeking Skinny (skinnystefsam.blogspot.com). During her first three weeks, she lost six pounds. “People read my updates and make comments, which helps me keep going,” she says.

5. Lean on a support crew when struggling. Think of the friends and family who truly want to see you succeed. Enlisting those with whom you have authentic relationships is key when your motivation begins to wane. Choose people who may have seen you fail in the past and who know how much success means to you, says Edward L. Deci, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, in New York. For Jane Arginteanu of New York City, support came in the form of her fiancé, Glenn. Arginteanu had smoked from the time she was a teenager and had tried to quit before. When she decided to give it another go, Arginteanu says, “Glenn stood by me and told me, without ever issuing an ultimatum, that he wanted to grow old with me. That was terrific motivation.” A year later, she’s smoke-free.

6. Make yourself a priority.Put your needs first, even when it feels utterly selfish. You will derail your progress if you sacrifice yourself for others in order to please them (such as eating a cupcake that a coworker baked even though you’re on a diet). A few years ago, Karen Holtgrefe of Cincinnati was at the bottom of her own priority list. “I had a demanding full-time job as a physical-therapy manager and was teaching physical therapy part-time,” she says. “Plus, I had a husband and two children to care for.” As a result, she found herself stressed-out, overweight, and suffering from constant backaches. “I hit a wall and realized I needed to make some changes for my sanity,” Holtgrefe says. So she quit the part-time teaching job, joined Weight Watchers, and scheduled nonnegotiable walks six days a week―just for her. In a year, she lost 85 pounds, and her back pain (and stress) disappeared.

7. Challenge yourself―and change things up. It’s hard to remain enthusiastic when everything stays the same, says Frank Busch, who has coached three Olympic swimming teams. To keep his athletes motivated, he constantly challenges and surprises them―adding a new exercise to a weight routine or giving them a break from one practice so they can recharge. Amy Litvak of Atlanta did the same thing. She had several half-marathons under her belt but wanted something new, so she signed up for a series of mini triathlons. “Each race was longer than the last or had a slightly different challenge,” she says. She breezed through them and is now training for a full marathon.

8. Keep on learning. To refuel your efforts, focus on enjoying the process of getting to the goal, rather than just eyeing the finish line. Janet Casson of Queens, New York, set out to teach yoga. She completed her training, but finding a position took longer than anticipated. So she wouldn’t lose steam and become discouraged, Casson used the time to perfect her skills. She attended workshops and studied with different teachers. “It was invigorating and kept me working toward my goal,” says Casson, who now teaches five classes a week.

9. Remember the deeper meaning. You’re more likely to realize a goal when it has true personal significance to you, according to Deci. (For example, “I want to learn to speak French so I can communicate with my Canadian relatives” is a more powerful reason than “I should learn French so that I can be a more cultured person.”) And when the process isn’t a pleasant one, it helps to recall that personal meaning. Not all dedicated gym-goers love working out, Deci points out, but because they have a deep desire to be healthy, they exercise week after week. Jennie Perez-Ray of Parsippany, New Jersey, is a good example of this. She was working full-time when she decided to get her master’s degree. However, she knew that pursuing that goal would mean spending less time with her friends and family. “But I was the first person in my family to get a degree, so it was very important to me,” Perez-Ray says. She kept this in mind every evening that she spent in the classroom. Although the sacrifices she made were hard, she reflects, “reaching my goal made it all worthwhile.”

Advertisements

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

By Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

Feeling scatterbrained? If you’re having difficulty focusing on a good book, the nightly news, or even your spouse because the kids, pets, phone, TV, flashing e-mail, and more are driving you to distraction, don’t blame the interruptions. It turns out that a prime reason for midlife concentration lapses and late-life memory problems is an increasing inability to filter out the clutter — both human and digital distractions.

A growing stack of studies shows that although 30-something brains can focus on a topic with laser-beam precision while ignoring multiple distractions, older brains have frayed mental filters that let other information in, no matter how hard they’re trying to concentrate. It’s like looking at the world (or at least that pile of paperwork) through a wide-angle lens that also sees the unwashed dinner dishes, the beautiful sunset, the accountant’s memo, or the article you’ve been meaning to read.

Try This 4-Step Meditation Plan for Sharper Focus

American and Canadian researchers stumbled onto this concentration issue while using MRIs to scan people’s brains as they performed memory-related problem-solving tasks. Older people in the study couldn’t concentrate inside the banging, clanging MRI machines, even when wearing earplugs. Their brain scans revealed the extra mental effort used as they tried to filter out the distracting noise, tipping off researchers to the mental challenges of concentrating.

