Technically, technically, motivation doesn’t really exist. It’s a combination of a whole bunch of things — usually including some type of fear or intense desire. After all, the motivation battle is nothing but, “I think I can,” “I think I still can,” and “I’m doing it!” Because of that, we’re going to hone in on three things: developing confidence, staying focused, and maintaining direction. And we’re off!
Part 1 of 3: Getting Focus
Stop thinking in terms of fear. We’re all guilty of thinking in the negative instead of the affirmative. We’re busy not wanting things. That’s fine and normal, but there is no action associated with not wanting something. You can’t decide to do something because you don’t want another. That’s not how it works. That’ll just keep you on the couch, doing nothing.
- Fear is harmful for two reasons: A) It keeps you unmotivated. A negative goal isn’t something you can go to action on. But what’s more, there’s B) It’s draining and exhausting. Living in fear sucks. It keeps you in a state of perpetual worry instead of action. When you’re drained and exhausted and worried, you are not going to be motivated. There’s no two ways around it.
Define your goal and your plan to achieve it. Now that we have you thinking in the positive, you gotta know what you’re getting positive about. Instead of, “I don’t want to be homeless, poor, and live my life in a state of abject poverty,” you’re thinking, “I want to be financially secure.” Awesome. Now — what’s your plan to achieve that?
- Well, for that specific example, you’d create some type of income plan. It would involve making a budget, possibly going back to school, or expanding your business. You have concrete steps toward your goal. But for whatever you’re facing — be it weight loss, doing well in school, or following through with a dream — you need to figure out what it is you want and just how you plan on doing that. If you really want it, it won’t be all that hard to figure out.
Keep it to just one. If you have a ton of things on your to-do list, sometimes it becomes daunting and you end up putting the list away and “tackling it later.” But if you have one thing on that list of yours, that’s it. That’s doable. It’s doable and you can focus on it — spreading yourself thin over a dozen won’t do you or your goals justice.
- You can’t focus yourself if you’re not focused on a specific goal. Break it down into small pieces as much as possible. If your goal is to shave 5 years off your appearance, attack it bit by bit. Start off with a new workout routine and get that down. Then, move to a new makeup regimen. Then, tackle your wardrobe. If you don’t parse it out, your brain will raise it’s arms (if brains had arms) up in surrender and you’ll be left with no idea where to go or what to do.
Make it fun. Straight up, doing something you flat out despise won’t be something you keep up with. The second you can drop it like a bad habit, you will. For that reason, whatever you’re doing — be it saving up money for that new car or losing 15 pounds — you gotta make it enjoyable. The more enjoyable it is, the more you’ll do it. The more you’ll do it, the better you’ll get at it. The better you get at it, the quicker the end result will come.
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Do you hate running? No problem. Take a kickboxing class — the weight will fall off that way, too. Horrible at writing papers? Change to a topic that drives you. Can’t save money to save your life? Switch environments. Your world is malleable — what you make of it can change your motivation entirely.
Read about it. On the outside, this kind of sounds silly. How could reading about something that you think about all the time really get you motivated? But it does. Hearing other people’s success stories (especially when they make it sound super simple), gets your brain thinking, “Hey! There’s no reason I can’t do that, too!” You all of a sudden become logical. So stop Facebook stalking your high school peers and get to doing something useful.
- You may think reading stories of people who have succeeded in losing 100 pounds may make you feel overweight and accomplished (for example), but if anything, you should feel driven, empowered, and armed with resources. You can learn from these people! And if their success doesn’t resonate with you, at least it can bring out your competitive edge.
Set rewards. Let’s be honest: results just don’t come soon enough. It takes years to make money from a new business, it takes months to reach weight loss goals, and it takes a virtual lifetime to be happy with yourself. That’s just about the opposite of instant gratification. To overcome this unfortunate fact of life, give yourself rewards. Life sure isn’t going to do it for you, so you might as well will.
- Don’t just use rewards for the big end goal (though by all means do that!). Set up checkpoints for yourself and give rewards at those smaller successes, too. Lost 5 pounds? Great! That warrants a massage. Aced your last three tests? Super! A night out it is! Finished the first half of your book? Wonderful — now it’s time to go shopping.
