How to Get Motivated (and Stay That Way)

by Corey Pemberton 8 Minutes

MotivatedYou know the old adage. Screw motivation. Build discipline instead!

Discipline is a great muscle to have. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to power through a project at the end of a long day.

But if you had the choice, wouldn’t you rather have both?

I know I would. It’s so much easier to take on the day when you wake up with a fire inside. A burning desire to serve your customers, build new skills, and make an unforgettable impact on the world…

Which makes it all the more frustrating when that motivation just fizzles out. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. One day you have it. The next day you don’t.

Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of just waiting for motivation to come back on its own, you should do something to get it back?

You can. Today’s post shows you how.

We Can’t Afford to Stay Unmotivated

We aren’t robots (yet). Feelings are an inevitable part of our daily productivity – or non-productivity.

We can draw up all the detailed schedules we want, but if we don’t take managing our emotions into account, we’ll often fall short.

It’s so easy to get frustrated and blame yourself when this happens. Didn’t move any closer to your goals? There must be something wrong with you!

We can’t afford to fall into those cycles of negativity. There are customers to serve. And bills to pay.

The solution, then, is to stop sabotaging ourselves and start deconstructing just how motivation works. That understanding will show us exactly what it takes to get – and stay – motivated at will.

5 Steps to Motivation on Command

You can’t afford to sit around and wait for motivation to come back on its own. That stack of bills won’t wait.

The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to reclaim your motivation. Next time you can’t get going, give these five tips a try:

1. Rack up Small Wins (Moving Toward a Defined Goal)

Image credit: Unsplash

Creating a successful business feels like trying to build a pyramid. You have a vision for what the end product is supposed to look like. But all you see are endless piles of stones.

The thought of picking up those bricks one by one and building simply overwhelms.

It’s practically impossible to stay motivated like this. As one study from Case Western Reserve University found, the brain actually motivates us to procrastinate when we’re faced with tasks that seem insurmountable.

If you hold a grand vision in your head without breaking it down into manageable steps, it’s easy to justify skipping the tasks that would actually help you achieve it. How much does writing today’s blog post really matter in your budding content empire?

You probably can see how this becomes a vicious cycle. You think of your vision, notice how far away you are from it, and abandon the incremental tasks that would take you closer.

Consider how you could take your huge dream and turn it into discrete action steps. What needs to happen within six months to bring you closer? How about three months? How about this week?

This works best if you can break it down to a daily level. Instead of building a pyramid, today’s goal becomes to lay a single brick. Do it, you’ll rack up a small win. These small wins add up, keeping you motivated from day to day.

Before you know it, a year will go by and you’ll find yourself looking back, wondering how made so much progress.

2. Schedule Your Motivation

Image credit: JESHOOTS

One of the most frustrating aspects of motivation is just how fickle it is. It seems to come and go at will. The need to make money and serve customers, on the other hand, is constant.

This parallels how we creative types sometimes wait for “the muse” to visit us with cool new ideas. Except if we want to be able to do our creative work professionally, we can’t afford to wait around.

Why? As an article in the Guardian pointed out, spending too much energy wondering when/where we’ll do creative work actually cuts into our ability to do it.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just manufacture motivation daily and put that part of our lives on autopilot?

We can!

We can schedule motivation just like we schedule a doctor’s appointment or haircut. Instead of worrying when motivation will show up – and stressing when it doesn’t – we can consciously build it.

What inspires you and makes you feel empowered? You can incorporate those things into a daily ritual for a regular shot of motivation.

Here’s a list of just a few things you might try:

  • Affirmations
  • Getting outdoors
  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Meditation
  • Reading about other massive successes in your niche
  • Visualizing your dreams
  • Working out

Imagine how you could spend the first 20 or 30 minutes of your day working through an inspiring routine. Make sure it isn’t difficult; you don’t a long motivation routine that becomes a burden itself.

Start small. Make each step so simple it doesn’t take any willpower to follow through. Focusing on just one step at a time (like just putting on your gym clothes if you want to workout) will build your willpower incrementally. Soon enough, you’ll have a chain of positive actions that becomes a ritual.

