Where does self-motivation come from? Love, passion, hate? How about self-discipline, honour, deadlines? Actually here’s a thing.
You are able to be incredibly self-motivated! It’s true. We all are, given the right context. If I park my car on your toe, your true motivation for action would manifest immediately - motivation for me to get my darn car off your foot! If you develop a terrible itch, the really intense kind on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the itchiest), how compelled are you to scratch it? Motivation in these contexts is easy to produce.
But of course when people say they want more self-motivation, what they really mean is that they want to purposefully direct their motivational force toward something positive, constructive, and valuable to them. I’ve worked with people who wanted help ramping up their motivation to get fitter, finish novels, study more, start businesses, and even get out of bed in the mornings.
But how do you ramp up your self-motivation? Let’s get going!
1) Be fuel-efficient
First off, it’s a mistake to assume that motivation must always be linked to feeling motivated. We assume self-motivation is fuelled by emotion and, at least initially, it often is. Inspirational speakers with strong jaw lines, tailored suits, and overpoweringly white smiles whip up your emotions and what happens? You leave the seminar feeling motivated - ready to take on the world. And this is great - in the short-term. But like getting a sugar hit when running a marathon, pretty soon the effect fades. You can’t be forever whipped up, just as you can’t always be maxing out on a sugar high.
Prolific writer H. Bedford-Jones wrote as many as 25,000 (but averaged between 5,000 and 10,000) words a day and produced over 1,400 magazine stories and 80 books. Now, had he been emotionally fired up in the writing of every word, he would have exhausted himself to the point of incapacity. So…
Self-motivation needs to be sustainable.
Always having to feel excited so as to make sustained efforts is a dead end. If we see emotion as a type of fuel, then we need to be able to save it and not waste it. We need to be able to ‘run the machine’ using up very little emotion sometimes.
Learning to act when not feeling like acting so you don’t have to constantly wait for ‘when the mood takes you’ will give you a self-motivation edge; a massive advantage over 99% of people who have been trained by society to ‘only do stuff they feel motivated to do’. And a strange thing happens.
The feeling of motivation gradually develops after you’ve started and made sustained efforts.
Get used to just doing without always feeling like it and you’ll develop willpower as surely as repeated lifting of a weight will build muscle.
2) Get going now, no matter what the weather
Don’t wait until everything is ‘just right’ before you make a start. There is never a ‘right time’ to do a difficult thing. Make enough preparation, but be man or woman enough to know when you’re just hiding behind excuses. Sometimes the more we put off doing something, the more ‘reasons’ we find for putting it off.
Talking, dreaming, and describing to loved ones your dreams and aspirations may come to replace action or even bury it completely, just as earth enshrines a grave.
3) Shoot for the moon (and you’ll land amongst the stars)
It’s worth being ambitious because even if you fall short of your ultimate goal, you’ll still achieve an awful lot ‘by default’. Or you may achieve more by default. The stars are, after all, further than the moon.
You might think to yourself: “Who am I to be successful/talented/fulfilled/useful in the world?" I want you to think: “Who am I not to be!”
4) Catch successful attitudes – it’s infectious
Hang out with motivated people, because attitudes rub off - really motivated people are motivating. If you hang with apathetic, nay-saying, or (dare I say) downright lazy types, it’s much harder to ramp up your own mojo. Find people (even if it’s online) who are positive, industrious, talented, and goal-focussed.
We become like those with whom we associate. People ‘catch success’.
5) Don’t leap the staircase
I recently heard a highly successful entrepreneur (and therefore seriously self-motivated individual) give her one piece of advice for budding business builders: “Start small and think big.”
A step in and of itself is not much of a thing, but enough steps together can take you far indeed. Wanting success instantly is for children. Wanting something immediately without bothering to plan and develop your strategy is like feeling that great musicians who have practiced for thousands of hours are just ‘lucky’.
I sometimes find that so-called under-motivated people often just lack a realistic appreciation of what it takes to become successful. I worked helping a man who’d become depressed because all kinds of plans hadn’t come to fruition. But I noticed he’d never looked at what was behind apparent successes: the work, planning, and commitment. No wonder he now felt completely de-motivated.
We devised a plan; then I pointed to some steps. “How would you climb those stairs?” I asked.
“One at a time!” he replied.
Ah, now he finally had a map to achievement. Self-motivation is the fuel, but strategic planning is how the route needs to be negotiated.
6) Come on, baby, light my fire
Horror writer Stephen King feels that unless he writes every day when working on a new novel, “the characters begin to stale off in my mind - they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade.”
You don’t need to be a slave to having to feel constantly pumped up before you can take action, but you do sometimes need to re-evoke some fire in your belly.
Take time to sit down and relax. Close your eyes and consciously remind yourself of all the reasons to be motivated; re-capture and amplify your original feelings and passion around your goal. In fact, why not let me help you by listening to this quick free audio session.
7) We’re a long time dead
If you ever find your self-motivation slipping (and haven’t yet developed the capacity to get going without ‘feel good’ emotion flooding your brain), consider how you’d feel if you didn’t really go for your dreams. The greatest failure is failure to try.
Because the facts are that people do achieve amazing things. The couch potato does change her ways, the college dropout does on occasion go on to create a global empire. And if you ever doubt what people who set their minds toward something are capable of, take a look at the Guinness Book of World Records.
Now, enough reading.
by Mark Tyrrell.