Maintain Your Motivation

Things had been going just fine, percolating along… and then they’re
not! Suddenly, you’re feeling like your couch has grown its own
gravitational field, and you just can’t move. What do you do?

First things first
Something has clearly shifted. Trace your mind back – what was it? Did someone tell you that after the merger your division might be cut in half? Or maybe someone suggested that your painting abilities weren’t good enough to make a living from. Perhaps you decided that you’re just not smart or talented enough to make it worth spending all this time on what will ultimately be an unsuccessful project. If this is the case, ask yourself whether that comment or thought was true. If it wasn’t true, it’s easy enough to ignore. However, if you feel there’s some truth in it, what are you going to do about that? Often just identifying what ideas have unmoored you can be the first step in dealing with the enormous energy dammed up inside.

Takin’ care of business
Have you been working like crazy and cutting corners on your health? Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep, eating on the run, or going home too tired to exercise. Well, at a certain point your body will demand some time to recover – either by losing energy, or by getting sick. Try getting eight hours of sleep and eating nutritious food for two days – you might be amazed at how much your energy rebounds.

Baby steps
Now that you’ve addressed some of the reasons for your lack of energy, it’s time to do something about it! Best of all, you can do this from the couch. Break your project down into the smallest conceivable steps. For example, if you’re now completely unable to study for that upcoming GRE, consider what you might realistically accomplish. Can you study for five minutes? Then set out a schedule with a day that includes five-minute sessions, and prepare a schedule for the month with those time increments going up steadily – each day of each week.

Only one way
But how do you get started when you don’t want to move? There’s only one way – get started. Yes it’s true – you don’t feel like it, or you feel scared, or you just don’t want to. That’s going to be true for many things in life, and now is the best time to learn that you don’t have to let your feelings determine your actions. You’ll feel like doing it after you’ve rebuilt motivation by just doing it.

And the consequences?
Again, take out a piece of paper and a pen. What are the logical consequences of not studying, or not finishing the report, or not writing your screenplay? Then ask yourself whether you are willing to live with that consequence in ten years. Will it be okay with you if you never graduate from school, never get promoted, never finish your book? Can you imagine going to your deathbed at peace with this decision – or would this feel like you’d killed a dream by letting it suffocate slowly, day-by-day? Now it’s time to use your imagination once more: envision what your life will be like if you do finish school, or do publish that novel. Create a list – because as you do it, you’ll realize quite a few other benefits.

Cost-benefit analysis
Now you’ve got the rewards and the consequences outlined. If this project is really what you want to do – despite how you feel right now – it’s time to really commit to that baby-step program. Remember: success breeds success. If you’ve successfully made your list of baby steps, consequences and rewards, you’ve made progress. That uplifting feeling will increase every time you complete a baby step, because momentum makes momentum. Like putting fuel in your car, or putting one foot in front of another on a hike, it requires small but consistent effort to keep your momentum. This is something we all forget too easily, so keep your plan nearby, and you’ll stay focused.

Business motivation guru Zig Ziglar once remarked that “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Keep focused on your progress, and when things get difficult again, go back to your baby steps plan. No matter what, if you keep moving your motivation will rebound – guaranteed.

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