10 Practical Ways to Stay Motivated on Your Self-Improvement Journey

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Tuesday, September 29, 2020
By Nicole Herdocia-Oria , RMFTI, MS

I consider myself to be an eternally active learner and a self-improvement/personal growth enthusiast. It’s important to be open to constant learning about yourself, others, and your surroundings. Sounds exhausting, but do not fret, for the journey towards self-improvement can be fun, fulfilling, and enriching for the soul.

Although everyone’s personal growth journey is different, here are some practical tips that can help us all kick bad habits and stay motivated for continual growth and improvement:

1. The Early Bird Catches the Worm: Start Your Day Off Early!

sunrise with heart hands

While many of us seem to struggle with this, (especially since the Pandemic) more and more evidence suggests that tackling your day early seems to correlate with increased productivity which in turn makes you feel more accomplished, improves self-esteem, and reduces levels of stress.  I’d say those are pretty good reasons to try and not hit the snooze button 13 times before sliding out of bed.  I know, for many of us it’s so hard to wake up early. Here are a few life hacks to help:

  • Set up an upbeat alarm that sets the tone and positive mood you hope to be in, to jump-start your day. Try to change the alarm sounds every so often to keep you on your toes. Suggestion: don’t’ pick a favorite song. After 3 weeks, you may want to punch Bob Marley in the Face when he’s just trying to get you to be “Jammin” at 5:00 AM. No one should ever want to punch Bob. RIP
  • Jump out of bed. Literally. Sounds ridiculous you say? Or Genius? When you actually jump out of bed its like cold water.  It really wakes you up and gives you a jump start. Just try it. Or whatever, drink coffee… weirdo.
  • Make your bed as soon as you’re up.  You’ll be less likely to sneak your way back into it if it’s all pretty and neat.
  • Get dressed! I know this worldwide pandemic makes it ideal for all-day PJ’s but you’re less likely to be as productive in your jammies. We have to at least dress like we’re productive members of society in order to trick our minds into thinking it too.

2. Make Goal Check Lists!


If you’re anything like me, that means that if you don’t write everything down, it simply doesn’t happen. Maybe you have the worst memory ever, (what was I getting at?.. oh yea) :/ Or, perhaps there are too many things going on and thoughts taking place to be able to keep track of what you’re supposed to be doing.  By writing down your goals you’re organizing your thoughts and tasks so that you’re more likely to stay on track, stay focused, and motivated without losing steam. To-do lists are my favorite! Also, a necessity for me.

3. Set Yourself Up for Success: Start Small.

After writing down your goals, simplify them.  Break your goals down into small, easily achievable tasks in order to set yourself up for success, keep you motivated to go on to the next task, and avoid procrastination. Giving yourself these small attainable tasks will help you stay focused.  Baby steps. Every time I scratch one thing off, I feel like throwing myself a little party!

4.  Celebrate Any Achievement, No Matter How Trivial.


Speaking of parties… Once you’ve achieved any small task, acknowledge and celebrate it. No matter how small, it’s still an achievement in the right direction. When we’re shooting for the big picture we may overlook the small tasks we’ve accomplished along the way.  A Win is a Win. Be mindful of taking the time to recognize your work in having completed any task.

Did you finish the laundry? Treat yourself, go ahead change your underwear.

Did you put in some quality time with the extended family? You deserve a glass of wine (or maybe even a bottle).

Did you meet your deadline? Take the night off from work and watch some football or amazingly cheesy Novelas.

Did you manage to pay your bills on time? Go ahead, buy yourself something from your saved Amazon cart.

If you lost a pound, treat yourself, put some dressing on a carrot, Just kidding, let’s not go nuts!

By allowing yourself to celebrate the small checked off tasks, you are positively reinforcing your productive behavior, keeping you motivated to continue killing it at life.

5. Challenge Yourself with Long Term Ongoing Goals.

Along with the short-term goals, setting up long term challenges that make you feel good about yourself such as, learning a new language, reading a weekly book, implementing an exercise routine, or trying out a 30-day healthy detox, are excellent ongoing goals to prove to yourself how much you’re capable of accomplishing. These more challenging goals require more engagement and commitment which is why working on smaller goals first, is great practice for these ongoing ones.

6. Organize Your Life!

There is no faster way of feeling accomplished than by taking the time to organize.  I’ve been slightly obsessed with the Netflix series, Get Organized and have been applying certain techniques to not only getting organized but stay organized in pursuit of facilitating productivity and staying motivated. Disorganization can keep us feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

There are multiple health benefits of organizing, including:

  • Taking the time to organize your workspace or desk area can give you a visual boost and sense of accomplishment that can promote higher levels of energy and therefore productivity throughout the day.  More energy also means better mood and lower stress levels.
  • Clutter triggers stress which correlates with insomnia and lack of sleep. Organizing and decluttering your bedroom promotes more restful sleep which improves your energy levels, mood, and therefore general well-being.
  • A study conducted by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found higher levels of depression, fatigue, and higher levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) in people with cluttered homes with unfinished projects as opposed to people living in organized houses who deemed their homes to be restful and restorative. Organizing makes us feel happier and more relaxed.

7. Be Kind.

be kind written with chalk on sidewalk

Always strive to be kind to those around you.  Never underestimate the power of a smile or saying hello. Being kind to others not only promotes more kindness but also improves our own empathy and patience levels which makes us feel better about ourselves, which in turn increases our self-love. Kindness reduces levels of stress, depression, and anxiety which is optimum for living longer, fuller lives.

Kindness also stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, known as a happy chemical because it elevates mood, and improves positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and love.

“Be excellent to each other” Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan

8. Therapy Can Help

Having trouble getting started, staying motivated, staying positive, or accomplishing your tasks? One of the roles of a therapist is to help you achieve your goals.  It’s important to have someone who can listen to you when you’re having a particularly rough day striving towards self-improvement so that you stay on track. Therapy can help you organize your thoughts and make sense of your emotions. When you are anxious and stressed, that can severely impair your confidence and sabotage your journey towards self-improvement. Therapy can provide you a healthy outlet to reflect appropriately and motivate you to get back to your goals, hold you accountable, and keep you on track to achieving your goals.

9. Take a break.

In your journey to self-improvement, it’s important to meet your needs and that includes rest! Making time to recharge your batteries is a must.  Life comes at you fast – make time for downtime.  Schedule it, if necessary, as if it were an appointment so you don’t miss out on crucial rest.  Meet up with friends or family.  Have alone time to relax. Keep stress at bay by indulging in what makes you happy!

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.” Anne Lamont

10. Practice Gratitude.

Being grateful is perhaps the most significant step we can take to promote our self-improvement and stay motivated. When we focus on what’s going wrong in our lives rather than on the plethora of things that are going right, we will deplete our motivation and willingness to be better. Focusing on the negative takes a lot out of us. We don’t realize how many blessings we’re surrounded by that are easily overlooked or taken for granted.

On particularly difficult days when we find ourselves struggling, it will be less likely to naturally focus on the positive.  One constant therapeutic assignment I like to suggest is keeping a gratitude journal to get us started.  Ideally, this list of blessings can be continuously updated with new items that could really shed some light on the reality of just how fortunate we really are regardless of what is happening. On those days when we’re feeling overwhelmed because “everything is going wrong”, checking back on this list can really help shed light and tweak our perspective to a more positive one which helps us stay motivated. Because no matter how well we’re feeling we can always feel even better.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Laotzu

What’s your first step going to be?



“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently” Anthony Robbins