We all go through tough times.
A few examples of mine are:
- Multiple consecutive breakups
- Walking away from a business that could have made me a lot of money
- Having my career come to a grinding halt
- Dealing with mental illness
The list is very long and I’m sure yours is similar. It’s not about the tough times we go through though because they are guaranteed and you already knew that before you clicked this article.
What matters during tough times is what you tell yourself.
This is what I say to myself during tough times — well there’s actually four things I say to myself depending on the tough time I’m facing:
“This will pass”
No event in your life lasts forever. Today may be a really tough day, but that won’t last forever. We delude ourselves at times by saying in our head “I’m always going to be like this.”
“Why does this always happen to me?”
“Here we go again.”
These negative phrases tell our brain that things are never going to get better. When we say these phrases to ourselves enough, we start to believe them. During a difficult period in your life, in that moment, things will suck.
The way to get out of your head is to see the truth: this will pass. In one day, one month, or one year this tough situation will have passed and you’ll be onto the next part of your life.
Nothing lasts forever unless you allow your mind to trap you in the moment and believe a lie which is that this moment won’t pass. It will. You will come out the other side.
“I’ll be stronger having dealt with this situation”
When you reframe your tough times into strength building exercises, they take a whole new meaning.
All of a sudden, your current situation that may be wearing you down becomes like reps at the gym. The reps are a struggle and it hurts, but if you keep moving forward, you end up with mental toughness and strength.
“Exchange your tough times for mental toughness”
See this challenging situation for what it is. It’s the chance to come out the other end stronger.
Stack your tough times up like gold medals.
Have you dealt with cancer? Good, then you won’t take your health for granted ever again.
Have you lost a loved one? Then you’ll never take the rest of your family for granted and care for them more than you did before.
Did you lose your job? Amazing! Now you can work somewhere else and discover more of your hidden talents!
Without tough times, you won’t have the strategies you need to deal with the impossible. Your heroes are your heroes because they’ve used their tough times to become stronger.
Failure and rejection are the building blocks to whatever your definition of success is. Tough times make you hungryand that’s a good thing.
“Keep taking baby steps forward”
Tough times can feel like quicksand sometimes.
If you don’t keep moving forward though, you’ll eventually sink into the quicksand. The best thing you can do during the toughest of challenges is take baby steps.
When I battled severe anxiety, I took baby steps such as these:
- Walked 15 minutes a day
- Drank an extra glass of water each day to hydrate my body
- Read one book a month on anxiety
- Exposed myself to one small fear each day. It started with going two levels in a lift (something I couldn’t do before). Then I’d go three levels the next day and so on.
That last dot point is critical. Overcoming tough times requires you to take baby steps in the form of being uncomfortable. When you’re growing each day, you don’t have time to be too concerned about a particular tough time.
My battle with anxiety eventually led me to flying long distances (another thing I couldn’t do before) and then speaking on stages in front of a lot of people.
As you can see, the first few steps — like going two floors in a lift — are quite small. Then the steps get bigger and bigger until what used to seem impossible becomes a piece of cake.
Take baby steps.
“It only takes one person”
Tough times often require someone to believe in you. From my experience, you only need one person.
One person to believe in your idea.
One person to love you.
One person who has gone through the same tough times as you.
This one person exists. You have to go out there and find them. That one person for me was a team leader when I was working in a call center. He believed in me enough to take me aside and coach me one on one.
He believed I was going to go on and change the world through personal development. He was right and I did!
Don’t give up. Your one person exists as well.
These four things are what I tell myself during a tough time. One of these phrases will always be the right one depending on the circumstance.
Believe that there is a way out and you’ll find one. It’s during the tough times that you’ll develop the skills and experience to help others.
What I’ve learned is that to get through the tough times, one of the best hacks is to focus on helping others. When you’re focusing on how you can serve, your own selfish problems become insignificant.
Seek out people who have even bigger problems than you do and listen to them. See if you can help them.
That’s how you deal with the tough times.
Tell yourself the truth. You deserve to hear it.
If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net
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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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