Part 2 of 3: Gaining Confidence
Keep the glass half full, not half empty. When we think about something we want, a necessary part of that is realizing we don’t have it. That can turn into a whirlwind of negativity, starting us down the path of self-pity, lethargy, and ending in a box of w(h)ine. Don’t go there! Think about what you do have, what you’re grateful for. Only then can you make what you have better.
- Make of list of 10 things you have and are thankful for. Go through it every day (and then come up with another one when you think of more). Focusing on what you have done, made, and are will instill in you a sense of confidence. When your attitude is, “Heck yeah, I can do this!” (looking at your past accomplishments will prove to you you can!) it makes the goal a lot easier to reach.
Find out just what you need to do. Let’s say, for example, that you want to become an actor. That’s great! …But where do you get started? Not knowing the first thing about how to do something can be very intimidating and stop you dead in your tracks. Dream automatically crushed. But when you know the path you need to take, it’s a lot easier to hop on.
- Tap into your resources. With technology, you have the veritable world at your fingertips. That’s code for “you have no excuses.” Ask friends, acquaintances, people that look like they’ve done it on the street — doesn’t matter. Do your research online and figure out the best, most efficient way to get done what you need done. You’ll end up feeling like an expert and the knowledge will ease your mind. This will usher out the worry and negative self-talk and bring in the confidence and go-getting attitude.
Surround yourself with positivity. The world is full of naysayers. You could say, “Tomorrow I’m going to breathe all day!” and you’d be able to find someone who would bet you $10 you won’t do it. It’s best just to avoid these people. They’re miserable and don’t deserve your attention.
- Okay, these people can be helpful in very, very, very small amounts. If you do find yourself next to that negative Nancy and you can’t escape her, let her fuel your fire. Let her burn you up inside until you have no choice but to do the exact thing she thinks you’re not capable of. Her defiance of your ability can lead to just the right amount of adrenaline and determination you need to get the job done. Maybe one day you’ll be able to thank her! Gosh, wouldn’t you both just love that.
Start small. There’s no way having a goal of “becoming world famous” or “losing 75 pounds by winter” or even “mastering the clarinet” are ever going to happen easily. Alright, so maybe those are a bit extreme, but you get the point. Having a goal that just isn’t going to happen will turn you off and keep you from being successful.
- Instead of becoming world famous, losing a ton of weight, or mastering the clarinet, opt for having a successful YouTube channel, losing 10 pounds this month, or playing a classical piece on the clarinet. All these things are working toward these super-massive goals, but they’re doable. Doable is something you can stick to.
- Start small in the mornings. If you have a list of tasks, you may find it beneficial to start with the smallest one. This gets the ball rolling and eases you in to the harder parts of the day. Getting going really is half the battle.
Use visualization. For a few minutes each day, sit down and visualize obtaining your goal. Visualize having it. Being it, doing it, achieving it, whatever. What does it feel like? After the few minutes are up, how do you feel?
- Make sure to use all your senses. What do you taste, smell, see, feel, and hear? What is life truly like? What adjectives can you use to describe this new life of yours? Work in the details to make it as clear as possible. Where are you? What are you doing? What are you wearing? How do you look? Who is with you?
Part 3 of 3: Maintaining Direction
Stay excited. Things always lose their novelty as soon as we get used to them. Walk by the Sistine Chapel enough times and you’ll stop noticing it’s there. If you’ve been working at this goal for a while, you risk just getting bored. NO! That mustn’t be allowed. You gotta switch it up and keep stimulating your senses.
- Experiment with new means of reaching your goals. If it’s weight loss, pick up a new healthy habit. If it’s making money, try a new business strategy or budgeting system. Keep yourself on your toes.
- Surround yourself with images. Constantly reminding yourself what’s out there can be a good way to stay in the game. Change your desktop to a series of motivational images. Write yourself little notes in unexpected places. Remind yourself, “Oh yeah, I’m doing this — and I’m getting there!” That’s surely something to be excited about.
Refine your plan. You have your goal all set out and you have how you’re going to achieve it…but as you go on this path to awesome stellar-ness, you’ve probably found that a few of the things you thought originally would get you there aren’t working — or at the very least, they’re too time-consuming to warrant being worth it. It’s time to analyze your results and do a little tweaking.
