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Why you’ve got motivation all wrong

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The truth behind your motivation.

Six months ago, I had an epiphany about motivation via Ramit Sethi.

He said that researchers and psychologists have gotten it all wrong.

We shouldn’t be trying to find the source of motivation because it’s elusive.

Indeed, motivation isn’t the cat you call when you stick your head out of the door.

Instead, creating momentum is a smarter way of ensuring that you get things done and achieve your goals.

I know that from my own experience and in my psychotherapy and coaching work.

Here’s how to create momentum.

Jumpstart your motivation with simple actions

Do you remember the last time you felt paralysed about starting a new project and wasted time worrying; but once you started doing something, it all felt easier?

That’s because when we create momentum, we’re likelier to get something done.

The trick is shifting out of the headspace of worrying, and getting into active problem-solving mode.

To begin, ask yourself what are the three simplest steps required to kick something off.

For instance, if I wanted to start a blog, I can (1) speak to a friend who blogs (2) find a book on blogging (3) register my domain name.

These simple actions may seem so obvious and make us question “Is that it?”– and that’s precisely the point.

Have you heard of productivity expert BJ Fogg’s [] recommendation to floss one tooth?

If we can commit to that, we’ll end up flossing all our teeth.

The simpler our first steps are, the likelier we are to begin.

And we create a virtuous cycle where we’ll do more.

Boost your motivation by facing your goals and fears

Do you dare to be confronted by your goals?

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We avoid and hide from the things that make us feel uncomfortable, such as our goals.

For many of us, eating vitamins or going to the gym aren’t exciting, even if we desire to become healthier.

How do we fix that?

Make our goals obvious so we remove our excuses, beyond the obvious use of reminders.

Like, putting our vitamins somewhere unmissable– next to our morning water jug rather than buried in the drawer.

For me, I keep kettlebells in different parts of my house so I’ve no excuse that I’m “too lazy to walk to them”.

Generate motivation from focusing on your goals

It’s one thing to want to be successful but it’s another thing to achieve it, especially if you don’t know what success looks like to you.

Indeed, the more ambiguous our goals are, the less likely we’ll know how to achieve them.

To solve this, the SMART goal-setting system is especially useful.

Ask yourself, is your goal Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-limited?

If yes, you’ve set the foundation towards achieving it.

Hint: If your goal is Specific enough, you’ll be able to figure out the first three simplest steps to jumpstart them like in (1).

Sunlight can only spark flames if you focus it properly.

When motivation knocks, seize it

Motivation doesn’t always pay you a visit when you want it to.

Rather than to spend your time figuring out where your motivation comes from, why not ride the wave when it appears without needing to create momentum from scratch?

And when it’s done, create a system [] so you can keep repeating that action.

Ask yourself, “What can I do ensure I keep doing this again?”.

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Like, if you want to:-

  • Eat cleaner/more ethically: Set up an automated account with your local farm to deliver vegetables to your doorstep.
  • Commit to a new regime, like therapy/yoga/dance: Block out in advance the dates and times on your calendar. Keep those slots sacred. Nothing can override them.
  • Clean your room more often: Buy or create an organisation system. This way, all you need to do every week is to put your things back into where they belong. Rather than be overwhelmed thinking “Where do I start?”
  • Practise self love: Write a note to yourself. Photograph it and make it your lock screen wallpaper. Look at it especially when you’re feeling self-critical.

Increase motivation by understanding why you procrastinate

Oh, the number of times we beat ourselves up for procrastinating, and then procrastinate even more because we feel awful.

But what if I told you it’s never because you’re “just too lazy”.

We’re not here to be mean to ourselves all the time.

Instead, what if you asked yourself honestly and objectively, “What is really happening here?”.

How do we figure that out?

By tracking our situation, mood and thoughts.

My clients have learned that they’re unable to work on certain evenings because they’ve had a full meal, or because they done a strenuous workout that afternoon.

That way, they can change the days they plan to work, eat or exercise so as to achieve their goals without beating themselves up.

They learn that sometimes, it’s the difficult situations that they’ve encountered make them exhausted, so they stop blaming themselves.

Or, they realise that they’re actually feeling fearful or overwhelmed because they don’t know how to go about doing the task or feel unsupported.

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By stepping back and understanding what’s going on kindly, we learn more about ourselves and set the foundation for action.

It’s a win-win.

Maintain motivation by outsourcing what you can

We are cognitive and energy misers– there’s only so much we can do, think and feel.

When there are too many tasks on our plate, we end up feeling like we are firefighting all the time but not getting any real work done.

Think about the last time you griped about how you’ve spent half a day answering emails and doing administrative tasks, and then had to put in extra hours for your real work.

If you can afford to, perhaps ask yourself what you can outsource.

This way, you’ll be able to devote your resources towards achieving your goals.

Automate your motivation by rewarding yourself

Too often, my clients tell me “I need to wait till the big goal is achieved before I can reward myself”.

Sometime this deadline is five years later.

But here’s the thing.

We will burn out if we subscribe to a philosophy of “all work and no play”.

By treating ourselves when we’ve done something on the path towards our goal, the journey becomes more memorable.

Our reward pathways in our brain also fire away, making us more likely to continue our task.

Besides, a good thing is a good thing– what stops us from acknowledging our success is putting a metric on it [].

Put it this way– you deserve a reward.

Which of the above would you like to try?

Or, what is your view on finding motivation?

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