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Sgt. Jerrod Fields (US Army) works out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. A below-the-knee amputee, Fields won a gold medal in the 100 meters with a time of 12.15 seconds at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla., on June 13. Photo by familymwr.

Everyone struggles with motivation, from coach potatoes to elite athletes. If you're looking to improve your motivation, here are some top tips.

  • Be honest. Think about what you want, not what you think you should want, or what you think someone else wants. Motivation comes from within.
  • Count the cost. What is it going to take? For instance, I'd love to play an instrument, but I'm not prepared to spend the time learning.
  • Prioritize. Good prioritization is about deciding what not to do, not what's most important. If you're going to add time for exercise, where's the time coming from?
  • Be honest. Did you build in time for relaxation, hanging out with friends, watching TV, etc.? Such downtime is not wasted, but an important part of life.
  • Make a plan. It does not have to be sophisticated; maybe a simple list, maybe a week by week set of objectives. For running, check out Starting to run.
  • Understand why people smoke. Part of the reason is that people will trade a little pleasure in the short term for a horrific death in the long term. This means that it is hard to achieve your long term goals because short term rewards will get in the way.
  • Find your rewards. Finding some short term reward that is part of a long term goal helps keep motivation high. The reward might be directly related to your long term goal (losing a pound of weight, running a mile, getting a 'C' grade), or it might not (a bar of chocolate for losing a pound).
  • Be Sociable. Find peer support, others who've done what you are trying to achieve. These people can form part of your reward, as they will celebrate your victories. Avoid anyone who is not positive, or does not genuinely appreciate what you've accomplished.
  • Start with the end in mind. Understand where your goal will lead you.
  • Be honest. Reality is much tougher than you expect. Many things are easy to plan, but hard to do. It's easy to say 'I am getting up at 4 am to run', and another matter to actually get out of bed. Visualize what it is you are proposing.
  • Art of War. I believe everyone should read The Art of War, a classic book about achieving goals, and avoiding conflict.
  • Understand the 'Why'. Revisit your motivation and try to realize what is driving you. For instance, losing weight might appear to be your goal, but it is more likely a means to another end. Are you trying to be healthier? Be more attractive? Stop someone nagging you? Run faster? All are valid reasons, but they may provide different long term motivational power.
  • Look to others. Find out what has worked for other people, and what they have tried that has failed.
  • Use the Dopamine. Your short term goals must provide the sense of satisfaction you need. If you are wasting your time on trivia (reading emails, surfing the web) rather than your long term objective, you're not structuring your short term rewards to give you the dopamine hit you need. (Dopamine is the brain's reward chemical.)
  • Visualize. Consider carefully what your world will look like if you fail in your goals. If the world in which you have failed is grim (too fat to move, dead of a heart attack, stuck in a dead end job), then use that visualization as motivation. If the world in which you have failed is okay, then rethink your goals.
  • Make a choice. Henry Ford said "Whether You Think You Can or Can't, You're Right".
  • Run to the next tree. Motivation is often about controlling your thinking. If you think about the long term effort, it can crush you. Focus on short term, attainable goals.
  • Be Public. Announcing your goal publicly can boost your confidence, and get support from those around you.
  • Be Honest. Fear of failure can be a powerful motivator, but it tends ultimately to be self-destructive.
  • Take Control. Understand your Internal Control Index and focus on taking control of your life.
  • Understand Willpower. I would highly recommend reading the book "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength". This book provides valuable insight into how our willpower works and how to use it most effectively.
  • Develop and Rely on Habits. To implement a change in your life, habits are critical. There are three parts to a habit; a trigger, an action, and a reward. Understanding how habits work can help you break bad habits and develop good ones, and I'd recommend reading "The Power of Habit" for some good insight.
  • Positive is best. While the fear of failure can be powerful, this is a negative motivation. Negative motivations tend to be brittle and destructive over time, where positive motivations are more resilient and productive.
  • Beware OvertrainingOvertraining can lead to Overtraining Syndrome which can cause depression and a reduction in motivation. Overtraining Syndrome is more about lack of recovery than too much training, so it can affect anyone.
Sometimes what's needed is not motivation, but a suitable trigger for a habit. I wanted to start some upper body training, which is tricky. To form the needed habit I put a reminder note on my glasses case, which I see at bed time. This simple change has allowed me to make the change I needed.