I really should pay off my debt. I should spend less. I should start saving more. I should have a budget.
But, wait. Even that’s not enough.
You have to take the action and do the hard work to get it.
With the busyness of everyday life, we often set goals only to let them slide a short time later. We know we should work on them. And we do want to accomplish them, but either we don’t know where to start or we can’t keep the motivation to do what needs to be done.
Do you know what you want your life to look like? Do you want to have your debt gone? Do you want to retire early? Do you simply want financial security for your family?
How do you get there?
When you have a vision of what life could be like if you do the hard work, you can begin to see why the shoulds must turn into wants and, ultimately, into actions.
Because, let’s face it, success doesn’t just happen.
If you want something bad enough, you have to commit to do the hard work it takes to get it.
Unfortunately, even the initial commitment to do the hard work isn’t enough to ensure success. Our brains aren’t wired that way. It’s incredibly difficult to work on something that isn’t all that pleasant even if it is to get a desired end result. Sometimes you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and force yourself to get started. Remember, you are doing this because you really WANT it.
Exercise is the perfect example of this (at least for me!).
I’ve noticed this phenomenon occurring at my local YMCA each year. Beginning on January 2, the place is packed To. The. Brim. It’s so crowded you have to wait for the machines unless you go at 9 pm (I do this in January). By the time February rolls around, the crowds are virtually gone. I suspect this phenomenon is not isolated to just my local YMCA!
Somehow I’ve managed to stick to a somewhat decent exercise habit for several years but, I admit, it’s never, ever easy. Do I want to exercise? Not usually. Do I feel better when I exercise? Absolutely!!! Do I see results of exercising? Yes (improvement in my strength, as well as Taekwondo and climbing abilities)
I exercise because I have felt and seen the results, plus I feel amazing when I’m done.
But, sometimes, even knowing the results is still not enough to make me want to walk through those gym doors. And, quite honestly, I rarely want to walk through those doors. I literally have to make myself get in there and get started.
Exercise is the perfect example of how taking those initial, sometimes painful, steps can lead to positive results. I almost never want to work out, but once I get there and get started, I stay longer and work harder than anticipated (and, most times, I actually enjoy it too).
How do you get to the point of action?
According to Brendon Burchard, author of The Motivation Manifesto, motivation doesn’t result in effort, but effort spurs motivation. Let me repeat: Effort spurs motivation. His idea reflects the fact that our brains release dopamine (a neurotransmitter that controls pleasure) when we actually start doing something. It, then, makes sense that simply getting started on a task can provide the motivation to continue.
How to work on a goal when you don’t feel motivated
Find the purpose
Why did you set your goal? What is the driving force behind your goal? What do you ultimately want?
The problem with intrinsic motivation is the results are not always readily apparent. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find it.
Yet, over the long-term, intrinsic motivation works better than carrot and stick-type motivation. (And rewarding yourself with a trip to the mall if you reach your savings goals for the month well, that’s just sabotage.)
Know your why. Write it down. And look at it Every. Single. Day.
Focus on small wins
Think of your favorite online game (for example, Angry Birds). These games start you out on an easy level. As you conquer each level, you move up to the next level and gain more skills and points as you go.
Those games have an addictive quality. Use the same type of level ups as motivation to continue on your goal.
Small wins are the level ups that propel you to your ultimate destination. Breaking down the larger goal into smaller, more manageable steps provides the momentum and motivation you need to continue.
Realize it’s a choice
Do you like to be told what to do? I’m guessing the answer is no. No, you don’t.
I’m the poster child of rebellion when I’m told I have to do something (because I don’t have to!).
But, I don’t think any of us really like being told what we “have to” do. This leads to resistance, a classic enemy of motivation. Even if it’s something you like to do, when you think you have to do it, you’ll probably procrastinate.
On the other hand, choosing to do something, well, that’s different. You know you don’t have to do it, but when you think of it as a choice, it becomes something you actually want to do. That’s motivation.
Change your thinking
If you don’t actually believe you can accomplish a goal, you won’t have an ounce of motivation to work on it.
When you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, it can feel impossible.
You have to get your mind right and believe your goal is within reach. You have to figure out how to start.
Focus on what you can control
Fact: There are things in life you cannot control. (I know. Brilliant, Amanda. Such an epiphany.)
Other people will behave and believe in ways you can’t control. Don’t spend your time and energy mulling over other people’s behavior. Focus on what you can control: your own thoughts, behaviors, and responses.
Sometimes in life, shit happens that is beyond our control. I have no ingenious advice for you for when this happens, except that you have to find some level of acceptance in order to move on. This is not an easy task, but it is a chance for reflection, growth and love – both for ourselves and others. 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows.
What’s done is done. Leave the past in the past and move forward to the future.
What can you control? You can control your behavior, your spending, your eating, how often you exercise, how long you work, and how much focus you have. You control your self, your response, and your time.
Too much of a good thing can be too much
People that are able to hyper-focus and magically come up with infinite amounts of motivation and action positively amaze me.
But most of us don’t have those superhuman powers. If you’re pushing too hard, you can burnout from too much focus on your goal.
Here’s the thing, when you are fixated on working on this one goal and spend all your time and energy on it, other things will, inevitably, suffer. Sleep, family, friends, the joy of daily life.
Self care has to be part of reaching any goal. What’s your hurry? Slow it down and enjoy the journey. But do get started!
What helps you stay motivated to work on your goals?
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