- Make a list of activities that you’ve been doing to reach your goal. Now, which ones are yielding the highest returns? Which ones have good intentions but don’t really cut it? Once you’ve established what’s best and what’s not, focus the majority of your attention on these high-profit activities, tweaking them to make them even better. Instead of one daunting task, you now have several manageable ones.
Put yourself in the public eye. It’s Monday morning and you’ve decided to give up coffee (ha! Good one.). You decided this at 7:30 and by 9:00 you’re at the office chugging it like it’s in your job description. No one knows about your failures but you and you’ll forget about that with the caffeine high. What you should have done? Tell all your coworkers.
- Announcing to the world that, “Hey! I’m doing this!” gives you automatic pressure to stick with it. Hopefully, you won’t be surrounded by a cluster of enablers and they’ll make it harder for you to fail, too. If your coworkers would’ve known you were giving up coffee, they would’ve hidden your mug in the boss’ bathroom.
- There’s always the Internet, too. You probably interact with more people more often on it than you do in real life, huh? Sad, but most of us nowadays do. So post it on your Facebook, get it in your blog, and tweet the bejeezus out of whatever it is you’re trying to do. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else while you’re at it!
Don’t make mountains out of molehills. You’ll find this exact step in about a gajillion wikiHow articles (and from all your friends and family members, too): Don’t let the setbacks set you down for good. They are inevitable and they will happen. Even the most successful people have them — in fact, they probably have more of them. Edison didn’t fail, he just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work, remember?
- It’s all too easy to have a setback and launch yourself into a pity party for 1 that keeps you from getting back on your horse. Well, you can’t do that. When you have a setback, acknowledge that it’s a set back. Allow yourself to sulk for 15 minutes and stop. Tomorrow is a new day. Today’s setback has nothing to do with the future of tomorrow.
Get like-minded friends for support. There are very few things in this world that you truly do alone. And ten bucks says you know a couple of people that could join you on your journey — or at least cheerlead from the sidelines. If you have people that understand your plight, you’ll feel much less weight on your shoulders.
- It’s important to ask for help when you need it. It’s not a sign of weakness or naivete, it’s a sign of being human. Having a solid support group you can lean on is not only resourceful, but it’s just good sense. They’ll keep you up when you feel like falling and present you with resources, ideas, and motivation that you wouldn’t otherwise have. So seek out friends, an online community, a local club or organization, and get to forming a motivational network.
Chart your progress. Humans naturally need things to be in concrete terms. You know how many people hate abstract art? It’s just hard to understand. So when you’re on this path to greatness, get things as tangible as possible. Keep track of your progress so you can’t sit down and see how great you’re doing. Now that’s motivating!
- Keep a journal dedicated to this task. Record your duties every day (and whether or not they get completed) and your check-ins to see if you’ve reached mini-goals. Bring it along with you wherever you go!
- Get rid of any distractions that may hinder you from motivating yourself.
- Don’t use the internet in the morning. This could get you in a spiral of surfing one website after another. This can lower your motivation. So, do the first most important thing for that day right after you wake up. If you are work online, it’s important to start your most important task right away, instead of surfing a website, read the news, etc. Don’t do this, start immediately.
- Develop a routine. Create an “everyday list” of all things you have to do when you wake up (with times). Follow this plan for at least a few weeks to get into a flow and build momentum and motivation.
- Know your reasons. Write down why you want to achieve a goal. This will keep you energized.
- Think about a time that you motivated yourself and saw the benefits.
- Use the internet to search for answers for your problems. Google a main word and read as much as you can read. Reading articles will give you the ideas and the energy to solve the problem.
- Focus yourself and your availability: your time and space management. If you can organize your time and work out something that will allow you to build on your motivation and do something to allow you to achieve your goals, you will actually get somewhere.
- Consult a medical professional if this lack of motivation has been paired with feelings of depression, loneliness, bouts of crying, thoughts of hurting yourself or others, etc. Clinical depression is a serious illness that results from chemicals in the brain being quite literally out of balance. Clinical depression is treatable; many times it is not something which will follow you your whole life. It’s your life; be careful with it. Seeing a doctor if you’re the least bit concerned might cost a bit of coin, but could be priceless to have a professional talk to you, and see how he or she can help.