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Motivate Yourself: Three Tricks to Kick Your Own Ass

Is there a plan good enough to motivate anyone?

I am not judging you.

If you are used to watching television on your sofa for the whole day, munching on popcorn and nuggets – that may just be your default setting, your very own lifestyle. If you are working day in day out with no time for your family, that may just be how you want it to be. You may live this life for years without any regret. People have different situations and different priorities in life. So unless I literally am in your shoes, judging you is – as Joey Tribbiani would put it – a ‘Moo’ point – it’s a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter.

But things become tricky when you find it uncomfortable – when you start asking yourself – “What am I doing!?”or ask someone else that same question. Whether you are trying to motivate yourself into moving past a stagnant routine, trying to motivate your kid into taking charge of his life or trying to get that push into your employees before pulling off a successful venture, this short post might just tell you which ingredients you need.

Here are three tricks described below to give you (or others around you) that jump start you need. Use them judiciously. Just like the same medicine is not suitable for every ailment, not everything will work for everyone or in every situation.

1. Creative visualization

I wrote about the concept of Dreamwish a few days back on Lifehack – how it pays to visualize something vividly before you embark on a task that will matter to you.

There are certain areas where such creative visualization works wonders to motivate even the worst procrastinators. If you are trying to lose weight, imagining your body trimmed and fit after an exercise will give you a kick start into hitting the gym with increased vigor and let you control your diet as well. In any form of athletics, creative visualization is something that some of the biggest champions in the world have used. Surfers, skiers or those who paraglide have reported great success when they went for the attempt after imagining a successful experience in their minds. Stuntmen in movies often imagine a fall before they attempt it. It keeps them cool, to have lived it already once in their minds.

Even five minutes of such imagination a day will change your outlook and give you a fresh impetus. Close your eyes and visualize yourself a winner. Make the picture as vivid in your mind as possible. Add colors, sounds, and feel the sense of winning for those brief minutes. Make the imagination bright and beautiful. Stay there for 5-10 minutes at least and then emerge from the visualization calm and relaxed.

However, if you are using it to improve your academic scores, or motivate someone to do the same, use it with a pinch of salt. Do not imagine you have good grades and a great result. Doing that actually decreases your urge to study. Imagine that you have put all your efforts into your studies and your hard work is making you happy.

The Concept of Dreamwish should be used more to imagine the process rather than the outcome. After you have imagined working out when you look at the mirror, feel the joy and imagine the happiness.

If you are a person who craves attention or appreciation from others, imagining yourself from another person’s point of view can be more helpful to motivate you than imagining from your own perspective. You can also combine the two: first see it from your own perspective and then through the other person’s eyes.

2. Zeigranik effect to overcome procrastination

About 20% of the population are proven procrastinators. Nothing seems to motivate them. Why? A whole lot of reasons – fear of failure, compulsive perfectionism, low self-control, low self-confidence, inability to see things as in small parts and being scared of the whole, propensity to boredom, etc.

If you have a reason for it, suck it up. Nothing can motivate you unless you let go of that reason for failure. There is no place for losers like that in the real world, and believe me, I know! Get over it and get to the job! Start small, but start!

Have you ever wondered how waiters in restaurants remember every tiny order placed on every table in the room, to its smallest details? This is true all over the world, whether they have written it down or not, they remember! However, there is a strange twist in it. Over a series of experiments, Russian Psychiatrist Bluma Zeigarniuk noticed that the waiters usually forgot the orders just as soon as the bill is paid. Paying the bill gives them a sense of closure, which makes them forget the details instantly. This reflects a very interesting basic human nature.

If there is something outstanding, we get bothered by it. As soon as we get closure, our mind gets relaxed and worry free. The pending job creates an irritation to motivate us to complete our job.  The mental tension which comes along with an unfinished job can be used effectively to stop you from procrastination.

If you are putting off a job for later, try starting it ‘just for five minutes’ even in your busy schedule. You will find that you automatically develop a drive within, an irritation which will force you to complete the task at hand. If you are is scared of painting the big picture, just pick up the brush and make the first stroke today! That will be enough to motivate.

You do not have to write that three-page answer paper, you just have to write the first line. You do not have to lose 10 kilos in two months, you just have to run on the treadmill for 15 minutes today. You do not have to finish writing  that script in 20 days, you just need to write the first line. Get the picture?

3. Write Your Eulogy

Yeah, okay. Don’t be scared by the header here. That’s a bit extreme. You don’t have to die to motivate yourself, or kill anyone. Just write what you would say if today was your last day. You would not despair about that Knicks game you missed on the TV or that pizza you really wanted to have today. You will miss bigger things, I hope.

A eulogy is not required in the literal sense. You could also write about the end of the present stage of your life. For example:

I am turning 40 in two years. What have I achieved?

Be realistic. Describe your personality, achievements, strengths, personal life, professional success, behavior towards others, etc. Describe your aims in terms of Money, health, relationships, fame or higher purpose in life.

Being in the face of death often makes people realize the bigger picture. We tend to focus on things that matter to us more than insignificant things. Your perspective might change. The sense of incomplete business will motivate you to act.

Making to-do lists can also greatly motivate you towards a successful career.

Why we cannot motivate

Most people around us do not even know that we are capable of taking charge of our lives. There are just a lot of things uncertain around us. How do we motivate ourselves when nothing is in control?

Last year I went backpacking in Thailand. In one of the many elephant sanctuaries around Bangkok, I came across a baby elephant tied to a pillar with a chain. He wanted to break free but could not. The chain was too strong for him, and it was too difficult to break away. There was his mother standing few meters away, tied with a jute cord. Three thousand kilos of pure muscle, largest living being on land tied with a flimsy piece of rope and she did not even try to move a muscle. She just knew that her bondage was too strong, she had tried when she was young. Right now, she knew she would fail. What was the point of even attempting?


That is how many of us are – bound by our past, and at times just too weak to even try to break free. Nothing is able to motivate us because we are so certain of uncertainty, so sure that nothing is in our control.

Get over that! Kick yourself in your ass, and when your employees, your family or friends need it, learn to kick them hard too!

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