Last week I was talking to my 19 year-old about motivation. Why is it that certain people are motivated and others aren't? That some folks seem to walk through life stress-free while others wear it all over them? And that got me thinking.
When I was in my 20s, I needed extrinsic (outside of myself) means to keep me motivated. Partly because I was struggling with addiction issues and avoidance issues. I was easily stressed and lacked the confidence to get things done on my own. Work and school did that well, although not without stress and weight gain. I had to turn in my paper by Friday or be prepared for a dozen phone calls on September 12th. Deadlines helped keep me on track but I wasn't sure what to do with my stress and wasn't great at time management, often waiting until the last minute to get stuff done. But working a regular job helped ground me. That and dealing with my eating disorder and anxiety. A job required me to show up. I knew where I had to be and when. These kinds of responsibilities helped instill discipline and over time I became skilled at getting things done well and on time.
As I continued to work and mature, this motivation started becoming intrinsic (from inside of me) and I began to develop the habit of learning for myself how to structure my time, create my own deadlines and work towards goals. This has given me the freedom to have more flexibility in my life and feel happy that I can accomplish tasks when I put my mind to them!
So what helped me with that transition? The most important component is to recognize that our behaviors are habits. We talk all the time in our society about bad habits (smoking, fingernail biting, technology addiction) but we don't talk much about creating healthy habits. Things that we want in life such as working out regularly, eating well, and time management. Mastering motivation is another of these habits and is totally learnable!
If you feel like you could be more self motivated, perhaps these tips will help you!
1. The first step is dealing with your mind - A positive, can do attitude makes all the difference.
- Speak to yourself in kind and loving ways.
- Give yourself a pep talk, you can totally do it.
- If confidence falters, again support yourself with gentleness. Remind yourself of how much progress you have already made. It's so easy to always be looking ahead to where we want to go and forget to look behind at what we've already accomplished.
2. Focus on what needs to get done - Let's say that you have a huge project on rainfall to put together.
- Break it down into parts - when we focus on smaller bits, everything feels more do-able.
- Make a list of everything you have to do
- Schedule it!
- I really like to start with my deadline as a date, (usually I move that 2-3 days before the actual date).
- Then I work backward filling in what has to happen in order for me to get there - this might be (next to each of these is a date):
- outline of project
- write first draft
- add slides/images
- edit and re-write
- assemble, practice
- Falling behind? Get help! Ask a colleague for help or see if you can find a buddy or coach to help you stay on track and accountable.
3. Reward yourself!
What do you get for a job well done? A pedicure? A nice dinner at your favorite restaurant? It's critical to congratulate ourselves when we accomplish our goals. Choose something that feels special to you.
4. Surround yourself with support.
Your friends need to be positive and motivating. They can help you if you have a crisis in confidence or can't seem to get passed completing the bibliography. Find ways to keep learning and growing yourself too! There are tons of resources available. Research it and get new insights and answers. Then you can help others accomplish their goals and that feels awesome!
Let me know how this works for you!
Leave a comment below about any of these "secrets" that you tried. Share your thoughts about other ideas. I would LOVE to hear from you!
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