Just like you, a lot of folks start the process of becoming a better version of themselves. And just like you, they can get some momentum going when things are happening as planned.
But then, all of a sudden, something pops up to disturb their routine. Now they are faced with a dilemma. Are they going to let their habits slide for the moment and get back to them once their routine gets normal again? Or are they going to push through and keep moving despite getting shaken up? Most people bail, intending to get back to it, but just never quite do. Are you most people?
Are cupcakes, Amazon, and binge watching Netflix, the solution?
When something happens in our lives to throw us off course our first reaction is to look for happiness, comfort, or distraction in the quickest and easiest way possible. That’s probably going to mean buying stuff, eating crap, sleeping in and skipping a workout, watching TV, or whatever your short-term pleasure of choice may be.
While seeking short-term pleasure in the face of a bad day is not the worst thing in the world, unless you are extremely diligent, it can become a problem. Pretty quickly it can move from a one-time thing, to a habit. The problem with that is, it is a habit that doesn’t do anything to keep you headed towards your goals. In fact, it is likely counter-productive.
The super bouncy ball bounces back
There is another response you can have to the bump in the road. You can practice resilience. And the bump in the road will actually be a huge opportunity. If you practice resilience by sticking to your habits, even on your bad days, you cement your good habits. If you can keep them when things go sideways, then keeping them when things are going well will be easy peasy. So having a bad day every now and then to let you get a little resilience practice in is actually a good thing. Each time you practice, being resilient gets easier and easier. But how do you do it?
Here are the 4 steps you should take each time you feel like your good habits are on the brink of being derailed:
Step 1: You’re not going to ride a unicorn home on a rainbow highway
No matter what you do, something will eventually screw up your routine. All too often we go through life assuming that the best-case scenario will be our reality forever. But it’s not true. There’s going to be some worst-case days, or at least not best case. If you prepare yourself for them by accepting that they will occur and that you will have to show some resilience to keep moving, then you are in a position to do just that.
If you live in La-La-land, assuming everything is going to be rainbows and unicorns each and every day, when it doesn’t work out, you are going to be hard pressed to respond in a resilient way. So don’t do that. Recognize that there will be a day where keeping your habit is going to be harder than it is on most days, and make the decision to do it anyway, before you are faced with the challenge.
Step 2: Watch out for falling boulders
If you don’t recognize that something is going awry with your normal routine and that it is threatening to disrupt whatever good habits you are trying to keep up, you can’t respond to it. Instead, you will fall into bad habits without being completely aware it’s happening. And once you finally recognize it and decide that you need to do something, it will be much harder to force yourself back to your path. So be diligent.
Whenever you feel yourself slipping (skipping a workout, pushing off that meditation, telling yourself you will write your gratitudes in your journal later) ask yourself what is going on? Why today? What’s going on with my schedule? Where is my head at? Did someone do something to piss me off, make me sad or disappointed?Once you recognize the outside force that is intruding on your habits, you can then move to preventing it from negatively impacting your long-term goals.
“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” – Benjamin Franklin
Step 3: Blessing or curse, you’re going to have to respond
You can think of your problem as a disaster and be a victim, or you can look at it as an opportunity to practice resilience and grow. Choose to see it as an opportunity. To make sure you do, be thankful for the opportunity. I mean this literally. Thank whatever is testing you, for giving you this chance to practice resilience. Do it out loud. If you made it to this step, you are way ahead of the game and you should be thankful that you were given an opportunity to practice your ability to stay on task in the face of a challenge.
So, say so out loud. Turn what could be a negative into a positive by just reframing it. The reality is this, building resilience is something you should strive for. It should be a habit on its own because having the habit of resilience makes creating all the other habits you want possible. Without it, you are destined to a start and stop cycle of habit forming that will likely get you nowhere. And the only way to create the habit of resilience is to practice it. So be thankful for that opportunity.
Step 4: Just do it
Nike was on to something. And yes, it is that simple. But without the first three steps, just doing it is a daunting thing that likely won’t get done. However, after you have gotten yourself mentally prepared through steps 1-3, the only thing left to do is to put your head down and do it even though it’s hard. You won’t feel like doing it. But, you have to do it anyway. Just act like you feel like doing it. Ask yourself, what would you do if things were going fine? Do that, even though things aren’t.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson
Making sure you stay on task when it feels like the world is moving to make it more difficult is hard. But if you can do it, you will feel great, and you will be exponentially more likely to keep moving, because you did so even when it was hard. If you use Steps 1-4, you can absolutely do it. You can be resilient and you can push through when most people quit. And that will separate you from virtually everyone else.
Let’s get started, take Step 1 now by posting in the comments below the last time you tried to start a habit but it got derailed by some outside force that upset the applecart on you!
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
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.
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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