Motivation is that “intangible thing” that drives us to do something willingly. I’m sure you have felt it when you get into a project and the time flies by and you are making great progress. You may also have experienced motivation’s evil twin “procrastination.” That’s when no matter how hard you try you cannot seem to make progress. It is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, frustration, stress and anger.
Motivation has been defined as the purpose one has for taking action. It can be an internal or external push but many people believe that you either have motivation or you don’t. What do you think? On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate your level of motivation for the next “to-do” item on your list?
If you don’t have it, then what can you do to get it? It is not like you can order it or buy it at your local motivation store – although that would be sweet. No, you have to dig deep or figure out some strategies that will work for you. Everyone has to find what motivates them but there are some strategies that everyone can benefit from.
Know Your Big Why
“Motivation is a set of habits and routines, guided by your values and your identity, that you carry out every day.” “When you combine purpose, energy and small simple steps, you get sustainable motivation.” says Jim Kwik, author of Limitless (the book I am currently reading).
It seems that knowing your purpose or your big WHY for doing “x” plays a big role in your motivation. If you don’t know why you are doing something or it is not important to you, then it is no surprise that you cannot get motivated to do it. I am thinking of all the students that get “busy” work to fill their time without ever being given the reasoning behind the work. No wonder it is so challenging for students to do homework.
Once you understand the purpose (your purpose) for doing the task then Jim Kwik talks about managing your energy. It is easier to be motivated if you are feeling your best – but what does that entail? Kwik talks about…
- the 10 healthiest foods for your brain
- the importance of sleep, water and exercise
- controlling those automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that tend to sneak in when things aren’t going well.
When you are motivated – extremely motivated, it is often referred to as being in “flow.”
Find Your Edge
Another author, James Clear (of Atomic Habits fame) also mentions that whatever you are working on needs to provide a certain amount of challenge – but not too much. He refers to the Goldilocks rule this way, “humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities – not too hard, not too easy, just right. Now look at what you are trying to do, is it within that range?
Make sure that you are not losing motivation because you are looking at a “project” with multiple steps vs. just the next step in the process. The smaller the step, the more likely you will be motivated to do it. James Clear also suggests that you schedule when you will work on it because you are more likely to work on something that has been scheduled rather than waiting until you feel motivated to work on it. Waiting for that feeling – rarely happens but you can help encourage motivation by setting up a routine that tells your brain it is time to get working on “x”. Clear calls it a “pregame routine” where it starts a series of motions that are simple to do but moves you in the direction of actually working on whatever it is. It’s a bit like Newton’s law of a body in motion stays in motion. So, once you get moving on it, make sure you are getting some feedback about the progress you are making. Look for successes in the smallest bits of progress so that you can feel good about the action you are taking. This will help feed your brain the dopamine it craves to keep working.
Motivation then becomes more about something you DO, rather than something you need to FIND. It’s not missing – you had the power within you all the time Dorothy.