One of the most challenging parts of working toward your goals is staying motivated. It’s easy at first when you’re excited about changing your life, but eventually, that enthusiasm wears off, and you give up. You’ve got to learn how to get motivated by finding the sources of motivation.
If you want consistent motivation to stick to your goals, you must take advantage of the three sources of motivation, in the past, present, and future:
- Your past wins and strengths.
- The power of acting right now, even before you feel like it.
- Creating a vision of your best possible future.
You might be surprised to find out that the motivation you seek is already there. All you have to do is explore your past, present, and future to find it!
Source of Motivation 1: Action
“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action.”
– Dr. Jerome Bruner
This is one of my favorite quotes because of the powerful advice it contains. The main idea is that the best motivation doesn’t come from thinking, but instead from acting.
We all love our motivational songs, videos, books, and even thoughts. Those have their place and time when it comes to envisioning a better future. You need to have a long-term plan for your life to live intentionally, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
But just thinking inspirational thoughts alone isn’t going to give you the incentive to act right now.
If you want to change your life, you must put in that work every day, week after week, for years. If all you’re doing is thinking about a better life, it’ll never come.
Instead, just as Bruner teaches, you must immediately begin acting if you want real motivation.
One night I felt disappointed about not reaching some of my goals that day. I made a plan to do better the next day and even envisioned it to get committed to working hard at it.
When it was time to get up and get going, there was still resistance to start my morning routine of running and writing, as there always is. But I decided to push myself just to begin.
As I began running, I started to feel better. My racing heart got me pumped up as did the music I was listening to. I felt like I could really do everything I had promised myself that I would.
The moment I sat down to write, the resistance was there again. I had to consciously force myself to get going even though part of me didn’t want to. Once I did, though, I actually felt like writing!
That’s the difference between the 1% and everybody else. Those who perform their best know that their desire to do a task is never stronger before they begin than it is after they start.
Source of Motivation 2: Your Past Wins
I once saw a video of a woman holding a jar with jelly beans falling into it one by one. Eventually, the container is full, and the video shows a second, empty jar on the table.
A single jelly bean falls into this jar, and the woman drops the one she’s holding, spilling everything she had onto the floor.
This is an analogy for how your brain processes positive and negative events. You might have hundreds of positive experiences, but that one awful one seems to take over your mind.
Why is this?
According to research, it’s because you have to think more deeply about negative emotions than positive ones. That means more processing for your brain, a stronger connection, and, thus, a more powerful memory of them.
But you have more positive experiences in life than negative ones. Each one of those happy memories of success is a potential source of motivation.
The only trouble is, recalling them to activate their power doesn’t come naturally.
To fix this, keep a gratitude and wins journal on your phone. If you use Evernote, you can sync the notes between your phone or computer so you can add and review them from anywhere.
Then you can refer back to the time that you persevered through to reach an ambitious goal, or the day a neighbor thanked you for your help, or when a work colleague complimented you on a project you did.
Each of these will give you a powerful motivation boost as you remember your strengths and that you are a good, ambitious, hard-working person. This is the ticket to overcoming the power of negative thoughts and sticking to your goals.
You are awesome; you just need to help yourself remember it!
Source of Motivation 3: Future Vision
We’ve talked about the power of the past and present. The final way to get motivated is by looking to the future.
If you don’t have a plan for where you want to go, it isn’t easy to find purpose in the mundanity of everyday actions. You start to go to work, come home and relax, sleep, and repeat, all on autopilot.
Contrast this with the power of waking up energized because you have a vision of where you want to be in 12 weeks. Imagine how much more motivated you’ll feel when that is part of a longer-term mental image of where your life can be.
Each day is a tiny brushstroke in the big picture of your best life. You have the choice of whether or not you want to intentionally design what that painting looks like by identifying where you want to go and who you want to be.
Those brushstrokes can make up a messy, incoherent, unfulfilling life, or the masterpiece of your best life. The choice is up to you.
Figuring out this vision isn’t too difficult, either. My favorite exercise for doing this comes from Pat Flynn, and it’s called the Airport Test.
How to Get Motivated by Taking The Airport Test
Imagine that five years from now you run into an old friend at the airport. They ask how your life is, and you respond, “awesome!” What about your life makes it so great?
Journal about the answer to this question within five realms of life:
After you’ve made it, you need to make sure you refer back to it often.
To keep it in my mind each day, I wrote this out on a physical piece of paper and put it onto my vision board in my bedroom. As I walk past it, I often stop to ponder on how I’m doing and envision that perfect life.
I also set aside a time each quarter and year to read through the whole thing and reflect.
By doing both of these things, you will keep that vision strong, which will help you stay motivated even on the most difficult of days. I know because it’s worked for me, and many of the items I wrote on my original Airport Test have already become a reality!
It’s hard to know how to get motivated to work toward achieving your goals consistently. You can get that constant motivation if you look to the past, present, and future.
Your past wins help you identify your strengths and utilize them each day.
When you just begin working in each moment regardless of whether or not you want to, the motivation will come.
And having a vision of where you want to go in the future keeps you centered and intentional so that each tiny step has a purpose.
I’ve done each of these things myself, and I know that they work. I still use them every day to keep my motivation high, and it makes accomplishing my goals much easier!
I believe that you can do the same, all you need to do to get started is make a list of your past wins and future vision and practice beginning work even when you don’t want to!