As I’ve worked with clients over the last year, I’ve seen that a lot of them struggle with motivation. They have the best intentions to tackle big projects — some with the potential to change their life — but flopping on the couch to watch their favorite Netflix show and drink some wine tends to win out over spending their time working on something that will bring them closer to their goals. This is the typical instant vs. delayed gratification dilemma — it’s easier to justify doing something pleasurable now vs. working hard for a future result.
They may make excuses saying that they don’t have enough time, when in reality they’re just choosing to relax vs. do more work (and in some cases, it’s actually healthy to do that). Or they make some initial progress, but then an obstacle comes up and instead of tackling it head on or pivoting slightly — they just quit.
So, what can you do to raise your motivation level, so that this doesn’t happen to you?
Below I’ll give you my top four tips that I share with my clients.
But, before I jump in, I want to acknowledge one thing — last year was not a normal year. So, if you feel like you’ve judged yourself for not getting as much done as you would have liked, it’s time to give yourself a bit of grace and remember that we were dealing with a lot of collective trauma and staying healthy and surviving the pandemic was really our first priority. And in many cases, we’re still dealing with a lot.
If one of your goals fell to the bottom of your list because you had a family to take care of, a job to keep (or a new one to find), or a sick loved one to worry about, it’s okay. Not to mention that many of us gave our time and mental energy to helping others and giving back. For me, it was sewing masks for healthcare workers; for others, it was donating food or other necessities or helping out neighbors in need. So it’s no surprise that there may not have been much left to work with at the end of the day.
Now you can take the time to reassess and decide what does stay on your list going forward. Because if 2020 taught me one thing about productivity, it would be this: It doesn’t make sense to be productive for the sake of being productive, sometimes you need to just slow down and be really mindful of what you’re working on, and why you’re doing it in the first place.
Without further ado — here are my top tips to keep yourself motivated and moving towards reaching your goals:
1. Chunk down your BIG GOAL into bite-sized pieces.
Many times, we see our big goal as this insurmountable mountain to climb, instead of a number of smaller tasks that when completed, get us to reach the top.
Do you want to launch a successful business? Ok, then start with a business plan before you try and do too many things at once and give up because you feel overwhelmed. Shiny object syndrome is real, my friends.
Create milestones along the way and chunk everything down into realistic goals vs. just one big thing you’re trying to hit. And make your goals specific — the more specific they are, the easier it is to recognize when you reach them. You remember learning about the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework? It’s not a bad idea to actually try it out.
2. Make a bigger WHY.
How can you make your reason BIGGER, so that when your motivation is lacking, you can remind yourself of the real reason you want to reach this goal? A lot of times, people think they want to reach a goal for a certain reason, but they’re staying a bit too surface level.
Say you want to start that business. Are you doing it to make more more money and have flexibility? Great. But what is below that, underneath the surface? Maybe it’s actually that you want to make an impact on other people’s lives or the have a positive impact on the world. Tap into that bigger reason.
So think of the deeper why, and remind yourself of that reason whenever you feel your motivation start to dwindle.
3. Ask yourself: What is it costing me to stay stuck?
→ Fair warning: Only try this tip if you’re in an emotionally stable place, because it can get a bit dark.
For this one, you’ll want to actually feel the pain of staying where you are. Do you feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, lonely? What is it costing you in your life? Many of us have goals and dreams we want to realize and we tell ourselves we’ll go after them someday, but then we never do. That’s the irony of life — none of us know how long we’ll actually be here, so we have to make the most of the time we do have.
So take a look at how not achieving this goal or dream is affecting you now:
- Does not chasing your dream to launch a business keep you in a lackluster job where you feel uninspired and frustrated?
- Does being afraid to put yourself out there cause you to spin your wheels instead of growing your business like you want to?
How does all of this affect your daily life and your overall mood? Do you take your frustration out on your family and friends, or do you bottle it up inside, eating away at you slowly?
Now think about what you’ll feel like five years from now if you don’t make a change. Will you be happy waking up every day? Or will you feel resentful, listless or helpless instead?
I told you, it might get dark. But that’s kind of the point. Because you want to use this information to make better decisions going forward. It’s your small, everyday decisions that add up to you either achieving your dreams, or staying stuck where you are now. So remind yourself of this exercise whenever you start to lose focus.
4. Visualize yourself succeeding.
Due to the science (and magic) of neuroplasticity — or the belief that the brain can change itself— we now know that visualization can be used to rehearse the future and actually help our brains reorganize themselves by creating new neural connections to improve the chances of us actually reaching a goal.
Studies show that neurons still fire and chemicals are released whether or not something is real or imagined. That’s why elite athletes and CEOs use visualization to rehearse before an event actually occurs so that when they’re under pressure, they can still perform well. The key is to pick something reasonable that your brain actually believes may happen; if it’s too outlandish, it will be hard for you to justify it and it won’t work as well.
In order to do this effectively, you’ll want to step into a future version of you that has already reached your goal.
- What does that feel like?
- How does your body feel; how do you carry yourself?
- Where are you?
- What can you see/smell/hear/touch?
Really get into the future version of you and “experience” what it feels like to have recently accomplished your goal. You’ll want to get super specific and speak in the present tense: “I’m sitting at my desk, looking out the window at my green, lush garden, sipping on some sweet Earl Grey tea in my white ceramic mug…I feel confident and fulfilled because I’ve been able to xyz…”
Use descriptive words and include all of your senses so that the future vision becomes as real as possible. And use positive language throughout.
So, it turns out, there are ways to increase your motivation, even if it you don’t have the best track record with getting things done in the past. Pick your favorite tip from above, and let me know how it goes!
And if you’re still struggling, you may want to talk to a coach. It’s possible there’s an underlying reason that you’re not moving forward and are unmotivated.
- Not really wanting that specific goal to come to life. Maybe it’s not the right goal, and there’s actually something else you want to accomplish. So instead of moving forward, you procrastinate or self-sabotage instead. Take time to figure out what your real passion is, and go forward from there.
- Not having a clear vision of what you want. Without spending time thinking through what you want to create, you may feel overwhelmed and lost with all the potential options, which will cause a block and no forward movement.
- Being afraid of failure, and also a fear of success. Fear of failure is fairly common, especially for new business owners. But fear of success should also be explored. It’s possible that you’re assigning meaning to what success looks like for you. Do you think that when you succeed in this endeavor, it will cause you to have more responsibilities, less family or personal time, or have a more complicated business? There are ways to mitigate this fear, by creating boundaries and systems that allow you to be successful AND still have reasonable work/life balance.
→ If you liked these tips and would like some more hands-on instruction, check out my FREE mini-course called MASTER YOUR MOTIVATION. I cover these tips in more detail, and there’s even a bonus exercise to help you step into the mind of a superhero and UNLEASH your inner power!