Most good things in life only happen as a product of your work and effort. Of course, we all experience occasional lucky breaks in life from time-to-time, but usually we have to work for our success. If you want to be a great athlete you can’t skip training and workouts; if you want to be a great student you have to study and attend classes; and if you want to experience an exciting career you have to work your way to the top. The vast majority of successful people create their success, but how do they do it? A big part of it is their motivation, and the good news is that we can all improve our motivation, even if we have never been very motivated before.
What do you want?
Before examining your self-motivation, it is important to fully understand the importance of identifying future goals — or as I like to say, knowing where to point your life compass. For example, it’s very difficult to become motivated when you don’t really know what it is you want to improve. Saying “I want to be successful” may sound great, but it doesn’t provide any definition of the word “success,” nor does it allow for the specific steps to be outlined that will lead to success. As you might guess, it’s a lot more difficult to find motivation when striving toward vague goals than it is when you have a specific target defined.
If you have been guilty in the past for setting up vague goals, I do have good news to report — often people start with vague goals (like “getting in better shape”), but with little effort are able to better define what they mean (and end up with more effective, specific goals). What this means is that “getting in better shape” can be easily tweaked to become well-written goals such as losing a specific amount of weight, or fitting back into a pair of pants you haven’t worn since putting on weight. In both cases your motivation is much more likely to improve versus the first ambiguous goal of “better shape.”
Finding instant motivation…
One of the best and fastest ways to find immediate motivation is to change your perception and focus away from pain and toward pleasure. For example, if you haven’t done cardiovascular exercise is awhile, it’s quite likely that you will cringe at even the thought of starting a run and immediately feeling shin splints, exhaustion, or other related aches and pains. Once our minds go to these kinds of thoughts, it becomes very difficult to find the motivation needed to start exercising.
Interestingly, even though it is possible that the negative thoughts relating to an activity are the first you think of, you don’t have to camp out there, and can actually re-direct your thoughts and perception to a more healthy and positive place. Below are a few examples of how to immediately turn your perception toward a more motivating stimulus:
- Instead of thinking about the pain associated with a physical workout (like running), think instead about the invigorating feeling at the end of the run and peeling off sweaty clothes that serve as proof of your hard work and effort.
- Rather than feeling overwhelmed about an upcoming school assignment, turn your attention to what the completed project will look like, the good grade you will receive, and the pride you will feel having done an outstanding job.
Control your thinking
Remember, only you can control your thoughts, and only you can develop your own unique perceptions about things. Shakespeare once said “nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so,” a very powerful reminder to all of us that we are the only ones who attach any kind of value to our life experiences. Is an upcoming workout good, bad, right, or wrong? Only you can make that decision, so choose wisely.
When we think of the end result of our hard work and efforts, only then can we experience the pride and pleasure we want to occur in the future. These positive emotions are what will fuel our motivation, as well as galvanize our resiliency, and thereby allow us to perform our best. All of this starts — and ends — with cognitive decisions that only you can make.
Take time out to think about your future goals, list out the steps that will take you there, and then make it a point to think of the positive feelings you will experience as you reach your goals. It’s actually quite amazing how much cognitive framing plays into our level of human motivation, and the skill of re-framing is something that even kids can learn how to do. Yes, simple advice, but you might be surprised at how remarkably effective it is to simply change your thinking if you want to instantly improve your motivation.