Effective self-motivation is one of the main things that distinguishes high-achieving professionals from everyone else. So how can you keep pushing onward, even when you don’t feel like it? Every choice has a price, but when we are motivated, it is easier to bear the inconvenience of action than the pain of remaining the same. Much of what motivates people is very personal, but there are a few things everyone can do to propel themselves forward.
Just Start. We have this common misconception that motivation arrives as a result of passively consuming a motivational video or reading an inspirational book. However, one of the most surprising things about motivation is that it often comes after starting a new behavior, not before. Active inspiration can be a far more powerful motivator. Think of Newton’s First Law: objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once a task has begun, it is easier to continue moving it forward.
Create a Routine. The work of top creatives isn’t dependent upon motivation or inspiration, but instead follows a consistent pattern and routine–a process. You might even think of it as a ritual or a pre-game routine. It provides a mindless way to initiate your behavior and removes the need to make recurring decisions like: What should I do first? When should I do this? Most people never get moving because they can’t decide how to get started. This is often referred to as “Decision Fatigue”. Instead, make starting a behavior easy and automatic, so you have the strength to continue when it becomes challenging.
Find Effective Rewards. It can be helpful to create external motivators for yourself over the short-to-medium term, especially if they complement your long-term goals. You might promise yourself a vacation for finishing a large project, or buy yourself a special gift for losing weight. Make sure to celebrate small victories along the way and take time to feel proud of your accomplishments. However, be sure to avoid these common pitfalls: Do not reward yourself for the quantity or speed in completing tasks when you actually care about the quality of performance. Also, be careful not to choose incentives that undermine the goal you’re trying to reach.
Notice and Change Unproductive Habits. Do you spend too much time on social media? Maybe you hit snooze a few too many times each morning. Noticing and acknowledging bad habits is the first step towards changing your unproductive ways. Imagine how much quicker you’ll be able to achieve your short and long-term goals when you finally remove those from your life. Take some time to pay attention to your actions throughout the day, and note whether or not they’re helping or harming your motivation and ability to accomplish your goals. Then, make a plan and take steps towards removing the negative habits and replacing them with more productive ones instead.
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” So often it seems that we want to work easily at work worth doing, but ‘worthwhile’ and ‘easy’ are seldom companions. When we identify why we do something, we’ve truly found our motivation to press through any how. Instead of waiting for motivation to magically come to us, we must search for it and make changes to invite it into our lives.