You’ve taken advice to start a new habit or set a new goal from someone that seems important and knowledgeable. But, most, if not all, of the time you fell short.
Even though it sounded like good and reasonable advice at the time, when it came to doing it, you either just didn’t, or you found some reason to rationalize not doing it. Either way, nothing inside you said, “no, I’m doing this.”
The reason it didn’t work is because if our motivation to do things comes from an outside source, the moment that outside source isn’t there any more (which is likely most of the time), we aren’t going to keep doing whatever it is we were trying to do.
So to make sure we actually stick to the plan, we have to be able to motivate ourselves, we can’t outsource motivation and hope to succeed. Getting the idea from an outside source is great, but to follow through, you have to internalize the motivation.
Here is 5 ways you can drive yourself to success:
1. What is your “because” clause?
If you don’t want your goals to slip into the abyss of “I’ll get to it when I have more time and energy” you have to understand why you have the goals you have.Meaning, there has to be a “because” clause at the end of declaration that you are going to achieve your goal.
For example: I am going to meditate for 15 minutes every morning because I want to have more clarity, focus, and presence.
If you don’t have “because” clause, you won’t be clear on why you are doing something. So, pushing yourself to keep going when it isn’t new and exciting, will be virtually impossible. Why torture yourself by slogging through the hard parts if you don’t even know why you are doing it.
Your “because” should be pretty easy to identify. Just ask yourself, what impact are you looking for in your life as a result of your goal? The answer should not be that you complete the goal. You have to figure you why you want to achieve your goal. Then, the motivation is the because clause in the sentence.
2. Give yourself only two options, succeed or fail
You don’t like to fail. I don’t either. It’s why we find it so hard to start something new, it means we might fail. It also creates a tendency in us to rationalize stopping or procrastinating when things get hard and it feels like we might fail. It is a seductive thing. We are very good at rationalizing why quitting is ok and why it is different than failing.
So, you have to guard against yourself. The best way to do that is to put yourself in a position that you can’t quit without failing. To do that you have to commit to what you are doing in a way that the only thing you can do is either do it, or fail.
Here’s how, and it works with whatever you are doing. Tell people what you are going to do. Tell them your “because” clause. And tell them you will not quit for any reason until you’ve done it. Tell people you respect, people whose opinion matters to it. Maybe it’s your spouse, your friends, your parents, or your colleagues. And then ask that person to follow-up with you regularly to check your progress.
This isn’t easy, but it is ridiculously effective. If you really want to push yourself, put yourself out there in a way that either you get the job done or you let down people you respect. You’ll be impressed at how hard you will work to make it happen.
3. The big picture isn’t that important. Focus on the small one
A huge reason we often lose motivation is that our goal feels so far away. If our goals are big and powerful, there’s probably a sizable gap from where we are to where we want to be. After we lose the buzz of getting started, covering that gap can feel impossible.
But in reality, that gap is just a bunch of small steps strung together. Each one of which you can absolutely do. And after you’ve done one, and then another, and then another, eventually you look up and you are nearly there. The key is to keep moving. In order to keep moving, you have to take those small steps.
So, how do you see a bunch of little doable steps instead of a uncoverable gap? I’m sure you’ve heard, break up your goal into smaller goals, six weeks, two weeks, one week. That’s good advice, but I’ve always found it really hard to follow.
Instead, I find telling myself that each day I have to spend 2 minutes doing something to take a little step towards my goal. If I get in 2 minutes, the day is a success and I feel good about things.
You’ll find if you just commit to the two minutes, you’ll often get more in. Two really is enough. It keeps you in touch with the goal, it creates and keeps momentum. You don’t have to sit down and create a year long plan with 52 week-long bench marks.
You just have to take two minutes and do something that moves the ball forward. You can do that every day. When you do, let yourself feel the success, don’t worry about how much you get done, it doesn’t matter. It only matters that you do it.
4. Can you see it? Touch it? Feel it?
After we set our sights on some audacious goal, if we want to stay motivated to complete that goal, we have to believe it is possible. As you may know, our brains are bad at telling reality from fiction. That’s why The Blair Witch Project freaked me out for quite a while after I learned it didn’t really happened. I knew it wasn’t real, but my mind saw it and there wasn’t anything my intellect could do about it.
You can hijack the same mechanism horror movies have been hijacking for decades. If you vividly picture yourself completing your goal, your brain will believe you can do it because it has already seen it, even though you just forced your brain to picture it.
It’s easy to do. I find, right before I go to sleep to be a good time. I’m always lying in a quiet dark place, so it’s perfect for visualizing things. Picture your success, what it feels like, sounds like, and if it has a smell or taste, add that in. The more senses you can get involved, the better. Then drift off to sleep knowing you’ve made that success a little easier as a result.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius
5. Visualize failure
Sometimes I need a little kick in the pants. You probably do too. Visualizing your success is important to getting yourself to believe you can actually achieve whatever you have set out to achieve. But on the days when you don’t even feel like spending the two minutes I discussed above, and we all have them, negative visualization is the trick you need.
You visualize what your life looks like in a month, year, or five years if you quit and fail to achieve your goal (the time is relative to the goal you have, pick the time frame you expected to complete your goal if you stick to it). Really visualize it.
Now, because you obviously want to succeed, having a clear picture of failure will push you to take the two minutes and do something that pushes you forward and guarantees you don’t fail today.
You’ll act so you make sure what you just visualized never comes to fruition. After you take that action, and this is critical, congratulate yourself and picture your success and how you took yet another step toward it. Don’t let the negative image sit on your brain.
What luck, you are absolutely in control of your own success
You are going to be the biggest reason you succeed. No one talks to you more than you talk to yourself. No one has more control over how you spend your day. Take advantage of the position you have as the person in charge of your life. When you have a goal you want to achieve, use the five strategies above to push yourself towards that success.
Thanks for reading my article! What things do you do that help find the inner motivation to push 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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