Ever struggled getting motivated?
Of course you have! We all do from time to time. In fact, it’s natural for people to swing from motivated to unmotivated states, sometimes several times a day!
There are many factors that can affect our levels of motivation and thus our productive output. Our emotional and physical states, energy levels, stress, self-beliefs and social support all play a part in how motivated we feel at any given point. On a deeper level, our values, upbringing and personality also greatly impact our motivation at any given point.
So what does it mean to be motivated?
In a general sense, it means having the drive to take action and maintain this until a goal is achieved. It’s also associated with the investment of effort, which can be why getting motivated can prove a challenge for most of us. Yes, we human beings can be lazy at times. But take heart; it’s may be due to an innate instinct to conserve energy and take the path of least resistance. Does this mean we’re off the hook with getting going? Of course not! It just explains why we struggle from time to time with being motivated.
Finding out what gets us motivated is a key learning journey throughout life.
When we’re children, our parents motivated us through promises of rewards (like an ice-cream), or with the fear of punishment (i.e. time out). You’d think as we get older our motivators would have become more sophisticated, right? But in truth the simple reward-or-punishment model appears to last a lifetime.
Consider it in a business context for example.
Employers learn what rewards motivate their staff, and create programs like bonus schemes, pay-for-performance, or team social activities. Similarly, employers also enforce policies that clearly outline and provide punishments for poor productivity and quality. And why do they do this? Because when used well and in a balanced way, it can help businesses get the best out of their people, maintain morale and increase profitability.
Now this is all well and good in a business context, but what about you in your own life today? What have you found has worked in the past to motivate you? Think about it for a moment. Was it an eventual reward? A sense of satisfaction? Recognition? Whatever it was, ask yourself why that outcome meant enough to you to push you into action and achieve your goal?
A real story of turning failure into success.
Here’s a story about one of my clients, Sarah*, who was desperate to lose weight. She had tried many different diets, exercise, and therapies to lose weight. Whilst each time she made some changes in the short-term, she wasn’t able to sustain them long-term and then reverted back to her old habits. The only additional thing she gained, along with all the weight back, was a sense of guilt and failure. Can you relate to Sarah’s experience?
Through her coaching program, Sarah shifted her focus from needing to be slim to make others happy, to having the love and respect for herself to create a healthy and fit body, her motivation levels dramatically increased and she found it easy to maintain her new lifestyle habits of healthy eating and exercising regularly.
There is no magical button to being motivated.
But the great thing about tuning into yourself, focusing on a goal and sparking motivation is that it creates momentum. I believe strongly in taking small steps forward, rather than setting big goals with high expectations and setting unrealistic timeframes. This is a formula for disappointment, and instead I encourage my clients to create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, Time-framed) goals.
The key to goal achievement is breaking down the goal into small, simple steps.
Small achievements, those steps forward, all add up and even if you’re moving slowly, at least you’re moving! I encourage you to write them down on an action plan, and tick them off as you achieve them. The powerful ‘tick’ is a strong symbol of achievement and success, and is not to be underestimated. Ticking actions off your plan will continue to motivate you!
Visualisation is also a powerful tool.
In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), there is a set of tools that use the power of recalled memory to produce a state within the body. To give you a chance to experience this simple yet powerful tool, can you remember a time when you felt a really strong positive state? Like being really excited, empowered, joyful or loved? Good, now as you think of that time, imagine being back into your own body, see what you saw, hear what you heard and remember feeling those strong positive feelings. Once you’ve tried this, check in with yourself. How do you feel? Feel good?
Now consider the potential: what other states you can induce in yourself using this technique? Happiness? Confident? Motivated? Absolutely!
*Name changed for privacy reasons