ups and downs

How to Stay Motivated Without Wax & Wane

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all know that true motivation stems from being passionate about what you’re doing. But there will still be times when your motivation will wax and wane. If there is one way to “hack” your success, remaining consistently motivated would have the biggest impact. A highly motivated person is likely to take action consistently. Without action, there are no results. Duh.

Some days we will inevitably feel more inspired than others. Especially when we’re not getting the results we want, or things are taking longer than we expected.

Here are some reasons our motivation tends to fluctuate:

  • We’ve started to do what we love for a living (our passion has become work). We associate all the negative connotations we previously had with dispassionate work.
  • We feel since we’re doing what we love as work, it’s become a must, rather than a want.
  • The pressure of needing to produce has stifled our creativity. We start to avoid doing what we love.
  • We’ve lost sight of the reasons we started our goals in the first place. We’ve become our own taskmasters and have lost touch with our original inspiration.

If we don’t exercise, our muscles will atrophy. In the same way, if we don’t regularly replenish the source of our inspiration, it too will begin to fade. The cure for this common ailment is to regularly regroup and remember why we started in the first place. We need a place we can refer back to, to cultivate our inspiration.

I’d like to propose to you a new way of seeing inspiration. Instead of just passively waiting to be inspired, we need to actively cultivate it. Cultivating inspiration is like making regular deposits in a savings account (or a mutual fund, or 401k). The more deposits you make, the more your money will grow and gain interest.

In the same way we use a savings account to ensure our financial success, we can use an inspiration bank to remain highly motivated and ensure our personal success. I’d like to suggest to you the idea of creating an “inspiration bank” (please bear with me, I know the idea may seem a bit hokey; but trust me, it works). The place you regularly cultivate inspiration can be whatever works best for you. Try to think of a place where you can regularly make deposits toward your dreams.

We all think in different ways. Some of us are kinesthetic, some of us are visual or auditory learners. However you think, choose the best idea for you.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Create a folder on your desktop where you can place inspirational photos, articles, quotes and empowering thoughts.
  • Start a journal to write inspiring ideas that resonate with you.
  • Make a vision board. Post quotes, pictures and goals that make you feel alive.
  • Create a Goal Movie. This is one of my favorite techniques because it blends nearly all senses (except taste and touch). You can see your goals, hear them and read them as well. This technique is highly effective because it activates the most centers of your brain.

When I think of a bank the first thought that comes to mind for me is security. I know it’s a safe, trusted place where I can keep my money. If I have a good savings plan, I can make regular deposits and watch it grow over time. The principle is the same with an inspiration bank, only better.

While we can control how much money we make, there’s often more of a long-term investment to making money. Inspiration, however, is free for the taking at any given time. Inspiration doesn’t have to be something we sit around and wait for. We can develop a highly inspired life by actively seeking inspiration right now.

I use this technique to help me improve in the areas of my life that are most important to me. Right now, one of my biggest goals is to become a better writer and conveyor of ideas. I like to read authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and E.B. White to find inspiration. Reading them helps me remember the reason I started writing in the first place; to pursue a creative act that entertains and offers value to others.

I’ve made a folder on my computer that has photos and words that inspire me. Anytime I’m feeling stuck or uninspired, I can look back to it to remember why I started; why I do this day after day. It helps me remember there’s a reason for this that’s bigger than myself. Not only that, but that others have come before me and struggled as well. I’m not in this alone.

Knowing that I’m a part of something bigger than myself, helps to not become too attached with my successes or failures. I know that the work is what’s most important, not whether I produce something amazing, or just okay.

Most importantly, actively pursuing inspiration reminds that the power is in my hands. There are a lot of things you can’t control in life, but how inspired you are isn’t one of them. Inspiration = motivation = action = results.

If nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm, doesn’t it make sense to actively seek to be an enthusiastic person? That’s not something we have to sit around and wait for.


Jonathan is the author of the blog Illuminated Mind. He writes about finding Authenticity, Clarity and Balance in all aspects of living. His articles include Living Freestyle; Life Without a Template and The Cult of Productivity. You can subscribe to his blog here.

Image by Celeste.


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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