When you first start to tackle a big goal ideas are bouncing around your head. You feel excited. Things are electric. They tingle. You take that first step and it feels so right. Only 10,000 more leagues to go, right Confucius!
The next few steps fly by. Maybe a few more. . . . . . then you look up and the goal is still a long way away. Sure you started the business but no customers yet. You started running but can’t make it to the end of the street without some serious mouth breathing. You made you action plan but have made no actions yet. It isn’t uncommon to lose motivation at this point.
The reality is that motivation comes and goes. It doesn’t stay at 100% all day, every day. Don’t let self-help gurus tell you that your lack of motivation means that your goals wasn’t grand enough. There are two main problems with the idea that grand goals will keep you motivated throughout the process. First, many goals we have in life aren’t grand. Your kid asks you to make costumes for the school play; his and five other “actors.” Your boss asks you to prepare a report on last year’s supply cabinet usage in triplicate incase the board asks about it on their next visit. Really? The board is concerned with staple consumption? Any who does triplicate any more? Who does paper? The truth is a lot of what we do – a lot of what we must do – isn’t about grand goals. There are things that simply must get done. The second problem with the idea that grand goals will keep us motivated is that it simply isn’t true. Many big goals take months or years to accomplish. Thousands of small actions and decisions must align over a long period of time to reach our destination. It is simply not human to think that motivation will not ebb and flow over such a long time.
So what do we do when our motivation is ebbing . . . or is it flowing? Anyway, what do we do when we still have a long way to go and our motivation to move in the right direction isn’t pointing in the right direction? First, realize that keeping on a long path to success is a combination of motivation, determination and positive habits. I’ll talk more about determination and positive habits in separate posts. In this post, I give you five things we can do to perk up motivation when it needs a little help.
First, realize it is ok. Don’t get down on yourself. Sure that warm bed doesn’t want to let you go running today. Those white chocolate lemon balls that Debbie from accounting brought in are right next to the coffee pot and they DO look yummy. And yes, making customer calls when your spouse started mulling some wine and wants snuggle up and watch the snowfall isn’t very appealing. To be tempted is human. It let’s you know that you are still alive.
Second, talk to yourself a bit. Out loud if you must but people will look at you funny. Ask yourself what is behind this moment’s lack of motivation? Is it that progress is too slow? Are you afraid of the next step? Are there obstacles that you haven’t dealt with? Be honest with yourself. Having a little conversation with yourself can either ignite your motivation or, at least, give you an understanding of things that you need to work on. It may lead to process changes in your action plan. For example, maybe it isn’t right for you to go for a run when you leap out of bed if you are not an out of bed leaper. Running may fit better into your life after a nice mosey out of bed and a tall latte.
Third, talk to yourself a little more. If no one tried to commit you after you were talking with yourself in the second step, you are probably ok to keep it up a bit longer. Remind yourself why you are going after this goal. What is it that you are really trying to accomplish and how will you feel when you accomplish it? Which will really give you more satisfaction, moving toward your goal or doing that other thing. I know that some days when I was losing my 50 pounds that extra plate of nachos with an extra handful of cheese was worth the extra 458 calories. Usually it wasn’t but on those days when it was worth it. I had that extra plate and enjoyed it.
Fourth, do something. Action brings outcomes and outcomes bring emotion. Sometimes I’ll keep a list of easier things to accomplish handy. Not necessarily busywork. These are things that need to get done but they are easier to do. Do them now. Pick one and get it done. That should be on a coffee cup somewhere. Pick one and get it done. The only danger here is don’t let yourself slip into doing busy work. Yes, your home office desk might need to be organized weekly but no, that does not include using pledge on the underside of your drawers. Just do what needs to get done.
Fifth, celebrate your successes. Early in the process it may feel like you don’t have a lot of successes or you may be on a plateau somewhere in the middle but you do have successes. Even starting, taking that first step, was a success. If you haven’t lost a pound in a month but you have stuck to the diet/exercise program anyway, that is worthy of success. You haven’t made a sale in two weeks but you pick up the phone every day for another customer call, that is worthy of success. Celebrate you. I know you have something to celebrate. Do it now.
I’m going to throw in a bonus point. I do believe in always giving more than you promised. It is called temptation bundling. Basically, bundle whatever you aren’t motivated to do with a reward (your tempation). Bundle the want to do with the need to do. So yes, you can cuddle with your mulled wine wielding honey . . . . . after you make three calls. Of course you can go out to that new indian buffet . . . . . . but you have to walk there.
Stay positive when you can. Stay productive when you can’t stay positive. Stay ok all the time.