Getting motivated is one of the hardest things in the world for some people. It seems that the larger a task is – and the more you need to do it – the less you want to actually do it. The next time you have a big task ahead of you, keep the following guide on how to get and stay motivated in mind.
Create a Goal List
If you want to be motivated then you need a target. It’s almost impossible to motivate yourself to complete vague and undefined goals as they are simply not feasible. Defining your goals and then breaking them into even smaller goals enables you to handle a large task in manageable sized chunks. The small goals should still have some meaning for you, and they have to be something you can actually do, or you’ll still find it challenging to stay motivated.
- If you can’t muster up the motivation to get into medical school for example, then keep that in mind as an overall goal. Keep yourself motivated by breaking your large goals down into smaller objectives and tasks. An objective is an action you take, while tasks are small and specific things to be done.
- With an end goal of getting into medical school, the objectives would be to pass the MCAT and put together a shortlist of schools you can apply to.
- “Passing the MCAT” can be broken down even more; research prep-books on the test, look up how much it costs, and find locations where you can take it. One task to be performed when putting together a shortlist of schools is to decide on different criteria to define the importance of a school – such as the location, costs or prestige.
Organize Your Goals
Work out which goals are the most important for you. Which is the goal that motivates you most? Which one do you really want to do? Think realistically about the goal and assess how attainable it really is given how much time, money, and other resources you have to dedicate to it. Sometimes goals can build on each other, so these are important considerations to make. Focusing on one or two goals helps to keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay. Finding yourself overwhelmed is the fastest way to kill your motivation. If you do feel overwhelmed, then it makes you tempted to give up on your goals because it contributes to procrastination.
- Sometimes you have to achieve one goal to be able to achieve another. Because you need to pass the MCAT to attend medical school, you need to study for the MCAT and pass it before you can apply for medical school.
- Start with an attainable goal that will give you the early success you need to fuel your motivation moving forward.
List Actionable Objectives
After organizing goals and ranking them by importance, decide the first few most-important goals. Put together a to-do list of objectives or daily tasks you can do to stay on top of your goals, no matter how long it takes. To go back to our example of medical school, this could be to study a chapter of an MCAT prep book every day.
- Avoid trying to pursue too many objectives at the same time. This puts your goals into conflict as they compete for your resources and time. If you have too much you want to do, it leaves you feeling unmotivated and kills your productivity.
- Break objectives down into smaller, more attainable, tasks. Tasks are small and specific things to help you achieve the overall objective. One such task could be to spend an hour every day studying the MCAT book, or studying 10 pages of the prep book a day.
Keep a list of daily tasks and cross through the ones you manage to achieve. This will help you stay motivated as you move forward, as it serves as a reminder that you have been productive. It also feels good. Keep repeating the process until you master the objective, and then find another objective to work on instead.
- Cross off studying your MCAT book when you do it each day, and then move on to the next chapter after finishing your current one.
Change Your Way of Thinking
If you think negatively, it makes goals seem less achievable. It makes even the smallest task feel monumental. Taking a positive approach to the same goal makes it seem manageable by comparison. Studies have shown that when people are sad they literally underestimate the steepness of a hill when compared to people in neutral or happier states.
- If you do start to think negative thoughts, you can try to stop them by thinking about something else, or giving the negative thought a positive light. If you don’t have the motivation to write and are thinking that you’ll never finish the book you’re writing, then find a way to see it more positively. Rather than feeling bad because you’ve only written four chapters, feel good that you’ve finished four and you’re well on your way to finishing the whole thing.
- Try smiling when you don’t feel like smiling. Research has suggested that there is a connection between the facial muscles and how you feel. It’s known as the facial feedback hypothesis and, basically, it means that smiling makes us happy; just as we smile when we are happy.
- Listen to some positive music. This puts you in a better mindset and makes it easier for you to feel good.
If you are having trouble staying motivated right now, but you have succeeded with goals in the past, then take some time to feel proud about those past accomplishments. You have no doubt succeeded at something in life, even if you don’t have any success in the past with your current goals. It can be something as simple as being part of a charity. Be proud of the things you did and what they enabled. If you worked in a soup kitchen or example, then washing the dishes meant that more people there were able to eat. If you weren’t there, then less people would have been able to enjoy their meals on a clean plate.
Stay passionate about your goals. This will fuel your motivation and keep you energized to stay on target. Being passionate about the goal will also help you stick with it during the tough times that leave you feeling like you should give up.
- If you struggle with motivation and are beginning to lose your passion thengive yourself a reminder of why you’re keeping yourself motivated and why it is important to you. Remind yourself about why you were passionate about your goals in the first place. What are the positive outcomes of achieving your dream? What will it mean for you and those around you?
