You put down your self-help book and you feel ready. You are ready to conquer any Herculean task that is standing in your way to success. You are transformed, and you cannot wait to show the world what you are capable of. The next day, you wake up early in the morning. You turn off your phone’s alarm clock with such energy you know you are going to smash the day.
A week passes by, and you are still smashing it. People around you start to notice. You are a changed man! Another week passes by, you feel a bit drained, but you soldier on. In the third week, you feel kind of sick of anything motivation related — what happened here?
I asked myself the same question countless times, and I came to the realisation that mass-produced motivation can only last so long. What happened is that you got a boost in motivation from the self-help book, but you did not achieve sustainable motivation; the one that lasts forever.
The only way you can stay motivated is to personalise your motivation. Make it as personal as possible. You must look at motivation from a bottom-up, not top-down, perspective.
In this article, I am going to show you how to do just that. You are going to learn a few tips on how you can personalise motivation, building it from the inside out.
1. Diagnose your strengths
The first step to personalise your motivation is to pinpoint and capitalise on your strengths.
What is your strong suit?
There are two ways to find the answer:
- Analyse the history of your achievements
- Ask people who know you well
For example, when I was a university student, I got the highest grade in public speaking. People also often told me that I had a good way with words (I am saying that humbly!). What does all this mean?
It means I have charisma. I am able to inspire others with my words. So, how can I use this to personalise my motivation?
Well, if I can inspire people with my words, I can inspire myself with them, too. I talk to myself every day. Whenever I run low on motivation, I use metaphors, similes and personification created from my own imagination to shake off whatever parasite that is sucking strength out of my soul. My words never failed me.
Pinpoint your strengths and capitalise on them.
2. Tap the power of personal symbolism
Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas. For example, the cross is a symbol of redemption and sacrifice.
Motivation and success are the driving forces behind everything you do, and your strengths help you smash through challenges to reach your destination. So, why do you not give all this a concrete shape?
When you give what you believe in a concrete shape, it does not just become part of who you are. It becomes who you are. This gives motivation a whole new meaning.
For example, a few of my strengths are intensity, passion, physical energy, yearn for self-expression and somewhat deeply buried anger at the idea of anyone being better than me at what I do. I decided that the sun symbol perfectly represents who I am and how I overcome my moments of weakness.
I wear my sun necklace all the time. It is part of my motivation. It shows the world my motivation, and I love it when people ask me about it.
Here are a few other ways to draw on the power of motivational symbolism:
- Choose a symbol that best represents your motivational philosophy
- Create your own ID card. Your picture, name, symbol of your choosing and other information that matters to you should all be there.
- Rings, necklaces and bracelets with the symbol of your choosing are great ways to materialise your motivation
- Tattoos are also an option, but I do not recommend them. They are not easily disposable and as you progress in your motivation journey, what motivates and what does not motivate you may change drastically. You do not want to be rigid.
3. Ritualise your motivation
Another way to make motivation who you are, not just part of who you are, is to ritualise it. Make motivation a habit, not just something that you do ‘’from time to time’’.
Motivate yourself every day. Wake up in the morning and remind yourself of what matters to you. What you are doing is going to pay off one day. Visualise how you will feel when you achieve your goal and the things it will bring you: money, power, sex and fame. All what is between you and these things is hard and smart work.
I have my own personally-written motivation speech read every morning. The speech reflects my deepest desires. Nobody can unlock its massive power but me. I read it aloud and I feel the words reverberate in my soul.
Make motivation a habit.
4. Adapt, not adopt
While good motivation articles may provide guidance, they do not provide answers because only you can find them. People who write about motivation do not know you as well as you know yourself. Tailor mass-produced motivation articles to your own individual needs, experiences, tastes and intelligence.
For example, if a motivation article suggests that you do the task you dread the most in the morning while you are an afternoon person, you are not going to do it in the morning. You can see how a motivation article can provide you with an idea; do what you are scared of the most when you are at your best. However, ‘’when you are at your best’’ varies from individual to individual.
Adapt what you read to your uniqueness to concoct personalised motivation.
5. Take breaks and make them count
Ignoring breaks — I have been there. You would like to think that you are strong and resilient, and you probably are, but ignoring breaks is not going to get you anywhere. Just like muscles need rest to reduce lactic acid build-up after a hard workout, so does your motivation. However, you do not want to wait until you are burnt out. This mistake cost me a lot.
Make time for your break every week or every couple of weeks at max. A full day of rest is also part of your motivation because you will be looking forward to it when you are working hard.
Make your breaks count, too. No mobile phones or anything of the sort. You have been straining your eyes all this time looking at screens and documents. You need to give all of you a break on your free day. Light exercising is okay, but it should not exceed 20 minutes. Avoid anything and anyone that may deplete your will power reserves – including difficult friends.
Take breaks and make them count. You will come back stronger.
Personalised motivation is the most powerful motivation. It is motivation that is deeply attached to your idiosyncratic needs, tastes, experiences and logic. Mass-produced motivation articles provide nothing more than guidance. They are a starting point, not an answer to a deeply personal question; how can I be and stay motivated?
The secret is in the ingredients, not the recipe. The most powerful ingredients grow in one and one place only; you.
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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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