Here’s how to both minimize age-related distraction problems when you need to focus and how to put them to use when you need to think and see the big picture:

  • Turn off distractions. You can recapture much of your sharp focus by removing distractions when you have to do mental work. Don’t pay bills while watching TV. Turn off the radio when you’re starting an important conversation with your spouse or when you’re loading new software onto your computer.
  • Clear your desk, organize your house. Visual clutter can slow down your mental capacity so that decision-making takes more time and effort. Give your brain cells less to ponder by sweeping unnecessary stuff from your workspace, cooking area, computer desktop, closets, and even your car.

Banish Interruptions: 7 Steps to a More Organized Life

  • Turn distractibility into a mental asset. Harness your well-seasoned brain’s ability to retain lots of information by giving “multisensory learning” a whirl. That’s when you use several senses at once to enhance learning and memory. Instead of reading a long magazine article about the growing list of presidential candidates, watch an in-depth TV show about them. Getting the audio and the visual is an asset in this case.
  • Enjoy seeing the forest, not just the trees. Having a more flexible mental filter in place means you take in more pleasure, too. Whether you’re walking in the woods, biking on the boardwalk, or people-watching, chances are you’re noticing more than you did in your 20s and 30s. Savor it!

Happiness — Find out what makes you happy so you can keep it going.

Find Your Happy Place

Are you happy? It’s such an important question because happiness has such a huge impact on your health, from your arteries to your heart, from the glow in your skin to the pep in your step. Happy feelings influence your brain and body chemistry in ways that make you better able to cope with pain and stress and to fend off colds, flu, heart disease, and even cancer. Follow these steps to help make yourself happier, day in and day.

Believe in Yourself

Finding true happiness requires taking a good hard look at yourself. The goal is to identify any off-the-wall beliefs about your self-worth and adjust them. When you’re at ease with yourself and open to others, friendships seem to blossom naturally. Just acknowledging secret self-doubts may help you develop enough humor and compassion toward yourself to reach out to others, who, underneath, are probably just like you: sometimes unsure and shy.

Hang Out with Happy Friends

Having someone in your immediate social circle who is upbeat ups your chances of happiness by 15%. Why? It seems happy people have the power to spread their feel-good vibes far and wide the same way a ripple spreads through a pond. Not only do immediate friends matter, but friends of friends, too. So make plans to have lunch with a friend or go for a walk together. It could have far-reaching benefits for your mental health.

Make Time for Play

Swap your endless to-do list for some spontaneous playtime. It packs big benefits for your health, mood, mind, job, and even your relationships. When you’re floating free, happy, and totally absorbed, you’re taking a mini vacation from deadlines, bills, and your crazy-busy schedule. Anything counts, from enjoying a silly moment with your spouse to hosting an impromptu gathering, to cooking up a new recipe in the kitchen.

Squash Negativity

Is your inner voice quick to snap out things like, “How could you forget that, you idiot?” Sometimes the noise inside our own heads is our biggest stressor. When negative thoughts crop up, imagine a stop sign in your head, and tell yourself, “Stop!” To turn things around, trade in put-downs for positive thoughts and affirmations. For example, when you feel tired during a workout, think, “I am strong” or when you start work on a difficult task, think, “I can accomplish anything.” Empower yourself to think positive.

Connect with Others

Make every effort to talk — really talk — to people you care about. If they’re far away, stay in touch through e-mail, phone calls, video chat, and, when you can, face-to-face visits; you’ll all benefit by connecting. Get physical, too; hugs stimulate oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” spreading a feel-good boost. Lovemaking does, too, in steady relationships (those couples report the highest happiness levels). Plus, connecting with others may keep you healthier by providing a coping mechanism for stress.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Simply writing down what you’re thankful for makes you healthier, happier and more optimistic. Feeling thankful comes, in part, from counting your blessings each day. If you’re not sure how to journal, start by answering: What three things am I thankful for? You might find that journaling gives you a better, happier outlook for each day because you’re looking for moments to include in your journal each night.

Lend a Helping Hand

Volunteering at a nearby school or retirement residence, running to the pharmacy for a sick friend, or lending emotional support to a loved one can give your happiness quotient a big boost. How? Giving back and bonding with others inspires gratitude for what life has given you, and can help you define your purpose in life. The secret to being happy may be realizing that true happiness isn’t about being high on life all the time, but slowing down enough to share your natural gifts with others. Plus, find out how volunteering can help you live longer.  (I’m volunteering for Hospice.)

 

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Spending time with awesome Mother Nature makes you feel alert, enthusiastic, energetic, and simply happy. Is it the fresh air, the sunshine, the greenery? No one knows for sure. But something about being al fresco appears to help people get even bigger benefits from their workouts and they’re also more likely to stick to their outdoor sports be it walking, bicycling, kayaking or an outdoor fitness class.

