Most people have motivation all wrong.
We often get generic advice telling us to think about ‘what motivates us?’ or ‘what gets us up in the morning?’ or a favourite amongst millennials, ‘find your passion!’
But the truth is, most people already know what drives them to action, they know what they can (even if only sometimes) be passionate about.
Motivation however, just seems very intangible to most of us. One day we have it, the next we don’t. It’s like an unidentifiable superpower that some people have, and others, well they just don’t.
Most of us have someone in our lives, whether it’s a close friend, or a co-worker, or even just someone we see regularly in the media, who just looks like they’ve mastered ‘it’. They never look like they’re struggling to get up early, or to go to the gym, or power through the goals that they’ve set for themselves.
We sit at home and think, what is it they have that I don’t? Why does it look so easy for them?
The truth is, motivation is incredibly complex. But a large factor that we often overlook is not what creates motivation – it’s what kills the motivation we already have.
To revisit an old metaphor, the problem often isn’t the carrot – nor is it the stick – it’s the vitality of the horse.
But how do we make sure that you’re a healthy, happy, hungry horse?
We have to overcome the secret killers of motivation. And here are 4 time-tested ways to do so.
- Develop a sense of urgency
Urgency is a key ingredient in the development of motivation. But we sometimes ignore it in favour of more Hollywoodesque aspects such as having a selfless goal or being motivated by tragedy. The truth is, the one thing all motivation has in common is that it gives you the feeling that you need to get whatever it is done right now.
It’s the idea that we don’t have unlimited time. Having a sense of urgency prevents you from losing focus, because when you brain believes something is immediate, it ignores all the mindless chatter and skips that one thing to the front of the queue. Without urgency, we’re likely to push our goals to the back of our minds in favour of other ‘more immediate’ tasks, regardless of how trivial they are.
To cultivate urgency, you need to convince yourself that whatever your goal is, it is THE most important thing in your life. That’s why it’s actually better to do your creative work before you do your breadwinning work. When you can convince your mind that the goal you’ve set for yourself is more important than you making money to eat, then you’ll have mastered urgency.
- Close all possible open loops
What does this mean?
Well typically an open loop is something that is kept in our mind, whether in the foreground or background, that hasn’t yet been solved. We usually have dozens of these running at once – from picking up the groceries, to finishing a report, answering emails, texting friends and calling family members – we’re leaving loops open.
Each of these open loops will sit in the back of your mind and sap your psychological energy. Think of it like leaving a dozen apps open on your computer or tablet – next time you come back the battery has been drained even though you don’t feel like you’ve been using it!
The same thing happens with these tasks in your mind. And that energy is key to maintaining your motivation.
Try to make it a habit to write down all open loops first thing in the morning, completing anything that can be done in less than 2 minutes immediately, and assign a time and date to finish anything else.
- Manage your inputs
An input is any information that is going into our brains that we have to process. We obviously can’t control a lot of what comes in, but for what we can, the majority of managed inputs ought to help push you towards your goals.
This means that it should be relevant, positive, and energizing. Unfortunately, most of what comes up in our social media feeds doesn’t really fall in this category. We’re bombarded with mindless videos, fear mongering news, half-baked opinions and content that is largely irrelevant or damaging to our self-improvement.
Make sure you either cut out most of your social media use or news watching completely, or at least manage it so that you have positive and relevant stories coming up in your feed every morning.
When you’re on YouTube or Facebook it’s very easy to get to distracted and watch or read an hour of completely useless content – which leads me to the final hidden killer of motivation.
- Make the right micro-choices
When it comes to making a big life choice; choosing a school, applying for a job, buying a house – we typically take a lot of time to arrive at a decision.
When it comes to making a smaller life choice; where to go on your next vacation, what colour to paint your living room walls, what phone to buy next, we usually take a bit of time, but we try not to waste too much energy on them.
When it comes to making micro-choices however; what we should eat for lunch, what we should read on our 5 minute work break, whether we should push through an extra set at the gym, what TV Show we should watch, we usually race over these and move on – in fact, a lot of the time we don’t even see these as decisions – we’re just responding to them on auto-pilot.
But the truth? These decisions are far more important than the larger ones, over weeks, months and years these micro-choices shape our lives completely. Motivated people have learned when to recognize that a micro-choice is being made, and why it is so important to choose the right one.
Try to be mindful of the micro-choices in your life – the more seriously you take them the more momentum you’ll gain, and the more easily you’ll stay motivated.
Overcoming these four motivation killers will make it much easier for you keep up the momentum and follow through with your goals.
What is your best advice for making sure you stay motivated?
Benjamin Fishel is a freelance writer and co-creator of Project Monkey Mind – where he helps young professionals and solopreneurs channel their passions and live a life worth leading. You can download the free Project Monkey Mind eBook; Smash Through the 9 Barriers that Stop you from Chasing your Dreams.