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3 Ways to Rethink Motivation in a Busy World

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of motivation recently. For me, motivation comes at different points during the day. I tend to be most motivated first thing in the morning. I’m not a night owl by any means, but sometimes I wish I could be. Other people are hopeless in the mornings, but they can stay up until the wee hours working on a project that inspires them.

Unfortunately, sometimes motivation doesn’t strike when you need it to. Sometimes you’re not able to arrange your day to align with specific spikes in motivation, and you’re forced to find opportunities to be productive at the corners of the day.

Below, are several ways you can set yourself up for victory, despite a busy schedule or an inability to find the right time to feel motivated:

1. Tee yourself up for a motivation session

I’m not much of a golfer, so the fact that I’m using a golf phrase to preface this tip probably doesn’t make sense. But the point is that sometimes you have to make it easy for yourself to succeed when it’s time to make a leap. You can break a task down into its component parts, and pretty soon it doesn’t seem so difficult.

That’s what motivation is about sometimes. You can take that first step towards getting things progressed. You can set up everything so you just have to jump in with both feet first thing when you have the energy. Sometimes this means creating a to do list for yourself the night before to start tackling first thing in the morning.

Sometimes it can mean drafting an email or creating a template for a phone conversation that you’re planning to have first thing the next day. Whatever you can do to get your head right and set up the right incentives for you to take that swing the very next day when you’re feeling prepared, the better off you will be. Try it next time you’re feeling tired. Take 10 minutes to tee up your next move.

“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.” – Les Brown

2. Fire, then aim

Unfortunately, sometimes teeing up a solution isn’t going far enough. What really works best is to put your head down and try to at least make a start at that “thing” you want to accomplish, that product you want to create, or that goal you want to reach. This can mean putting pen to paper, picking up the phone, typing out that email, or asking for that advice.

Do something, do anything. Whatever it takes, force yourself to make a minuscule action to move the ball forward. If you had a gun to your head or you were forced to do something to avoid losing everything in one moment, what would you do?

Perhaps this is a bit drastic, but by building a sense of urgency in the moment, even when it’s the last thing you want to do, you can find a deep source of motivation within you and set yourself up to tweak your efforts the next day.

Too often you’re overwhelmed and frozen into inaction when you reach for a large goal. This is the point of the “fire, then aim” approach.

3. Rid yourself of self doubt

One of the best ways to set yourself up for victory in the long run is to build your self confidence. If you truly believe in yourself, you will find the motivation to persist and persevere.

If you truly have faith in yourself and your ability to deliver what you set out to deliver, you can do it. The world will align to your dreams. But this won’t happen if you let yourself be talked down by self-doubt and worry about what others will think.

“The moment you feel yourself hesitate on something you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1 to activate your prefrontal cortex and interrupt the habit of overthinking, self-doubt, and fear.” – Mel Robbins

Some worry and concern is rational and even important, but for the most part, fear will only hinder your progress. Get the negative voices out of your head by tapping into the inner ego and reminding yourself that you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish.

If you put your mind to something, and you are stubborn in your resistance to listening to other people’s’ opinions of what you do, then you will be hard pressed to not succeed.

The hardest part is the start. Finding ways to make that start even a little bit less painful can make the time that it takes to create something amazing all that much easier.

How do you motivate yourself? Share your ideas below!

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

Motivation

How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals

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Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.

What is Motivation?

The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.

Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).

Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.

However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals. 

How to Get Motivated

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.

This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.

4 Ways to Make Starting Easier

1. Schedule it

One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it. 

When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.

An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”

2. Measure something

It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.

3. Extrinsic motivation

This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.

4. Make it public

Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

How to Stay Motivated Long Term

When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.

These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:

1. Stay in your goldilocks zone

The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging. 

The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.

2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals

Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within. 

For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.

3. Use “chunking”

Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.

Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.

For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.

4. Be flexible

We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.

5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion

Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.

This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.

Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.

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Motivation

What Is Dark Motivation and How Can I Use It to My Advantage?

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It’s Thursday, 8 PM. I’m relaxing at home, doing normal things, and scrolling social media. Tomorrow is a big day. There are lots of things to do with moving pieces of furniture because I’m moving to another city. On top of that, a repairman is coming to my house at 8AM, so I’ll have to get up early. (more…)

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Motivation

The Killer Morning Routine to Boost Motivation

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If you’re anything like me, waking up in the morning is a hard task. Over the course of a number of years I’ve built a routine that helps wake me up and keeps me motivated. (more…)

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Motivation

Why “No Pain, No Gain” Is More Powerful Than You Realize

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Chances are you’ve heard the quote “No pain, no gain” before. Especially if you enjoy hitting the gym and getting a nice pump going on. What this means is that in order to make your muscles grow, you’ll have to shred the fibers so they can grow back bigger and stronger. This progress causes physical pain because you’re tearing apart your muscles, but the reward for the pain is always worth it. (more…)

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