We often think of motivation as the spark that gets us started, but we don’t give it much consideration after that. At the beginning of an activity, project, or any objective, it’s easy to get excited. Nothing has actually happened, so there is endless potential for the outcome.
We have a fantastic ability to excuse ourselves from not following through on our plans.
This happened to me just recently when I started training for my first marathon. I’ve never run one before, so I immediately got online and started reading about training plans for inspiration. There were so many possibilities, and it delight me to no end. Finally I decided on a plan, started my training, and that’s when my excitement started to decline.
Feeding your motivation will give it the strength it needs to push you to the next level.
It’s once we are knee deep into an activity that motivation is paramount. We are presented with obstacles that can cloud our rationale for continuing. The soreness after a workout or the hunger pains after starting a new diet become easy justification for quitting. We have a fantastic ability to excuse ourselves from not following through on our plans. This is especially true when we hit numerous hurdles or they come later in the day when we have exhausted our will power.
After my initial enthusiasm waned, I was left with too-early morning alarms, repetitious running routes, and sore knees. The little voice in my head would remind me that all of these problems could easily be resolved if I quit. I needed new ways to stay motivated to keep my pessimistic self at bay.
Think of motivation as a living thing that needs to be constantly fed. You can’t feed it once and expect it to live forever. Feeding your motivation will give it the strength it needs to push you to the next level. Here are a few ways to keep your motivation quenched.
Take a few minutes to decide what it is you really want and be specific. Getting fit is too general. What level of fitness are you trying to achieve? Do you want to run a marathon, be able to lift double your weight, or just fit into your jeans? Once you’ve decided what you want, write it down. Writing down a goal gives it value.
You can even go a step further and break your goals into mini-goals. They will act like stepping stones that make your goal more attainable. Pick a mini-goal to work on each day, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Check back every week to see how far you’ve progressed. Anytime you need to fuel your motivation, look at your goals.
Share with Others
By sharing your goals with others, you are building your own support system. Family and friends will celebrate your successes with you and provide motivation when you need a push (or shove) back in the right direction.
One word of caution since a goal can be personal, only share with people that will be a positive influence. We have all encountered that person that can find the proverbial fly in the ointment to any situation. It’s okay if you don’t share your goal with this person. If you don’t have anyone positive to share your goal with, one goal can be to establish the ultimate squad.
Outsource Your Motivation
Finding motivation from others is both easy and enlightening. It’s easy because someone else is doing the work, and it’s not hard to get someone to do this. Your friends and family won’t think twice about giving you a little extra encouragement. It’s enlightening because you might learn a new method of motivation.
A fun way to find new motivation is to listen to motivational speakers. These are people who make a living on inspiring others, so why not let them inspire you? There is unlimited online sources that you can read, listen to, or watch to gain some inspiration or boost your resolve. When I'm having a lousy day, I throw on some Eric Thomas, and he gets me so pumped! You never know, you might even enjoy the tingles of a fresh revelation.
Being optimistic can reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and increase pain tolerance, all of which can enhance motivation and performance during competitive tasks.1 So hang those cat posters or whatever keeps you optimistic, and enjoy the positive impact on your performance!
And when you’re not feeling the positive juices flowing try a power pose — chest lifted, head held high, arms either up or propped on the hips.2 Studies have shown that the attitude you portray with your posture and facial expressions has the ability to affect your emotional attitude. Standing like a superhero really can make you feel like one.
Enjoy the Ride
Part of staying positive is not allowing yourself to become negative when inevitable obstacles present themselves. You can grumble about your legs being so sore you are having trouble walking. Or you can enjoy the pain as a reminder of how hard you were able to push yourself. Knowing that certain obstacles are part of the journey and giving them a positive spin will make them less of a hurdle.
I like to treat my goals like a road trip. With the right friends, good rest stops, and snacks to keep me going, the trip is just as fun as the destination. The friends are my support system that I share my goals and successes with; the rests stops are my much needed breaks (see number 6); and the snacks are the rewards I give myself for each success (see number 7). Just like on a road trip, it’s easy to stay enthusiastic when you know the journey is going to be just as fun as the destination.
Give Yourself a Break
We are not machines, so we don’t perform the same each day. Our bodies are dynamic and feed off of more than just food; they feed off of the emotions we supply it. It’s pretty easy to recognize your lethargy is a result of the greasy burger you ate yesterday. But you might not be as quick to notice the stressful day at the office has zapped your energy.
Because you naturally have ups and downs in your performance, it’s important to give yourself breaks. Taking a rest physically and mentally can recharge your attitude and focus. Plus, forgiving your “off days” helps keep you positive and motivated.
Nothing feels better than reaching your goal, but sometimes we get so busy trying to reach it that we forget to celebrate the smaller successes. By taking the time to congratulate yourself on all the hard work and sacrifice along the way, you’ll keep yourself motivated. Plus, you deserve a little reward!
And then don’t forget to celebrate your end goal. Once you get there, you might realize you want to set a new goal, but you should still celebrate your success. Sometimes setting the reward for reaching your goal in advance can act like the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that you’ll get a new outfit once you’ve sculpted your new body can be all the motivation you need.
So, if you are feeling starved for encouragement, take a minute to feed your motivation.
1Keating, Caroline F. "Self-Deception and Its Relationship to Success in Competition." Basic and Applied Social Psychology. By Joanna E. Starek. 2nd ed. Vol. 12. Hamilton: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991. 145-55. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 30 June 2015.
2May, Kate Torgovnick. "Some Examples of How Power Posing Can Actually Boost Your Confidence." TED Blog. TED, 01 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 July 2015.