Motivation is mighty, yet complex. It can be the determining factor to our success, or the ultimate undoing of all our best goals and action plans. Understanding motivation, and specifically how you work with motivation, provides you with an important resource to boost your motivation and maximize your progress.
Sometimes motivation comes easily, and with very little effort on your part you will find yourself springing in to action with the enthusiasm of 100 cake loving children at a birthday party. At other times, it can feel near impossible to even think about taking action, and you risk being trapped in a dark downward spiral of sloth-like (in)action and denial.
Now, I am sorry to tell you that I am unlikely to change that. The brutal truth is that motivation will come in ebbs and flows, and that is natural and normal. And to be perfectly honest, I am not convinced that a constant state of super motivation would be beneficial (or enjoyable) for anyone. The times where motivation dwindles can provide us with valuable respite to rest, recuperate, and reflect.
What we can do is develop an understanding of how motivation works, and specifically what motivates us, and what doesn’t motivate us. Developing a deep understanding of your own motivations, and building plan for motivation to support your goals and action plans will allow you to boost your motivation and ensure it is present where it is needed most.
What is motivation?
Motivation is a general willingness to do something. Something that compels you to take action. We are motivated when the pain of not taking action becomes greater than the pain of getting started. The point where it becomes easier to take action, than to not. Every choice we make has a price. Motivation is the moment where that price of action becomes more reasonable than the price of inaction. So what can we do to make it more likely that we will choose action over inaction?
20 Ways to Boost Your Motivation
1. Know why you are doing it
If you do nothing else, at very least know the reasons behind your goal. What drives you? What are you working for? Give them some real thought. Sometimes our ‘why’ is not the obvious, so dig deep. Be honest. For example, I don’t run to get fit. I run to teach myself how to make myself a priority in my life. I run to create a life where I have the energy to spend time with my daughter, be spontaneous, have adventures, and feel good. Getting fit is merely an added bonus. If you are struggling, try asking yourself: what will I gain from achieving this goal? What will my life look/feel like when this goal is complete? What is it about this that excites me? You might have one big why, or you may have a few.
P.S. I may be sounding like a broken record with this one, but I will never stop bangin’ on about the value and importance of knowing your why. Just try and stop me!
2. Talk about your goal
Tell a close friend, tell your partner, make a big public announcement. Verbally sharing our goals with the right people (and the right people will be different for everyone) makes us feel fully committed because we feel accountable to more than just ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, intrinsic motivation is incredibly important, but some external accountability can help you boost your motivation when you are feeling the challenge.
3. Create a visual reminder
Post a visual reminder of your goal somewhere you will see it every day. Write out your goal, find a picture that represents what you want, a symbol, a metaphor. When you lose focus, you lose motivation. Put your goal (and your ‘why’) front and foremost.
4. Hold yourself back
When we first set our goals we often overdo it in our newfound excitement, only to find we have given up a few weeks down the track. We overwhelm ourselves and it isn’t sustainable. Enthusiasm is great, but use that enthusiasm to ground yourself in your goal and your ‘why’. Get strategic about your action plan so that your action is sustainable.
5. Understand motivation
One common misconception is that motivation comes first, and action comes second. The truth is, that the most powerful motivation will be the result of action, not the cause of it. Understanding this can help us take that first step, in the knowledge that once we do, motivation will follow. Getting started is a challenge. But even small action can provide the momentum we need to move forward. The key to getting motivated is to make it easy to start!
6. Create a starting rule
As above, starting can be our biggest hurdle. Create a bare minimum rule that forces you to start, and once you are there you will find it is easier to continue. If your goal is to run, make a rule that you have to at least put on your shoes and head out the door. If your goal is to sort out the budget, make a rule that you have to sit down, turn on the computer, and open up your spreadsheet and balance today’s numbers. Make it simple, easy, and steps that lead you to where you want to go. That way, when you are sitting on the couch thinking about how hard is going to be, you can instead focus on the simple steps it takes to start. Once you start, it’s rarely as hard as you think it is going to be.
7. Create a ritual
Motivation is what we rely on to take us from our current state, to the state we need to be in to take the action our goals require. Strong habits and rituals can create a clear pathway that lead directly to our desired state, and is especially valuable when our motivation is low. A strong ritual must be the same every time, and should be relevant to what you want to achieve. Your body and mind will recognize the process, and support you by bringing you in to the state that you need.