Turn On Some Tunes

If you want to feel happy, less stressed and more energetic, flip on your stereo. Whether you love Bach, Lady Gaga or The Beatles, music that makes you feel good increases your heart and breathing rates and makes your brain release dopamine, a lovely feel-good neurotransmitter. Plus, no matter whether you enjoy listening to your favorite music alone or with friends, it will more than likely give you the mood boost you’re looking for.

Meditate or Pray

For some, being spiritual means going to church. For others, it means finding a quiet place to meditate and think about life. No matter how you do it or what you call it, meditation and prayer can help slow breathing and brain activity, and reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, when you do pray or meditate, you’re more likely to be filled with peace, joy, and other positive emotions that can also lead to positive physiological responses throughout your body.

Managing Your Depression

Depression is different for every person.  Some of us are depressed and have always been this way.  There is no explanation of “why”.  Here is a blog post that may explain it.

For others depression is or was caused by certain events in their lives that voided each and every reason to get up out of bed and keep on living.

Then again there are others who say they are depressed and the main reason they are depressed or tell their friends that they are depressed is because they didn’t get want they wanted or they are just in need and search of attention.  Just my observation but I noticed people who struggle with severe depression don’t start a conversation with “I’m so depressed”.  I even want to go as far as saying that many people don’t really understand what depressions is, that feeling of utter void.

During my behavioral therapy I realized that I used to obsess about managing my life with schedules, lists, calendars etc.  During college every minute of my life was scheduled.  Between going to school full time, working full time and running long-distance there was no time to just sit around idle. I even had a reading log.  I would average a book every 2 weeks and as soon as I noticed that I was still reading the same book after three weeks I would obsess over it, stressing to finish.  After I finished college, my boyfriend at the time and I moved in together and I started working.  I still had my scheduled work life but I stop managing, planning, scheduling my personal life.  Happily I lived my idle life alongside the even more idle life of my boyfriend.
Get up – go to work – go home – sit in front of the tele – go to bed.  – Repeat

The Latin phrase “Cotidiana viles” did not apply but the SCARF Model and the Neuroscience did.  Then the boyfriend and I split up.  I became even more depended on my Dad for intellectual and philosophical input. We would talk for hours then he passed away. Then I put all my energy into my job then the company closed.  The job, the company, the boss, the co-workers had first replaced the boyfriend then my Dad, it ended up being my whole life.  The company closed everybody went their separate ways and I just stood there.  Again, the SCARF Model and the Emerging Neuroscience held true.  I just didn’t know about all of this back then maybe I would have done things differently.  I didn’t even know that I was tumbling down the rabbit hole at an accelerating rate.

These days I life my live without the former boyfriend but a new boyfriend on the side, (meaning we don’t live together) without tele and with many lists and schedules.  I’m not as obsessed about it as I used to be.  Although I’m juggling three jobs and maybe should obsess about it a little more however my work schedule is different every week.  I never know how much work I’ll have the following week sometimes I don’t even know if I have any work the next day.  The only thing I know is, when I wake up in the morning and my bra and panties are matching I’m going to have a good day.

Other then that I need to be ready for anything and everything.  There is no procrastinating.

I must say, it feels great getting things done, out of the way and checked of the list.  Having a nicely structured day, with everything going as planned, makes for a happy ending. What feels even better to get everything out of the way is driving home from work, realizing your gas-tank is almost empty so you stop by the gas station and fill it up.  The next morning you get up, your windows are full of ice and you think “wow I’m glad I filled the tank up last night, this could get me behind schedule if I still would have to get gas”.  Then you drive past the gas station and you notice gas went up 10cents over night and you think “WOW I’m one lucky girl”

Does Overload Equals Depression

I remember a number of years ago my older brother said:,  “if I have to much on my plate I get overloaded and end up not getting anything done”.  I really don’t remember anymore what made him make the statement. I do remember I was in my early teens and really didn’t understand the correlation.  Actually it took me a very long time to understand his statement and I just realized in the past 3 years what a paralyzing effect it can have on someone.if they overload themselves, struggling with depression and have lost the structure and order in their life.

However, having a full schedule can be healthy and invigorating for someone who is struggling with depression if the schedule has the needed structure and order.

Until my father passed away, I really didn’t understand depression nor did I feel depressed at any time.  Maybe it was also that during college and then later during the early years in my career I was so busy I didn’t have any time to think about much of anything.  Or better said, didn’t take the time.

After my father passed away and I had lost  my job I have had for almost10 years, ever since I finished college.  I couldn’t motivate myself to do much of anything.  I was seriously depressed.  All I did was sit around worrying about how I was going to pay my bills, what was going to happen with my career, where will I be 10 or 20 years down the road. The more I tried to motivate myself to do things, such as working out, cleaning house the more depressed I gotten because I just kept adding things to my to- do list.

The thought was, now that I”m unemployed I have the time to do XYZ. I made my bucket list and my wish list.  Things that had been in the back of my mind for years that I wanted to do or have or experience were brought front and center.