- Perhaps you decided on attending medical school because you wanted the financial independence that comes with being a doctor, or you wanted to help people in need. Think about what it would mean for you to achieve your goal and become a lawyer, and let the vision re-ignite the fires of passion you once held.
- If you aren’t too passionate about the goal because there are other reasons you are doing it – such as losing weight to be healthier and thinner – that you aren’t passionate about, it’s best to keep this end goal in mind. Think about what being healthy really means. It means you feel better, will probably live longer, and have an achievement you can be proud of.
Be Intrinsically Motivated
You need to be engaged in learning, studying, and actually achieving your goals rather than having a focus on external things; such as how people are going to think and feel about when you achieve your goals.
- This is known as intrinsic motivation and it’s the best way to get – and stay – motivated. Intrinsic motivation isn’t dependent on other people. You can use your desires and your mind to light a motivational fire to see you through any goal, no matter how tough.
- To stay intrinsically motivated towards completing a goal, think about how your goal interests you. Think about the ways the goal mentally stimulates you, and about your own sense of control over the goal. If the goal you have set is truly attainable, then they should always feel like you can grasp them. All of this comes together to create intrinsic motivation.
Fight Your Fear
Don’t let yourself worry about failing. Thinking about failure can make you feel like your lack for success never goes away. It makes you think less of yourself, and convinces you that other people think less of you too. This isn’t the case. Mistakes are there to be learned from. Embrace them.
- Sometimes it can take several failed attempts to achieve one success. It’s entirely possible you won’t reach your goal even after trying fifty times. Keep in mind that failure is sometimes one of the steps toward success, and let that idea motivate you to keep trying. Keep your motivation knowing that the more you try the more likely you are to succeed. You can only fail if you don’t even try.
- Consider what the worst-case scenario would be if you didn’t reach your goals. Realistically it likely won’t be that bad. What is that fear holding you back? People will often overestimate how badly failing will make them feel. Remember that the next time you find yourself struggling to stay motivated because you are afraid of not succeeding. It will not be as bad – nor will it feel as bad – as you think it will.
Success Breeds Success
When you struggle to keep yourself motivated, just remember the times in the past where you stayed on track and accomplished your goals. Remember what happened after you achieved your goal, and how you felt about your success.
- If you were struggling to motivate yourself to exercise, for example, then think back to one of the times you pushed yourself through a workout and felt great about it. Think back to how it felt to be doing the workout, and the way you thought about yourself when it was all done. Think about how proud you were to have pushed yourself so hard to reach the worthy goal of getting into shape.
If you aren’t feeling motivated about something, then the best thing it do is just start doing it. Sometimes things get built up in our minds and we can feel like they are much worse than they really are. This is a process known as affective forecasting, and people are terrible for doing it. Starting something will make you realise that – in reality – it wasn’t bad at all.
- If you were having trouble motivating yourself to get a book written, then just power up your word processor, grab your keyboard, and get to typing. Tell yourself you’re going to keep typing for five minutes, and you’ll stop if you aren’t motivated to continue after that. You could find that tricking yourself into actually starting something gives you the motivation to keep going. By the time five minutes are up, you’ll have stopped watching the clock and will have become immersed in your writing.
Get Rid of Distractions
One of the major barriers to staying motivated is finding yourself distracted by other things that seem a lot more interesting than what you are working on. Keep yourself motivated by getting rid of distractions, so that you can’t even engage them in the first place. If there’s nothing around that could possibly distract you, then you aren’t going to be distracted.
- If you’re having trouble staying motivated to get through your homework because you’re distracted by your phone because you’re browsing the web or messaging your friends, then just turn the phone off.
- After turning your phone off, put it somewhere that it can’t be seen, such as in a drawer or in your bag. Take it a step further by making it harder to get to your phone; such as by putting it in your bag and then moving your bag out of reach.
- After taking away your distraction, you’ll find that the things you could be doing instead of your homework aren’t that exciting after all. This can make it easier for you to find the motivation to finish your work and get back to your phone.
Some people find competition to be motivating. Think back and consider the cases you felt more motivated to reach a goal because you were in competition with someone who was also trying to reach it – or you decided to compete with yourself. If that sounds like you, then find a way to build some friendly competition. You don’t even need to let the person you are competing with know that you see them as competition. Just try to out do your chosen rival, and push yourself to the next level.
You can always count on others to give you the motivation you need, provided you build a support network for the job. Let your family and friends know what you are doing, what you want to achieve, and what struggles you are facing. Talking the situation out with them helps you to stay motivated. It also keeps those emotion-sapping negative thoughts away.
