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Motivation and Establishing New Behaviors that Last

By Julie Bergfeld, Health and Personal Development Coach

Julie Bergfeld is Life Coach, specializing in the body’s innate wisdom. She is also a Registered Yoga Teacher with more than 1500 hours of training, 14 years of teaching, 6 years of yoga studio ownership. Bergfeld grew up in St. Louis, but resided both in Texas and Boston for many years, and moved back to the St. Louis region to care for her aging parents. She is a Tiny Habits Coach and currently a coach-in-training with the Human Potential Institute. Bergfeld’s mission is to teach others how to better inhabit their bodies and to live and lead from body-based awareness.


We all know that motivation is an important component in meeting our goals, but what to do when motivation wanes?

Motivation is like the wind. Some days it is strong enough to blow you over. Other days, barely detectable. If you have a big goal but are frequently swayed by the waves of motivation, you are not alone.

We can’t rely on motivation alone to keep us on track with the behaviors that are working towards our goals. It takes something more.

According to BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, behavior relies on three things: Motivation, Ability and a Prompt.


Behavior. It’s the thing you do to creep you closer to your desired outcome. For example, if I want to run a marathon, one behavior might be establishment of a regular running habit. Ok, great! We’ll dive into the details of that in a few.

Motivation. It might be high to reach that goal of the marathon. But when the temperature dips to 5 degrees F or 105 or there is simply too much to do, where is the level of motivation on a scale of 0-10? Consider that motivation doesn’t dictate whether the behavior happens.

Ability. If ability to run is high, the behavior will more likely get done. But, when just starting out, maybe 3 miles is on the schedule, but physically impossible. But, I can run half a mile without stopping and that’s just great. It’s a skill to work on or else I’ll get stale or injured and stop (like I’ve done before). In order to enhance our motivation and progress, the behavior should be a stretch, but not too far. This keeps it interesting, challenging, but doable so that I feel successful each time.

Prompt. This is the intrinsic reminder to do the thing. After a day at work, it’s not always easy to remember to put on my shoes and head out the door for a run. I’d rather sit down and chat with my partner or play with my kids and then the day quickly passes without my having gotten in my run. So we set up a prompt for the behavior to happen so it doesn’t get passed over.

The Recipe

This is where the recipe comes in. After I (prompt), I will (action/behavior). Once I (action/behavior) I will celebrate with a satisfactory smile for having done something positive for me. In this instance, the recipe looks like:

After I hang up my keys after work, I will walk to the bedroom and change into my running clothes. Note, that I don’t even have to go for a run! Merely by getting ready to do the action, I am mostly out the door and 9 times out of 10 I’m going to go for that run anyway.

Your Why

When you have a big goal, dream, challenge, what you can do is first define the larger WHY. This means looking to why you want to do a certain thing. How will accomplishing it make you feel? What will that accomplishment bring you? Better health? Longevity? Setting an example for your family? Sometimes when you refocus on the larger WHY, the behavior becomes much easier to get yourself to do. And, as a result, the motivation follows.

When Things Fall Apart

If you still lack motivation to do the thing, maybe the behavior is too difficult. Perhaps it needs to be smaller or you need more skill.

Next, if you forget to do it, look at your prompt and be very clear on what that prompt is. A redefinition might be needed.

Finally, after messing with all of those things: Ability, Prompt, Larger Why, if you still struggle to do the behavior, it’s time to get real. Ask yourself if you really want to do that thing. Maybe it’s a nice goal that you should do, but not something you really want to do.

Feel Good About What You Can Do

Just remember that Motivation is fickle. Re-focus on the larger “why”, make it easier to do every day and be sure to feel good about the kind of person who is creating this new behavior. Time doesn’t create habits. Emotions do.

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