For example, when I was doing a lot of public speaking, I understood that I needed to be in a present, focused, engaged state. I didn’t always feel that way leading up to the event. My pre-speaking ritual that took me from where I was, to where I wanted to be every time. I took a sip of my water, took 5 deep breathes, relaxed my shoulders, said 3 affirmations (with conviction!) and I was good to go.
Don’t over-complicate it. Simple is better.
If you have a schedule time when your key action usually occurs, then you will never have to spend your time thinking “I hope I feel motivated to [insert action here] today”. We only have a finite amount of willpower each day. A schedule eliminates the need to decide when to do something, and allows us to put all our willpower into doing it.
9. Understand that you will want to give up, and prepare for it
At some point, you are likely to want to give up. To throw in the towel. If you don’t, your goal probably isn’t big enough! We all have these urges, and that is okay. They happen naturally, and mostly unconsciously. By planning for them, we enable ourselves to take charge on a conscious level. Understand what makes you feel like giving up, and what helps you keep going. Make a plan and write it down. Because when you feel like giving up, you will not feel like planning a way out.
10. Track your progress
How often have you been in a situation where you felt like you were getting nowhere, only to step back and take a big picture view and realize that you have come so far? We tend to have a warped view of progress in the moment, only being able to see immediate progress made. That is not how progress works. Progress doesn’t have to happen every day. Tracking your progress over time allows you to keep grounded in the overall progress, so you don’t get stuck on the lack of progress in one moment.
11. Create a celebration structure
Most people are pretty good at noticing where they could do better. But how often do you take the time to acknowledge and celebrate your success? A celebration structure allows us to pay attention to the progress that we have made, and use this to provide us with motivation and momentum moving forward.
Choose some key milestones along the way to your goal (as well as at the end) and plan to stop and acknowledge your progress, and celebrate your achievement. A truly effective celebration structure will ensure that the celebration is relevant and proportionate to your goal/milestone (no holiday to Fiji because you paid your bill on time!), and does not undo your hard work (a tub of ice-cream may not be a great celebration for achieving your weight lose goal!).
12. Understand The Goldilocks Rule
The Goldilocks Rule suggests that we achieve optimum motivation when the required action is just on the edge of our abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right. (Get it!) If you are lacking in motivation, your goal or the action required may be so easy that you are bored. Equally, you may have taken on something so difficult that you have found yourself overwhelmed. Bring your actions closer to the edge of your capabilities, where you are stretched a little, but remains within the realms of possibility.
13. Find areas of your life that you can ‘act as if’
An important source of motivation is keeping touch with what you are working toward. One way to do this is to find areas where you can ‘act as if’ you are already living the life that is at the end of your goal. For example, part of what I am working toward is a life where I have the energy, time, and space to be more spontaneous, adventurous, and connected with my family. One way I ‘act as if’ is by making a focus of (where possible) saying yes to opportunities for family adventures and spontaneous fun. This keeps me connected to what is important, reminds me of why I am doing it, and makes me feel like I am making progress. As an added bonus, I develop the habits and skills that are needed to achieve my full goal.
What is an area that you could ‘act as if’ or say yes to something that represents where you want to be?
14. See your mind as a suggestion engine
In his article aptly named ‘What I Do When I Feel Like Giving Up’, James Clear states:
Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path.
If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like.
Remember, none of these suggestions are orders. They are merely options. I have the power to choose which option I follow.
Pay some attention to the suggestions that you follow. Do you spend a lot of time and attention on the negative suggestions? What impact does this have on your progress? Is there a more useful suggestion you could replace it with?
15. Visualize your goal regularly
Visualize your goal clearly, on a regular basis. Be specific. Visualize what it will look like, feel like, smell like, sound like, even taste like! Where will you be when you achieve your goal? How do you look? Give it some detail. The trick to successful visualization is to not only visualize your success, but also how you got there. Identify the key actions you took. What were the challenges? How did you move past the challenges? What resources did you need to keep yourself motivated? Who supported you?
Don’t just visualize success coming to you easily. This will only set you up for disappointment. Visualize the different eventualities, including the scenarios where you meet, and work through challenges. This will provide you with mental strategies that leave you more resourced to move through the challenges when you face them.
Wanting something is not enough
I know the effort and time that you put into setting your goals. And I know how much you might want it. But as Les Brown said:
Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.
Unfortunately, motivation won’t always spring forth where it is needed. Not without some effort on your part. By understanding where your motivation comes from, and making a plan to insert these sources of motivation in to your action plan and daily life, you can boost your motivation. That way you can make sure that lack of motivation is not going to be the obstacle holding you back from what you want.
What is your favorite strategy to get motivated? Share with us in the comments below…