- Surround yourself with positive and motivated people. Being near positive people allows their positivity and motivation to rub off on you, helping to keep you motivated at the same time.
Keep in mind that your body needs support itself. Your body will certainly let you know if you ignore its needs for too long. It leaves you feeling negative, draining you of any motivation you had. Eating healthy is an often-overlooked aspect of staying motivated. Get some lean meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts into your diet.
Exercising and working out releases endorphins that leave you feeling good. Feeling good – especially about yourself – keeps your motivation levels boosted. Exercising also reduces stress and is able to combat depression. Stress and depression are two major factors leaving you fatigued and unmotivated. Listen to music that gets you pumped when you exercise. This gets you motivated and pushes you to work harder.
Even though you might feel that caffeine motivates you, having too much of the stuff leaves you anxious and jittery. That leaves you feeling stressed and anxious, which is one of the fastest ways to lose any motivation you might have had. It leaves you feeling overwhelmed which, contrary to what you might believe about caffeine, makes you shut down
Get Plenty of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep leaves you in a state of poor mental health. It causes fatigue, anxiety, and sadness; all of which drain you of your motivation to accomplish your goals.
- If you aren’t sleeping properly, then ensure that your bedroom is as dark as possible when you go to bed. You also need to get rid of any sounds that could keep you awake. Try to create a sleeping routine and then stick to it each and every night. Track the amount of hours of sleep it takes for you to feel rested, and try to get that much sleep each night.
- If you’re the kind of person who gets into bed around half ten, then read for the 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep. Work hard to stick to this schedule as much as you can. This trains your body for sleep. The more you do something, the more your body remembers it.
Tips for Staying Motivated
- Keep a positive attitude
Negative thoughts ruin your performance. You need to have faith in yourself and believe that you can correct any mistakes the next time around.
- Don’t be a defeatist
Sometimes people find themselves creating a defeatist attitude without meaning to; sometimes without even realising it. They give up, telling themselves that something like their genetics or destiny means that there is no point in even trying. The only person that decides on your destiny is you, and genetics can only hold you back so much. It’s possible to reach your goals, no matter what.
- Watch out for negative people
There are going to be some people in your life that sap your motivation and don’t want you to succeed. They want you to stay on their level, rather than getting ahead of them. These are the people that try to control you as you go about your activities and try to reach your goals.
- Know you are valuable
If you do not believe you are valuable, you are likely to quit your endeavours sooner rather than later. After all, why bother trying if you imagine you do not deserve success or suppose you will fail anyway? Boost self-belief and get rid of doubt about your abilities. Understand you have unique gifts to share. There is no one like you on the planet, so nobody else can life your life’s purpose.
- Get rid of success myths
Do not let myths about success hold you back. Often, people attribute other people’s achievements to natural talent, intelligence, or even genetics rather than good ole’ fashion hard work and determination. If you think success comes easy or naturally to everyone but you then you will never get ahead. Everyone has to work hard regardless of what talents they were born with, do not believe the info commercials or hype surrounding these false overnight success stories. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.
- Make rules to keep you going
The journey to your dreams might not be easy, but it is possible! Instead of allowing challenges to zap away all of your enthusiasm and motivation, be ready to face them. Create rules to motivate you and keep you going strong. For instance, the rule “I will ignore naysayers” will stop you from feeling down if people are persistent on telling you that you will fail.
- Celebrate achievements and milestones
One day, you will look back on your journey to success and realize is was as important as reaching your goal. Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. Instead of imagining you must struggle to get what you want, know that you are already living the dream. The steps you take are part of your accomplishments. Appreciate them, celebrate every little joyful moment.
Rejoice as you reach each milestone. Treat yourself, dance, sing, go to a movie, get anyone who helped you to join in on the moment and have a little fun. It is impossible to be successful and stay motivated if you are not at least having a little fun along the way. Keep staying upbeat and your positive attitude will continue to fuel your motivation.
- Learn from setbacks
It is inevitable that you will make mistakes and encounter delays. Sometimes plans will fall through, and unexpected events will present challenge along the way. Accept you will face stumbling blocks, and learn from them. If you make mistakes, do not beat yourself up. Know each one pushes you closer to making plans watertight and becoming an expert at whatever you decide to do.
- You control your destiny
Remember you and you alone control your destiny. Yes there will be others that will try and hold you back, but you must keep the mind-set that nothing can stop you. Find a way to make it happen, do not give up no matter how tough it gets. Live by the motto that you will not take NO for an answer!
I hope this guide helps you to get and stay motivated and that it is able to help you achieve your goals.