Human motivation is an amazing construct to study. What makes one person push herself to amazing limits, while another person struggles to complete even the simplest of daily tasks? There are a number of psychological theories that help clarify these differences, but often these explanations bog down people with foreign terms, examples that don’t apply to them, and research studies too difficult to understand without a strong statistics background. It is for these reasons that I try and find simple, layman ways of understanding and explaining human behavior — including motivation.
Inspiration, desperation, and the human comfort zone
The first thing that I see that directly relates to motivation (and likelihood for future success) has to do with how future goals are developed and internalized. But before I go any further, I would like to begin by defining your current travels and activities as the “comfort zone” you experience daily. The comfort zone is your grooved pattern of life, and includes all the things you typically do each day. This path you follow (sometimes almost blindly) generates a similar daily outcomes, as we know that if you do the same thing tomorrow as you did today, you’ll almost certainly experience the same results tomorrow as you did today as well. In fact, the slang definition for insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. Same idea here, and this is the first really important point: Change doesn’t happen unless we break out of comfort zone patterns.
In order for any kind of self-improvement to occur, energy will need to be culled and re-directed. Put another way, you will need to get outside of your comfort zone (or current daily way you go about things). The challenge has to do with finding the right mechanism to help you break from comfort zone grooves — in other words, how do you get outside your comfort zone? I have learned that both inspiration and desperation will do the trick — but what you can’t do is remain casually comfortable and “kinda” want to change your future.
Inspiration might come through the form of a neighbor who recently lost a lot of weight, or an old friend who went back and picked up a college degree later in life. Desperation could come via your doctor who provides a grave warning of what your cigarette smoking is doing to your lungs, or something even less dramatic — how tight your pants are beginning to feel, prompting you to think about taking serious measures to lose weight. Yes, both inspiration and desperation can trigger motivation, leading to the next big piece to the puzzle — getting started and keeping going.
Laser focus on the end result
Even with inspiration/desperation as catalysts, getting started on new thinking and behaviors can still be tough. For example, just thinking about going to the gym that first day can be incredibly intimidating — new people, new weight room, new everything. In fact, thinking about the first exercise could conjure up thoughts of pain and discomfort, possibly enough to snuff out the goal right then and there. For would-be runners, shortness of breath, shin splints, and nausea are just three quick thoughts that can wreck the new habit before it even got off the ground. Fortunately, there is a relatively easy answer to how to fix these problems before they bog you down.
Since we have 100% control of our thinking, here is your time to shine. Rather than thinking of pain and discomfort, why not direct your thought toward the end goal? Yes, it IS possible to think about the pride you will feel once you finish your education, the greater lung capacity you will experience by quitting smoking, and the sense of pride you will feel when people suddenly ask about the weight you lost. In fact, there may not be a greater feeling than taking off sweaty gym clothes after a great workout. When we direct our thoughts toward the positive end results, we actually begin to experience and feel what it will be like as we reach our goals. This is a dramatically different way of approaching motivation and future goals, and is often the single most easily observable variable when looking at the different mindset between people who succeed and fail at reaching their goals.
Forget casual thinking when it comes to motivation, and when you do begin to work on a goal, make it a point to fixate on the benefits you will gain by reaching the goal. Keep in mind that you control your thoughts, so make sure to choose wisely. Yes, this is simple advice, but it is also powerful advice that will work. The more excited you feel just thinking about reaching your goal the better, as it is this guiding light that will help you overcome all obstacles, including the two biggest — fear and self-doubt.