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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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