How to Improve Your Motivation

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It’s not always easy to stay motivated. We might start out strong, but somewhere along the way we may falter. Even if external factors cooperate  we don’t lose our job even though the economy tanks, we have a boss that supports us in reaching for goals and we have colleagues, family, and friends that help to keep us focused, we can still struggle to stay positive and moving forward.

It’s part of being human to face anxiety, uncertainty, or even depression. But what separates the truly successful person from the average person is the ability to understand why you are feeling de-motivated, respond to that reason, and then keep on moving forward.

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There are three main reasons that people tend to lose motivation from time to time. You can refer to these as ‘motivation killers.’ These are:

1. Lack of confidence why would you continue to try to do something if you don’t believe that you can do it? You would only be setting yourself up for failure. This makes sense it’s actually a form of self-protection when you think about it. But you will need to boost your confidence level if you are going to regenerate your motivation and get back on track.

2. Lack of focus you don’t know exactly what it is that you want, so why should you take action until you do? Or you might find yourself scattered across so many different goals that you are finding it difficult to complete any of them. You may need to concentrate your efforts so that you can begin making achievements even if they are small which will encourage you to move on to the next goal and the next and so on.

3. Lack of direction — if you know what you want and you believe that you can do it, but you just don’t know how to get started, you can get stopped instead of motivated. But sometimes just staying in action can be important — even if you aren’t exactly sure which actions to take. The good news is that if you can educate yourself on the necessary steps, you should be able to restore your motivation.

In the following sections we will examine how to improve our self-motivation by addressing each of these ‘motivation killers.’

Addressing Lack of Confidence

We’ve already spent a great deal of time in this eBook looking at ways to address your lack of confidence, but there are a few more pointers to include here. Some additional suggestions include:

  • Focusing on what you already have rather than what you lack
  • Create your own personal positive mantra that you can tell yourself to boost yourself up
  • Repeat things that you already know to help remind yourself of what you’ve already achieved
  • Think positively even if you don’t yet believe what you are telling yourself eventually, you may start to believe it
  • Learn to accept a compliment from others and actually enjoy the feedback

Addressing Lack of Focus

It’s so easy to lose focus on what we are trying to achieve in today’s busy work environment. There is so much going on that we can get anxious, distracted, and lose our ability to focus. We end up suffering from what is called ‘fear-based’ thinking.

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We are afraid to lose our jobs because we are afraid of being poor. We are afraid to speak our mind in a meeting because we are afraid others won’t like what we have to say and they will hold it against us in our relationship with them. We are afraid of taking a risk at work because we can’t guarantee that the outcome will be positive.

This kind of fear scatters our focus and makes it difficult to achieve anything because we get stopped by the fear. We can spend a great deal of time worrying about all the possible bad things that can happen to us or all the things that could possibly go wrong.

The way to defeat your lack of focus is to set goals for yourself that are clear and achievable. The very act of setting goals puts some structure around your random thoughts and gives you something specific to focus on. Instead of worrying about random possible events in the future, you can focus on what you can do at the moment to improve your situation.

Addressing Lack of Direction

Let’s say that you have developed your goals so that you have something to focus on, and you feel pretty confident that you can achieve the goal. But still you find it difficult to find the direction that you need.

You might be procrastinating instead. This motivation-killer can be a difficult one to overcome, but it is not impossible. It requires taking your goal and breaking it down into the daily strategy that you will use to achieve it.

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You should literally have steps written down in ‘to-do’ lists so that you have specific tasks to focus on each day. When you sit down to work, pull out your to-do list and get started and you will find that you now have a clear direction to move forward in.

Building Self-Discipline

For some of us, discipline is a dirty word. We conjure up images of a task master cracking his whip or a drill sergeant yelling at his soldiers. But believe it or not, self-discipline actually offers you a sort of freedom.

When you have the discipline to continue reaching for your goals despite how you are feeling at the moment, you will enjoy all the results of that effort and the time that it creates for you. If you lack self- discipline, you may be aimless, wandering, starting one thing without finishing it and moving on to something else.

You may get frustrated and find that you aren’t able to reach your goals even though it feels like you are trying to do so.

