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A 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself

A 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself

Franz Kafka, Andy Warhol, Charles Darwin and Kurt Cobain. What did all these people have in common? They were all avid diarists. They were all keeping track daily of the events in their lives.

To be honest with you, I had no idea that a journal was such a common denominator among highly successful and influential characters. Famous 20th-century author Anaïs Nin once wrote:

“This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream, and indulge in refractions and defractions.. I must relive my life in the dream.”

Well, although I love Anais’ poetic reflection on the importance of a diary, I wouldn’t take it that far.

The reason a diary is so important, and so many significant figures tend to evangelize this importance, is because it actually works as a tool to help you monitor your progress on a daily basis.

Progress monitoring is an incredibly valuable habit when it comes to your personal and professional development and consequently your self-motivation levels. Without awareness and control over your progress, you tend to lose contact with your achievements and this is probably the strongest motivational inhibitor one can experience.

Breaking big challenges down into chunks isn’t original advice, of course.

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Our constant pursuit of achievements that will place us in a position of value in the eyes of others somehow disorients us from the idea of the achievement itself. Since our early childhood, our acts were incentivized by the reward we would receive from our parents. These results could be tangible or intangible in a sense that they could be manifested in the form of an appraisal or a present.

Whatever we did, we did it because we wanted to experience a degree of praise and admiration from our caretakers – a praise which would eventually give us strength and motivation to keep doing what we were doing.

The degree to which this praise and admiration was received, obviously, varies from individual to individual. The fact, however, is that the need for it was always there and will always be. Our ability to recognize its importance, however, incrementally affects our performance in our everyday endeavors.

Having big goals and aspirations is of huge importance because it gives you a vision, but monitoring your progress and celebrating small goals and victories is what will eventually materialize this vision. With all the pressures and distractions in our lives, it is all too easy to have our smaller achievements go unnoticed, even by ourselves. I have personally managed to make this idea a huge aspect of my overall emotional satisfaction and intrinsic motivation levels. More specifically I have created a small 2-step system that helps me stay motivated and engaged with my work on a daily basis and also helps me respect my progress even if it isn’t as big as I was expecting.

The 2-step system goes as follows:

1st Step – Create a task list and write in your diary every day

The first step consists of two parts, which are actually equally important.

The first part is to have a task list ready for the day where you will list all your work-related tasks. The task list needs to be well specified and it cannot exceed five tasks because you won’t be able to manage them efficiently.

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I will give you an example of what a well-specified task list looks like by taking a random daily task list from my schedule:

1

    The tasks here are quite random, but also quite usual for my daily life because they are all related to my main activity, which is blogging. Additionally, they are listed by level of importance, which suggests that I am not allowed to move to the next task if I haven’t completed the previous one. This rule helps me become more disciplined and focused.

    Most of the time, I manage to complete all the tasks and that gives me extreme pleasure and fulfillment. But even if I don’t and let’s say I didn’t manage to complete two or three of the least important tasks, I can easily move them to the task list for the next day without feeling bad because I managed to complete the most important ones.

    The feeling I experience whenever I manage to strike out the completed tasks is priceless. It fills me with a sense of immense pleasure and enjoyment to know that I managed to finish hard work and that is needed more than anything after a stressful day.

    The second part is the journal part.

    A journal for me is probably one of the most effective and impactful ways of individualistic expression. The words that you write down reflect your emotional state throughout the day and help you release your anger and pain or elevate your happiness and excitement. By logging your daily experiences and achievements, you create a sense of purpose within yourself. Even if you didn’t accomplish anything important during your day, the way you express it in your journal will reframe your whole reality.

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    Never assume that your life is boring. You are the hero of your own story and everything you do, even if you consider it simple or mundane, should be expressed through appreciation and grandeur. This is probably the most powerful mind hack I have ever learned.

    2nd Step – Reward yourself on a monthly basis

    Now, understanding and being aware of your progress is good and all but there is also something very important when it comes to lasting motivation that we shouldn’t ignore – the power of rewards.

    Rewards or “treats” may sound like a self-indulgent, frivolous strategy, but it’s not. Because forming good habits can be draining, treats can play an important role. When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits. Studies show that people who got a little treat, in the form of receiving a surprise gift or watching a funny video, gained in self-control. It’s a secret of adulthood:

    If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.

    When we don’t get any treats, we begin to feel burned-out, depleted, and resentful.

    Like I said before, it brings us back to our childhood when we were usually expecting gifts from our parents. Whether we got those gifts or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the need was always there and will always be. However, you can’t still expect your parents to reward you, but now you are the one who can reward yourself.

    The best timeframe to reward yourself is on a monthly basis because if you do it more often the crave won’t be that strong and also you can’t invest money on something that has value and you can appreciate more.

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    The nature of the present is up to you. Be it something that you enjoy immensely, like a dinner in an expensive restaurant or tickets for football game, or a subscription service where you can attach the following message:

    2

      Even if you don’t reach all the milestones or don’t work as hard as you expected to, the reward will keep you in a state of constant mental arousal, helping you to keep on going. And this is probably what matters the most.

      In closing

      To sum up, I wrote this piece mainly to help you understand that your life will constantly be an attempt to balance between your inner child and your adult self.

      Both characters are equally powerful and equally important to your emotional and social wellbeing.

      Neglecting one of them or failing to understand its place in your life will only cause confusion and regret.

      Don’t suppress your inner child. It was a huge part of your life and it will always be. Back then it was your caretakers who were responsible for it. Now it’s you and only you.

      Featured photo credit: Will van Wingerden via unsplash.com

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      Last Updated on October 16, 2019

      Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

      Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

      Do you like making mistakes?

      I certainly don’t.

      Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

      Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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      Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

      Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

      • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
      • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
      • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
      • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

      We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

      If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

      Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

      Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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      When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

      Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

      We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

      It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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      Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

      Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

      Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

      1. Point us to something we did not know.
      2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
      3. Deepen our knowledge.
      4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
      5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
      6. Inform us more about our values.
      7. Teach us more about others.
      8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
      9. Show us when someone else has changed.
      10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
      11. Remind us of our humanity.
      12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
      13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
      14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
      15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
      16. Invite us to better choices.
      17. Can teach us how to experiment.
      18. Can reveal a new insight.
      19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
      20. Can serve as a warning.
      21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
      22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
      23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
      24. Remind us how we are like others.
      25. Make us more humble.
      26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
      27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
      28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
      29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
      30. Expose our true feelings.
      31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
      32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
      33. Point us in a more creative direction.
      34. Show us when we are not listening.
      35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
      36. Can create distance with someone else.
      37. Slow us down when we need to.
      38. Can hasten change.
      39. Reveal our blind spots.
      40. Are the invisible made visible.

      Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

      The secret to handling mistakes is to:

      • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
      • Have an experimental mindset.
      • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

      When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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      When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

      It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

      When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

      Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

      Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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      Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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