Staying Motivated

Today is Day #18 of my 100 Day Self-Improvement Challenge and I am happy to report that it’s going really well, even better than I expected.

I haven’t been 100% compliant with all of my daily goals (missed maybe 3 total things over the time thus far), but the goal has always been improvement, not perfection.

Even in this short amount of time, I have noticed many positive changes such as:

  • Better sleep
  • More definition in my arms (thank you, push ups)
  • Recalibration of my food intake (truly humbling experience to document – honestly! – my dietary choices)
  • Better food choices (eat this, not that)
  • Genuine happiness via daily connections with different friends

Potential negatives:

  • Occasional enthusiastic proselytizing 
  • Lack of sufficient rest time to recover from exercising. I didn’t adequately calculate for days off in my plan.

Since I’ll be a quarter finished by the end of next week, I also thought it would be prudent to think now about strategies for staying motivated until the end.

Some tips I gathered in my research about ongoing motivation:

  1. Set a concrete goal and work toward it. It could take the form of a specific date or an event, like a race you sign up to complete or a vacation you plan to take. A great example would be getting in shape for a trip in October to hike the Grand Canyon. This would be a date and an event.
  2. Make a commitment. Specifically, a financial one. I am so, so nervous about the marathon I am running in a few weeks, but I went forward with gusto and booked a non-refundable suite at my favorite hotel during race weekend for some pre- and post-race R&R. I can’t let that opportunity go to waste.
  3. Tell people. Openly committing to something gets others excited for you. Having people ask about your progress provides external accountability.
  4. Think about the WOW factor. This could take the form of visualizing how great it would feel to see the Grand Canyon from top to bottom when you reach your goal or perhaps the feeling you’d get if friends who haven’t seen you in a while would be awed by your physical transformation through weight loss and/or exercise. Or how wowed you would be to slide right into smaller jeans in the dressing room.
  5. Build on the power of momentum. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Capitalize on your successes so far. I also find on days that I don’t feel like exercising, I tell myself that I’ll just do 20 minutes. It almost unfailingly turns into double that or more. Showing up is half the battle.
  6. Consider everything an experience builder. Not all workouts are going to be great. Not everything you try will stick. Consider everything an experiment to gain experience, and the more you try, the more you will learn.
  7. Reward yourself. Use smaller awards along the way and a bigger one when you reach a major goal or milestone. The goal itself may be the reward, like a vacation.
  8. Spread the energy! I half-jokingly said that I am prone to compulsive proselytizing these days, but talking about the project ends up motivating ME and keeps my momentum tank full.
  9. Make it fun. My friend S. is an ultra-marathoner and just completed a 100 mile race last weekend. When we’ve run races together in the past, I’ve been amazed to hear her talk about stopping to take photos along the way (she is much, much faster than I am so I hear about it in the aftermath). I usually figure that if I stop, I won’t start again, and my usual strategy is to forge ahead. I envy her ability to enjoy the moment, literally stop at times to smell the roses, and I can guarantee she has a lot more fun during races than I do.
  10. You may not be ready yet, but don’t take yourself out of the game. Change takes commitment. People who study change know that before it’s going to happen, there is a time of contemplation before action. A half-hearted attempt will likely fail. In my own experience, I can say that I’ve had an app to track my food intake for, oh, at least 2 years, but it wasn’t until this project that I started to religiously (and honestly) use it. I’d make small attempts before that were quickly abandoned when I didn’t feel like seeing those two glasses of wine, two slices of pizza, and handfuls of M&Ms staring at me, so I simply didn’t use the tracker. You may not be ready for action right this minute, but surround yourself with the tools you need so that when you reach the tipping point, that app (or those running shoes, or that gym membership) is waiting right there for you. Keep the barriers to change low.

 Keep on keepin’ on, my friends!


100 Days of Self Improvement

My recent spike of interest in all things motivational and inspirational led me to the world of 100 day challenges. 

First, a few truths:

  • Change can be hard to do
  • Making lasting change is even harder
  • It takes about 30 days to make or change a habit
  • Staying motivated is difficult
  • Making lists is motivational (at least to me)
  • Small changes over time add up to big(ger) results
  • I need and want to change a few things
  • 100 seems like a very accomplished number

Never one to miss embarking on a self-improvement project, I designed my own 100 day challenge.

I am focusing on small wellness behaviors. I made a list of 8 daily goals, all of which are do-able. Little things add up!

Here’s my list:

  1. Weigh myself every day
  2. Drink at least 8 8-oz glasses of water
  3. Do 25 sit-ups (I know this is a small amount! This is the minimum I’m going to set for myself, with the goal of doing more every day).
  4. Do 10 push-ups (see above).
  5. Record the food I eat
  6. Exercise
  7. Avoid alcohol (while this may make me seem like a huge lush, I tried to pick something that was the epitome of empty calories. It was either wine or M&Ms, and I had to go with wine. Eliminating both would have been too cruel and probably impossible).
  8. Reach out and connect with a friend every day

 For accountability, I did three things:

  • Publicly declared my attention here and to my family and friends
  • Printed out calendars with the daily 8 and the challenge day printed on them. I made two sets so I can have one at home and one at work.
  • Posted the calendars in visible places

Here’s my September:


You can download and edit your own calendar here.

Looking for your own ideas for 100 days of self-improvement? Find ideas here and here.

 Your New Self Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.


Expanding Your View

Last week I attended a day-long work retreat where several coworkers and I brainstormed ideas for moving our department forward to 2020 and beyond.

There were big themes that were bandied about, and one of them was Being Innovative.

A fellow physician for whom I have a lot of respect made a simple suggestion, but it really stuck with me:

Once a year, attend a conference that is totally outside of your specialty. That’s where you get the best ideas.

Attending medical conferences is part of the DNA of being a physician. We’re required to keep up with current medical information and technology, so much that we have to earn a minimum number of continuing education credits every year to keep our medical licensure active.

But, there’s only so much time in the world (time, my biggest luxury!), and I usually spend my allotted travel days going to meetings within my own specialty or sub-specialty (my area of medicine is pretty niche).

Except: earlier this year, I attended a new conference for the first time, and it was centered on medical education and faculty development, a.k.a. self-improvement.

It was great! I came back to work totally inspired and ready to tackle new projects. I had an idea, wrote a grant, got it and started a research project that I hope to present next spring in yet another new conference outside of my immediate specialty. I’m also mentoring one resident and one medical student withthis project to pay it forward and help their careers.

While this anecdote is about work, popping out of your usual bubble works in life, too.


One woman I met at the aforementioned conference told me that every year, she forces herself to take a class that is outside of her comfort zone to learn something new, like the time she studied and then had to perform Stand Up Comedy.


Ok, I want to stretch and inspire myself, not get terrified, which is why you won’t see me signing up for a Snake Handling Seminar any time soon.

However, I’ve had a dream for years to take surfing lessons. I got thisclose to signing up for an all women’s surf school (this one) several times.

What’s stopping me? Nothing. Ok, maybe sharks, but it’s unlikely that this will happen:


(That’s “Sharknado 2,” if you’re keeping track).

So, overall I’m trying to expand my view. Easier ideas on my list than flying off to surf school in Mexico include learning stand up paddleboarding (my friend P. lives right on the water and has offered to teach me many times), reading all of the books downloaded on my iPad – many of which linger because they’re a literary stretch, actually cook the recipes I tear out of magazines instead of leaving them in a pile, and – oddly enough – learning how to make my own fresh mozzarella.

What do you want to do?