Here’s a short story that may or may not sound a little familiar. One day an enticing and fresh idea knocks on your door, you welcome it into your life and soon it blossoms into an exciting new project you can’t wait to start working on. So you get down to business! All hands on deck. You feel good, motivated, unstoppable and inspired. Everything goes well… at least for a while. Somewhere along the way, things start to go south. The motivation that fueled you at the beginning is gone and without it your project can’t survive much longer. So the next thing you know is you are mourning it along with all the other things that could’ve been but weren’t.
After this, a wave of frustration invades you. You don’t know what went wrong and honestly you are too disheartened to perform an autopsy on the dead project. So after grieving for a while, you move on to the next one, excited and motivated like before. But oh no, soon afterwards the next project dies too! And before you know it, you have a pile of dead projects buried in your backyard. And at this point you can’t help but wonder why is it so hard to keep motivation alive?
Don’t worry. It happens, even in the best of families. And I have good news: I went to my own backyard of dead projects, dug them up and performed the autopsy so you don’t have to. The results? Most of the time the cause of death was one (or a concoction) of these 5 venoms I am about to list below.
1. Self-comparison (when done wrong).
Nothing drains your energy more than comparing yourself to others. Seriously, it’s an incredibly exhausting task. That’s why it’s no surprise that at the end of the day, you have no energy left to invest in your projects and personal goals. However, I’m not here to tell you how to stop comparing yourself to others because, in fact, you can’t. Comparison is a natural process the human brain has been doing for ages and it’s a key feature of our species. It’s like a microchip that’s already implanted very deeply into our minds. So good luck trying to disable that function. Instead, I’m here to offer you some advice on how to engage in the good kind of comparison, because yes, even when it comes to the emotionally draining process of “comparison”, there’s a right way to do it.
If you want to achieve the objectives you have set for yourself, the first thing you have to learn is how to be energy-efficient and reserve your precious and limited mental energy for the things that really matter and that will bring you something useful or productive in the long run. For example: comparing a stunning shot of an Instagram model basking in the sun on a tropical island, taken by a professional photographer, against ourselves when we accidentally open our front camera on a Sunday morning is not only unfair and irrational, but also unfruitful, pointless and incredibly toxic. And it’s called self-destructive comparison. That’s the type you don’t want to engage in.
On the contrary, comparing your habits and lifestyle to a well-planned nutrition and fitness program, actively seeking and identifying our weak spots and be willing to improve them in order to live a healthier life, is meaningful and productive and it’s called self-evaluation or constructive comparison. And that’s the type you’ll want to invest your precious and limited energy in.
In short, self-destructive comparison weakens our motivation while constructive comparison nurtures it.
Motivation is high-maintenance. It demands a constant influx of stimulus in order to stay alive and nourished. Think of motivation as a house plant. You need to constantly water it and nurture the soil for it to grow healthy. It will wither slowly and eventually die if you don’t dedicate time to take proper care of it.
“So what can I do to stimulate my motivation every day?” you may ask. The answer is pretty straightforward and it’s something you probably have heard about before: vision boards. They are perfect for nurturing your motivation, fueling your imagination and helping you overcome any creative block that may arise. Remember that humans are visual creatures, so it’s no surprise that sometimes we need to see the things we want to achieve in order to keep moving forward. And what vision boards do best is helping you visualize your goals. So what about creating one? They are incredibly simple to make in your electronic devices or you can even go to greater lengths, print it and hang it on your wall so you can see it everyday.
We have to come to terms with the fact that good and worthwhile things take time and it’s imperative that we learn to cultivate the increasingly rare virtue of patience. Sometimes, especially when we are just getting started on a new project (which I like to refer to as the “honeymoon period” of our projects), we are so excited and full of energy that we want to do everything at once. And, while being high-spirited is important, things get dangerous when we start setting all these unrealistic goals just to end up feeling painfully disappointed when we realize that it’s virtually impossible to lose 20 pounds in a week or to learn Korean in a month, after all. Feeling constantly disappointed for not being able to reach these unreasonable milestones we set for ourselves, creates a sense of defeat that gradually weakens our motivation and causes us to get frustrated, disheartened and end up abandoning our projects altogether.
So what can you do to protect your motivation from the devastating effects of impatience? Well, start by allowing yourself to work slowly but surely by dividing tasks into small chunks and while you are at it, remember to watch out for the goals you set. Because setting unrealistic goals can end your whole career before you even start. Also, don’t forget to pay attention to the feedback you give to yourself and make it a habit to acknowledge and praise your progress, no matter how small the victory. Because seeing how much you have accomplished can give you the reassurance you need to know you are doing things right, and this knowledge helps keep impatience at bay.
When it comes to draining your energy and sucking the last drop of life out of you, there’s only one thing that’s comparable to the aforementioned self-comparison, and that is: Perfectionism. It slows you down and puts an unnecessary amount of pressure on your shoulders. Not to mention, it’s extremely time-consuming. Perfectionism affects your motivation the same way impatience does: by creating and nurturing that constant sense of defeat that eats away your motivation and basically your will to do anything.
So, instead of sweating every little detail, worrying about every tiny thing and overthinking every small aspect of your project, try to focus on what’s really important. Focus on the things that will really pay off and make a difference in the long run. Being detail-oriented is a good thing, but don’t overdo it. When it comes to achieving your goals, the most important thing is to be consistent, not perfect. What really matters is how often you show up, how smart you work and how wisely you spend your time and energy.
The Key Takeaways:
- Practice self-evaluation instead of self-shaming. That way your motivation will stay healthy and ready to support you all the way in pursuing your goals.
- Keeping the bicycle moving is key to keeping motivation alive. Make it a habit to stimulate it daily.
- Remember that you are a human being, not a machine. Perfection is an illusion we can spend all our lives chasing after and never achieve. Instead, strive to find satisfaction in knowing that you are doing your best, learning and improving every day.
Lisseth Aizpurua is a lifestyle writer and content creator specializing in habit-building and learning techniques. She is passionate about personal development and everything related to learning new skills in life. She strongly believes in the power of autodidacticism and self-motivation to reach our true potential and become better versions of ourselves.
Twitter: @AizpuruaLisseth (https://twitter.com/AizpuruaLisseth)
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.