Self-discipline requires the ability to act according to what you are thinking rather than what you are feeling at the time. Sure, we have days when we don’t want to go to work, but we know that if we don’t, there will be consequences. We might lose the day’s pay or even lose the job which would have its own consequences. The same is true when we lack self-discipline in reaching for our goals.

The consequences are varied, depending on what the goal might be. If I am not practicing the piano, I’m wasting the money I’m spending on lessons and I also have the consequence of not being able to play the instrument.

If I am not exercising self-discipline towards a task at work, the consequence may be that I don’t get as high a commission as I had hoped for or I might not be chosen for that promotion I want.

Self-discipline helps you with things like:

  • Working on your daily tasks even if you don’t particularly feel like it
  • Going to the gym even though you’d rather sit at home and watch a movie
  • Waking up early to truly prepare for the day ahead even though you want that last 30 minutes of sleep
  • Turning away temptation when you’ve committed to a healthy eating plan
  • Checking your email at specific times during the day rather than every time you get a new email something which helps keep you productive at work
  • Walking away from time-sucking gossip at the water cooler even though you’d rather hear the scoop
  • Checking your work meticulously even though you feel like its ‘good enough’ as it is

There are five basic characteristics of people who possess self-discipline:

  • Self-knowledge
  • Conscious awareness
  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Internal coaching

As we look at each of these traits, keep in mind that you don’t have to be born having these characteristics.

You can learn to be more self-disciplined by practicing each of these aspects.

1. Self-Knowledge

If self-discipline requires that you act according to what you think is best rather than how you feel at the moment, then you need to know enough about yourself and your goals to understand what the best course of action is for you.

You need to determine what kind of behavior, choices, standards, goals, and values are the best choices for you and your future. In order to do so, you need to take the time to get to know what is important to you. Try writing out a list of your goals or dreams, or even write a personal mission statement.

This will help you decide how to structure your time and efforts when you have to make choices between options.

2. Conscious Awareness

Now you’ve looked at yourself and identified what is important to you. But before you can become more disciplined, you need to pay attention to what you are already doing and not doing.

Where are you using your time well? Where are you wasting it? Where are you spending time on things that aren’t really important to you and aren’t of value to you or the organization? Until you know where your behavior is undisciplined, you won’t know what areas you can improve upon.

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The better you get at identifying the areas where you lack discipline, the faster you will get at nipping that unproductive behavior in the bud. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you can stop undisciplined behavior before it happens.

3. Commitment

Without commitment to your goals and values, your self-discipline won’t last. The first time that a temptation comes along to take you away from your goal-driven activity; it is your commitment to your goal that will keep you going on the right path.

If you find that you can’t commit to a goal that you’ve set for yourself, go back to the self-knowledge step. Perhaps you have attempted to instill discipline around a goal that you don’t actually want. We may think we should want to reach a goal, say, at work we might think we should want a promotion, but perhaps we aren’t committed to it because deep-down, we don’t really want it.

We might be happy where we are, or maybe we actually want to change careers entirely. Though commitment can take work, you can also tell a lot about what is truly important to you by how strong your commitment is.

4. Courage

Standing up for something that is important to you in the face of all of the challenges and temptations that we face in life takes a great deal of courage. You may have to negotiate with your spouse or other loved ones to pursue your goal, such as if you decide you want to go back to school at night.

Or, you might have to change your behavior that others have come to expect from you. For example, maybe you’ve always been the life of the party and now you have decided to focus on eating right, limiting alcohol, and getting a full-night’s sleep every night, so your friends start wondering who you are.

There’s no guarantee that self-discipline will be easy. But if you are committed to something important to you, you’ll need to find the courage to say ‘no’ to things that attempt to dissuade you from your course.

5. Internal Coaching

The self-disciplined person also needs to discipline the negative voice that is in their head. As we talked about before, we all have an internal critic.

So when you face a challenge to your self-discipline, that critic will start shouting things at you like, “See, I knew you couldn’t do it!” or “Go on, just skip the gym this one time!” Instead, you want to start training that ‘internal critic’ to become your ‘internal coach.’ You should practice cheering yourself on, encouraging yourself, and reassuring yourself that you are making the right choices.

Think about how you would talk to a friend or child you were encouraging to achieve their goals, and be at least that kind and supportive to yourself!

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