Now I had time to do them but I didn’t have the money. So, all I did was sit in front of my PC applying for jobs.  There were days I emailed out over 50 resumes.  I applied for every job there was out there and nobody called me back. I was just tumbling down the rabbit hole faster and faster.

Finally after starting behavioral therapy I ended up getting a better understand about depression as a whole and the therapy helped me to bring structure and order back into my life.  Getting back into the routine of getting up early, getting a little workout in and routinely going through the things you had listed on you to-do list for the day give you the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

How do you deal with your Lunar Days?

So, how do you deal with your lunar days?  We all get them. With “we”, I mean the ones who are blessed with the female gender.

Our beloved lunar days, they come once every four weeks.  For some of us they come with the physical clues.  We wake up and feel somewhat not as usual, we go to the bathroom and then there is the ahhhh it’s that time again.  The physical clues bring the realization and the “home free card”. We walk through life (at least some of my friends do) saying “I’m PMSing what is your problem.  In today’s world, PMS give us girls the license to do anything and everything. We turn into the raging lunatics and believe we have every right to do so. In the old days women probably weren’t as compelled to draw attention to it out of fear for being burned at the stake.

For others lunar days come without physical evidence.  Either due to stress, being underweight or due to some lovely implant.  For me, I rarely get them but when I do, they come with vengeance. The problem is when there is no physical evidence you realize you are a total lunatic and it takes time to figure out why.

I have been a raging lunatic all weekend.  This time it took me a total of two days to figure out what the bloody hell was wrong with me and by that time I did, I was totally of the rockers.  In a span of 15 minutes I went through every human emotion possible.  That is from flaming mad with lighting blots shooting out of my eyeballs to the sobbing petty me.

I made through Saturday and Sunday without doing anything majorly stupid.  Well, I resigned to buying cigarettes and smoked like there was no tomorrow.  I made the mistake of not locking my cell phone away but other than that I did OK.  I kept myself busy with studying, doing endless mind numbing tests and added three more painting to my collection.

However, this morning I couldn’t get up.  I had no reason to get up.  I didn’t have anything on my schedule to sustain my life so to speak.  I didn’t have a job to go to.  True I have a number of projects but with these projects may become fruitful in months or years so why bother. We want instant return.  Going back to the emerging neurosciences post, this morning the status was missing to get me out of bed and be functional.  Will power isn’t there if you have the monster lurking underneath.

My cell phone was ringing non-stop and finally at around noon I picked up one of the calls.  The person at the other end said “Hi how are you” and at that moment I lost it.  All the emotions, everything I tried to keep in check during the weekend became unraveled and I let go “How I am? You want to know how I am.  I’m telling you one thing, this whole thing about Garden of Even. This whole thing about women being punished with child labor pains is a bunch of BS.  If G-d is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent then he would have known that we are going to come up with painkillers and epidural anesthetic. Hence this concludes that if there is a G-d and that G-d is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent he/she/it gave women PMS as the punishment”.

The person on the other end answer “well I actually was just calling to wish you Happy Hanukkah and wanted to know if I could borrow the CD we talked about, however it appears you are no having a good day. What to talk about it”

No, not really there was nothing to talk about it.  I was just a raging lunatic.  I ended up getting up and kept myself busy still the monster was trying to push through.

Depression is an interesting thing.  Today I realized for the first time how closely related depression and anger really is. I’m also starting to believe that PMS isn’t really that big of a problem unless you have other issues going on.  During your lunar days you are more prone to lose control.  I’m not really sure why. Looking at it biologically our body is gearing up to its most fertile days.  So is it possible that men are more attracted to raging lunatics?

Quantifying Happiness

About 2 month ago a friend of mine posted a day trip to the Penn Plantation.  First, I was excited and thought it was a great idea.  However, all through last week I was wrestling with myself if I should really go.  It would be a rather long drive.  I’ve been tired all week.  Not because I was working a lot, far from it but because for some reason I can’t get it in my schedule to drink enough water.  I kept looking at my to-do-list trying to make excuses for not going; however since I had agreed to go, I gotten up at the crack of dawn and placed my tired self in my car.

It was a beautiful morning I enjoyed the drive and Penn Plantation.

Even though it was a grueling drive back, back home I looked at my to-do-list and started to check a few things of.  Now at the end of the day, I ended up having accomplished more then I initially set out to do without going on this day trip.

Habits and attitudes are hardwired along well-established neural pathways. At times we need to give ourselves a push to actually get what we want.  I think that also applies to happiness.  I haven’t really figured it out but I don’t think happiness, even though it’s humanity’s most desired emotion, just doesn’t happen by itself.

While cutting-edge science and research are paving the way to greater understanding of our emotions, it seems there is still something to be said for just having a good day, because you got up and did what you set out to do and some.