How To Improve Motivation
I struggled to write this editor's letter because it meant admitting something that wasn't easy. But after much thought, I realized that sharing my personal battle was not only necessary, but also essential to solving my problem.
I've been having difficulty with motivation. The fire that burns within me each and every morning to hit the gym and eat healthy hasn't been as strong as usual, and it wasn't until I decided to write about it that I realized how to fix the situation not only for myself--but also for anyone else burdened by the same problem.
You see, motivation for taking care of my health hasn't been hard for about 15 to 20 years. After a childhood that was typified by being overweight, I hit my stride and discovered many "triggers" that allowed me to move at a relentless pace towards improving my life and body, and finding ways to help others.
It's why I've often told people that I "have no off switch." And while I'm still "on," it feels like the burning fuel inside me was a little dimmer.
Maybe you've felt the same way. Maybe you've struggled to eat better, workout more, or take care of yourself in a way that creates hurdles that prevent you from living the life you want. Maybe you don’t know any other reality.
I spent a lot of time figuring out what had changed. How I went from a man that lived off of motivation to one searching for sources. And what I discovered wasn't groundbreaking, but it was something often overlooked.
What will make the difference?
Find what makes you happy. This is the real secret to motivation.
If you struggle with motivation--and we all do on some level or in passing moments--it's important that you put your role in this world into context. That's why I recommend making declarations that acknowledge your deficits and areas where you'd like to improve.
Most of us settle in life. Settle for what's easy. Settle for what's convenient. Or settle for the only reality that we know. Improving motivation means changing that reality and becoming aware that there’s more in life that you want.
Here are 10 simple strategies that can help with your awareness:
- Write 5 things you want to improve
- Create a list of what you love--and then assess how many of those items are actually part of your life
- Email your friends and share your goals that you haven't achieved
- Set deadlines for personal, non-work-related goals
- Ask your friends to list off areas in your life that you overlook
- Visit your doctor and ask for a thorough physical of your health
- Take a “before” picture of yourself
- Set a challenge--it could be anything
- Plan out a list of future goals for your career, health, and social life
- Make a bucket list
There are an endless number of ways to create motivation. All of them revolve around a simple mindset: Pursuing the life you want. But creating a list is just the start. From here, most people typically take the wrong approach.
They condemn themselves for the existence they created; place undue pressure and stress on achieving these goals. This is not a sustainable way to stay motivated. After all, stress is the poison--not the elixir. You should be moving towards mastery, not masochism.
So what should you do you do with your awareness?
First, realize that motivation is individualistic in every sense because it’s ultimately driven by one of two things: fear or happiness. Both work, but I prefer to focus on the latter.
When you find what's missing (by using any of the strategies above or others), don't focus on the negative. Research has shown that unhappiness and rejection is the quickest way to kill your motivation, not ignite new life.
So stop making yourself feel bad. You're human. You're going to have some bad days. Instead, identify all of the positives that can result from making a change. The joy you'll feel when you look in the mirror. The extra time you'll be able to spend with your kids. The desserts that you want to enjoy without guilt or fear of the harm it might do to your overweight body. The thrill of crossing an item of your bucket list. It can be anything.
You must identify the aspects that make you feel better, and then identify the steps that will allow you to include them in your life. When you are happy, you are motivated. I realize that this can be difficult as some things in life that make you happy might not be "good for you." Create a fine line between the two and find a balance.
For me, recreating that spark was about getting back to creating time for those things that were most important in my life: My wife, my friends, my family, and even my work. The assignments that made me want to be a writer in the first place. Over the last several months I've been focusing on many exciting projects--including great changes to LIVESTRONG.COM, finishing a book, and developing my passion project. As a result, I ended up editing and blogging less than I'd prefer. The minute I decided to write this blog I felt better. And in all honesty, once I finished, I went to the gym with more energy than I've had in a while.
Feeding my natural drive, in turn, made me more motivated to improve in the other areas of my life. It's a self-perpetuating process.
Life is about happiness and fulfillment. In fitness and health we oftentimes lose sight of that because we try forcing actions--like going to the gym or eating well--that feel like a burden, rather than patiently creating habits.
It's much more effective to create a world where every action--in and of itself--is an achievement. This is about building positive habits, feeling good about your life, and taking a step in the right direction. The more steps you take, the better you'll feel and the more motivation you'll have.
The sooner your life carries less burden and is more driven by an internal desire to be happy, you'll find that your motivation--and your life--will improve in more ways than you ever imagined.