Most people struggle to stay motivated over the long term. Exercise, diets, training your dog on a regular basis, and so many others fall by the wayside. Then we tend to beat ourselves up thinking we’re lazy, or wonder where to find this mysterious thing called motivation.
The problem is most people think of motivation as an emotion, or a state of being like enthusiasm. You can’t sustain that level of energy forever. You create a cycle of peak and valley, over and over again. We think if we aren’t pumped all the time, we can’t get the job done, like a tire that’s had all the air let out of it.
So instead of thinking of motivation as high-energy enthusiasm, think of it as a focused state of taking care of business every day without fail.
The first key
I think one of the biggest keys most people lack today is focus. Constantly ask yourself what is important to your major goals and objectives in life. Every day you should be taking action towards those things. Everything else falls farther down the list.
With all the distractions in this day and age, that can be a trick…to stay focused on what’s important. Your most important, expensive resource is time. Don’t blow it. Focus on what moves you forward towards your goals. Create systems or delegate as much of the rest of it as possible.
The second key
The biggest killer to motivation is a lack of progress. But you can’t see improvement and you can’t develop plans when you have no way of tracking progress.
Now, I’m not talking about outcome goals such as wins and losses, I’m talking about the things you can control, such as the number of times you train, how many successful repetitions of an exercise you do, what type of food and how much you eat, whether you walk out the door to go for your run.
Sure you want results, but in my experience, results are a by-product of doing things well. If you aren’t getting results, there’s something that needs tweaking in the process part of the program. Simply setting more outcome goals will only frustrate and disappoint you. Get to the root of what creates a good performance and fix that.
Goals are useful for motivation to a degree, but the problem is when you reach a certain goal, sometimes you have no energy left to sustain that level. That’s why many diets don’t work.
If you use a tremendous amount of energy and focus to get to a certain weight, but you haven’t built in habits as part of the lifestyle, you won’t have the motivation to stay there because you’ve already had the high of achieving the goal, and it was so much work to get there.
It’s more important to build the habits and good triggers into your lifestyle.
The third key
Remember at the beginning when I said don’t confuse motivation with emotion. You can’t sustain flying high like a kite all the time.
Create triggers and habits that create action with a minimum of energy. Don’t depend on having to pull out huge reserves of energy to get it done, because you’ll drain yourself, burn yourself out and start to hate what you are doing.
And let’s face it, when push comes to shove, very few people have the mental and physical fortitude to push themselves to go do something when they are exhausted, so create a trigger instead so you don’t have to debate it and think about it.
Sure, if you are exhausted, you probably won’t do a great job anyway, but at least you showed up! Not every day can be a personal best, but simply knowing you will show up and will get some junk out of the way has value. You never know, something great might show up after all! But nothing great can show up if the opportunity isn’t there.
Remember — motivation isn’t sustainable as a rah-rah thing. Motivation is a focused state of habitually taking care of the important things regardless of how you feel.
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