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Habits and Motivation: Master Both for Big Results

Habits and Motivation: Master Both for Big Results

Do you struggle to feel motivated in certain aspects of your life?

Whether it’s in your studies, your career, your fitness, or just your day to day routine… we don’t always ‘enjoy’ every minute of what we’re doing. And, it’s normal to have days where you may feel a little less motivated or energized.

But, if you’re constantly finding a lack of motivation throughout your day, then you might need to start digging deeper to find out why.

Gaining motivation is easier than you may think. And, it goes hand in hand with–none other than–your habits!

That’s right!

You may wonder “what do habits have to do with feeling motivated?” Many people don’t consider habits as a key factor of their personal success because they simply see them as routines. They don’t necessarily make the connection to personal success.

And, that’s because most people associate external factors with success — such as luck, education, or family background. While habits are largely internal, they are often overlooked.

But, the truth is, habits dictate almost every aspect of our lives.

They are responsible for the majority of our daily actions from big to small. Think about how you begin your day, what you typically eat for lunch, or even the way you commute to work. Each one of these are habits!

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Habits are Responsible for Motivating or Demotivating Us

Because habits are so ingrained in our lives, they also affect our motivation levels. Certain habits or routines that we pick up encourage motivation in us, while others may distract, drain or demotivate us.

So, the solution to staying motivated is to learn how to control your habits, so that you can steer and use them as a tool to create consistent and systematic inputs or actions towards an output or outcome that you want to achieve. In this case, feeling motivated again!

The first step to controlling your habits, is to know exactly what a habit is, how it is formed, and how to make and break habits to construct better use of your time.

The Two Type of Habits

There are two types of habits: conscious habits and hidden habits.

Conscious habits are habits that are easy to recognize. Usually, they require conscious input for you to keep them up. If you remove that input or attention, the habit would most likely go away. It’s easy to identify these conscious habits and you can quickly review them yourself.

Examples of conscious habits include waking up to an alarm every morning, or going for an evening run everyday.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that our brains have already turned into auto-pilot mode. We are generally completely unaware of them until some external factors or sources reveal it, such as someone pointing out your behavior to you.

Yet, hidden habits make up majority of our habits! They have become internalized into our lifestyle and decision making process, so you almost don’t realize it when a habit is ‘acting up’.

Take some time to think through your habits and try to determine which ones are hidden, and which ones are conscious habits. Also, think about whether or not they’re habits that contribute to you feeling positive and motivated.

Now that you have a clearer picture of what habits are, let’s move on to motivation.

How Motivation Manifests

Whether you’re aware of it or not, motivation is a huge force in your life; and it needs to be harnessed so that you can make the most of it.

Though, many people think of being either motivated or demotivated as a simple “on” or “off” switch.

But, motivation is a flow, not a switch.

What I mean is this: motivation is composed of various layers, starting from the core and flowing out to the surface.The surface is what you see, but the real process is driven from the core; and that’s the most important part.

To better understand this flow, I’ve broken it down into 3 parts:

  1. Support – Enablers
  2. Surface – Acknowledgement
  3. Core – Your Purpose

Enablers are what support your goals. This could be people, finances, or anything that helps or enables you to reach your goals. They will magnify the core you have or increase any momentum that you build.

Acknowledgement is any type of external recognition that motivates you, such as respect, compliments and praise, emotional support, feedback, or constructive criticism.

It could also be found through affiliation of others who share the same goal as you.

Acknowledgement is most often what you see on the surface when you look at other people’s external recognition or prestige.

And, finally, the true force behind your Motivation flow is the innermost core – your Purpose. 

Purpose is a Pre-requisite to Motivation

Having a purpose is what separates the motivated from the demotivated.

Knowing what your purpose is, no matter what you are doing, will help you form habits and routines that can drive unlimited motivation.Your purpose derives from two things: Having Meaning, and Forward Movement.

So, how do you do these two things?

Having Meaning is simple. Just ask yourself a question: Why?

Why are you going after a certain goal? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivation will be vague and unclear.

Even though motivation provides you the energy to do something, that energy needs to be focused somewhere, or else it has nowhere to go!

Yet, Having Meaning isn’t as complex as it may seem. The only guidelines is that it should add value to something or someone that matters to you.

Next, is gaining Forward Movement. In short, it means that you just keep going towards your goal through momentum. And, to keep up this momentum, you have to keep moving forward.

Even small amounts of progress can be just as motivating, as long as they keep coming.

Creating a simple progress indicator like checklists or milestones, are a great way to visualize your small (and big) wins. They trigger your brain to recognize and acknowledge them, giving you small boosts of motivational energy.

Motivation and Habits Rely on One Another

I hope you can now see how motivation and habits go hand in hand.There is an alignment in your routines, your roles and responsibilities, which will reduce any distractions causing you to feel demotivated!

By knowing what your purpose is, you can be mindful of your habits, assess and improve on them, and your motivation will automatically increase because you’re creating positive trends and working towards something that you truly want.

Featured photo credit: Tikkho Maciel via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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