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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

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 October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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