For many people, the best time to do this routine is right after they wake up. This ensures your day starts off on the right tone – before negative emotions have too much time to slip in.

We already build habits for eating healthy and working out. There’s no reason why we can’t build a habit for empowering our mental health as well!

3. Money Isn’t Everything

Image credit: ActionPlanet

Ever feel like you can’t get motivated even – when you’re making a pile of money?

Don’t laugh. This happens more often than you might think. Maybe even happened to you.

As author Daniel Pink pointed out in his book Drive, money isn’t the supreme motivator that many of us make it out to be.

One reason why you might be unmotivated is you’re spending too much time on lucrative projects that don’t excite you. Yes, you need to make money to keep the lights on. But doing fulfilling creative work requires something you believe in. Relying on money as a motivator only works for boring jobs.

Are you spending significant chunks of your day on projects that excite you? Or are you devoting all that time to high-paying (but personally meaningless) work?

This is an easy trap to fall into. It might be time to take an inventory of how you’re spending your days and make some decisions to free up time for more meaningful work.

There are always ways to do this. You could take a few less client jobs and cut expenses so you have the financial padding to pursue more meaningful work. Sometimes it’s a matter of spending more money. If you waste hours a day on boring admin work, outsourcing might be worth the investment.

Balancing finances and fulfillment is always a work in progress. The good news is you can always make small adjustments and move ever closer to doing work that’s both meaningful and profitable.

4. Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage

Image credit: Robert_z_Ziemi

You’ve been warned about peer pressure for decades. But sometimes it can work for you instead of against you.

It all comes down to how you use it.

The first step: thinking closely about how peer pressure is already affecting you. Make a list of the 10 people you spend the most time with. Do they tend to be positive and ambitious? Are they motivated go-getters… or people who sit back and complain about not getting enough done?

Your social environment has a huge impact on your own motivation levels. It’s so much harder to take your life to the next level when your friends just want you to come hang out on the couch.

It can work the opposite way too. Surrounding yourself with people who are bettering themselves motivates you to do the same. They don’t even have to consciously encourage you. Just being around them makes you want to elevate your game.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, now’s a great opportunity to assess your social circles. How can you spend more time with those who inspire you? You might need to cut back your time with negative people.

Thanks to the internet, living in the middle of nowhere is no longer an excuse. Neither is being an introvert. With a little effort, you can build a virtual community to motivate you. You can read their blog posts, listen to their podcasts and watch their videos. Whenever you need a quick burst of motivation, you can always hop on their social media feeds.

5. Give it Time

Image credit: Pexels

The better you are at something, the easier it is to feel inspired to do it. Competence breeds motivation.

That’s why the one thing you can’t do during times of low motivation is to quit. Give it time. A sense of progress – even if it’s tiny – can inject the motivation you need to keep going strong.

Many unmotivated people simply aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. They’ve fallen into a comfortable (but unfulfilling) rut. And in that rut it’s impossible to sense their skills progress. They’re doing the same boring work again and again without noticeable improvements.

When was the last project you took on that truly pushed you?

Riding that edge just beyond your comfort zone helps you grow. The work is challenging; but it also force you to learn and improve your skills. This is one of the core concepts of deep work and long-term career fulfillment.

It might be time to shake things up. To try something different.

When all else fails, revisit your work from a few years (or even months) ago. Note just how much you’ve improved. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves because it’s tough to see the tiny improvements that happen at the day-to-day level.

Your Turn

Sometimes running your own business feels like driving a car. Things are great when your gas tank is full of high-octane fuel. With motivation, it’s easy to roar down the highway and chase your goals.

But the car also doesn’t have a working gas gauge. That motivation fueling you can run out suddenly. Often when you least expect it.

Not anymore. With the tips above, you’ll be able to refill your gas tank and get moving again. You’ll also keep a steady supply around so you can serve customers when they’re counting on you the most.

Do you struggle with a lack of motivation? When it goes away, what do you do to get it back? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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by Corey Pemberton
Corey Pemberton is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps small businesses and software startups get more traffic and conversions online. You can find him on his website or follow him on Twitter.