Cutting The Crap Factor: The Key To Staying Motivated

Let me tell you the story about a single mother with blond hair, let’s call her JR for now. Now JR was at one point on welfare and struggling to raise her daughter. At that point, most people would have told her to give up on her dream of being a writer. But thankfully she did not, and today we know her as J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series. If you’re like me, you love a good success story. We enjoy hearing about people like J.K. Rowling who stayed motivated to achieve their dream.

Of course, you’re not J.K. Rowling.

You’re just some man or woman off the street plugging away quietly at your goals. So let me ask you a question. On a scale of one to ten (with ten being “motivated like a hungry wolf on a piece of steak”), on average, how motivated would you say you feel to do something for your goals on a daily basis? Do you feel like a 10? Or is it more like a 1 (as in, “it’s just too hard”)? If your motivation level feels like it’s being flushed down the toilet, you may be dealing with the crap factor.

What is this crap factor?

I define the crap factor as the things you have to deal with in any endeavor that you would rather not have anything to do with. For example, if you’re training for a marathon and you need to fit in an 8 mile run on Wednesday at 5:30 am before work, there are probably some mornings an 8 mile run will be a part of the crap factor of marathon training. Or if you’re a parent trying your best to ensure your baby grows up into a healthy human being, changing those poopy diapers can quite literally be your crap factor. After all, who wants to change diapers?

And yet realistically, life is not perfect. Life has challenges. Life has a “crap factor” built right into it. But unless you were just born, you probably already know that. So what are some ways to deal with the crap factor? If you can’t eliminate it, how do you at least minimize it so that it doesn’t knock you off the path, especially when you know it’s going to take a while for you to achieve your goal?

Keeping the crap factor in check.

1. Your ultimate objective should be something that you must have. Going back to the parenting example, raising your kid successfully is something every parent “needs” or “must” do. For the most part, no parent ever quit when the going got too tough. Now not everyone is a parent, but you should ask yourself about every long-term goal you set from the get-go, do I really have a burning desire to make this happen? Otherwise, the crap factor may overwhelm you.
2. Prepare for your crap factor. Moms carry extra diapers for their babies. When I was training for a marathon, I always carried a change of clothes and a pair of running shoes in my car so I could head directly to the track after work to fit in a training run. My crap factor was that if I went home, I knew might be too tired or too relaxed to feel like heading out the door again.
3. Surround yourself with the positive on a daily basis. I listen to a motivational speaker every morning at some point – whether I’m in the shower or driving along. When you listen to positive messages consistently, I find it’s much easier to stay motivated. Conversely, when I stopped listening to positive speakers in the morning, I found it harder to stay focused on the positive.
4. Avoid burnout. Rest as you need to. If you live in Western society, the tendency is to have the pedal pushed to the medal all the time. Try to take some time to do something you enjoy that is not related to your goal. This can help refresh you a bit. Even God took the seventh day off after creating the world.

Even the successful have dealt with the crap factor.

I’m going to make the case that every successful person has had to deal with the crap factor at some point along their path. For example, during the Winter 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, American speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno had a slip during a 1000 meter race as he tried to push up to second place. Talk about the crap factor in real-time! But did he give up? No, his mindset was such that he “really had to fight” and he ended up with a bronze medal, making him the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian with seven career medals.

Don’t forget parents. Each year, millions of babies are born across the globe and that’s a whole lot of poopy diapers to change. But children must get raised, so this crap factor must be disposed of, no pun intended.

But let’s say you’ve tried the above four tips and you’re still fighting to stay motivated.

In that case, you can try two things. The first is to take a week off. Yup, that’s right. Don’t think about or do anything related to your goal. Chill out. Relax. Play a round of golf. Then come back to it. I’ve often found that sometimes I’m really just feeling burned out, and I need to dial it back a bit. The second thing to try is to change your strategy. You may just be feeling frustrated at the results you’re seeing or what you’re having to do to reach your goal. Ask yourself – is there a quicker, easier way to achieve this goal? For instance, when I was training for a marathon, I found that trying to run 70 miles in one week was absolutely killing my shins. So I dialed it back to 40-50 miles a week and I still crossed the finish line. In J.K. Rowling’s case, she once got fired from a job that was supporting her and her daughter so she ended up on welfare and continued writing. Her strategy was a forced change, but a change nonetheless. It worked out well, because that book she was writing was the first Harry Potter book, a series which went on to make Rowling millions and millions of dollars.

The good news is you don’t have to be on welfare in order to deal with the crap factor. You may not have achieved as much as J.K. Rowling today, but there’s no reason why you can’t over the long run, especially if you learn how to deal with the crap factor.

Adam Appleson is the founder of ZenTactics, a website that helps child abuse survivors develop practical personal development skills with articles like:

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. 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.

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