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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

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10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Whenever you hit a rough patch in life, it can seem like the problems you’re confronting are unique to you and that the whole world is closing in. It might be that you are struggling to find a way out and just can’t see the light of hope anywhere when the going gets tough.

Thankfully, although you might not see it, there is always hope. Nothing lasts forever—not even bad times—and doing things like remembering why you started in the first place and practicing using your courage muscle are just a couple of things that can shorten the difficult times.

If you could find a way to not only survive but thrive when the going gets tough, how would your life change for the better?

Here are ten thing you can do to make that happen today.

1. Realize How Far You Have Come

Whenever you get discouraged on the path to wherever you want to go, it is usually because you are only looking forward, not around you or behind you. Your journey through life will last until your final day, so it is no wonder that you still see a long and sometimes daunting path ahead.

To keep going despite this, it’s important to take a moment or two to look around. Look at where you are standing now compared to when you first started. Look at how many obstacles and challenges are behind you that you managed to overcome successfully.

The benefits of reflective practice are also extensive, and it is little wonder why.[1]

Looking back at how far you have come is usually the fire you need to keep on burning brightly into the future.

2. Remember Why You Started

When the going gets tough, you need something to cling to in order to keep your grit and remind yourself why you started doing something in the first place. Without this all-important “why,” you will be quick to wander from your path.

Whenever things are at their worst, your number one reason for doing the thing is going to be what pulls you through.

As ex-Navy Seal and motivation master David Goggins puts it:

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“‘Why am I here?’ If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split-second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!”

Sometimes, life can be a bit of a fight, especially within yourself. Therefore, having your reasons for continuing will always help pull you out when times are tough. Try writing these down and posting them in places you look at every day to help them have even more impact.

3. Make It a Habit to Move Forward

Habits are some of the strongest behavioral predictors that we have. Most of our habits happen in our subconscious and are triggered by external or internal cues.

The great thing about habits is that they can be formed through conscious, repeated behaviors, and when practiced enough, they can eventually take their place in the subconscious and guide your life.

Use positive habits when the going gets tough.

    Of course, you want good habits to be guiding your life in the background, not bad ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit to always move forward.

    There are going to be slip-ups, bad days, and circumstances that blow you off course, but moving forward is all about getting back on track as fast as possible. If you can make that a habit, you can always get closer to where you want to go.

    4. Use If-Then Planning

    When the going gets tough in your life, one of the most effective frameworks that you can put into place is called if-then planning.

    This is the simplified version of something called Implementation Intention, a concept created by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in the mid-’90s[2]. It helps you to make sense of confusing situations and to be able to take action when you are really struggling.

    The simplified process is as follows:

    “If x happens, I will do y.”

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    For example:

    “If I start to have negative thoughts, I will take ten seconds to just breathe.”

    “If I feel extremely stressed for three days in a row, I will take the fourth day off to recover and reset.”

    If-then planning puts a strategy in place for when times are tough. It takes away the element of thinking, planning, and worrying, as you already know exactly what you need to do in each situation.

    The beauty of using if-then is that you can change the if and then for different situations based on whatever works best for you at any given moment.

    5. Find Some Mentors

    With the internet becoming more accessible than it has ever been, there are so many ways to get a peek into the world’s top minds and see what they do in their own lives when the going gets tough.

    Most successful people have had to overcome some serious struggles to get to where they are. Do a simple search online, and you will no doubt find out about all of the challenges that your favorite people have had to overcome.

    You can check out this article for more information on what to look for in a mentor.

    Because of this, you should try to take inspiration from these people and find your own mentors. It’s worth recognizing that nobody trying to live their best life can ever get through it without their fair share of challenges to overcome. That’s just part of the hero’s journey.

    6. Get out of Your Head

    Sometimes, all of the reasoning, thinking, planning, and ruminating in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, for the serial thinkers and problem-solvers out there, it is oftentimes that too much time in your head results in even more struggle rather than a release of it.

    Yes, some things can be solved by thinkin, but when the going gets really tough, it is usually just pure heart, emotion, and grit that are going to carry you through. Your mind can become a tyrant, and it is worth being aware of this.

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    When you feel your own thoughts weighing you down, it is time to step out of your mind for a little while and get into your body. Lift some weights, go for a run, or take a pleasant walk.

    The mind and body are much more connected than most people think—especially when it comes to emotions and fears—and doing something beneficial for the body often benefits the unsettled mind as well.[3]

    7. Ruthlessly Forgive Yourself

    One of the worst things you can do when the going gets tough is to come down hard on yourself. Everyone has these external and internal struggles, and the harder you are on yourself for having them, the more difficult and traumatic the episodes will be when you inevitably slip up.

    A lot of people are far harder on themselves than they are on other people, and to keep going in tough times, you need to be just as empathetic with yourself as you would be with your best friend.

    The hard times are much easier to get through when you are at peace with yourself. You will be astonished by how much less pressure you feel when you take the time to forgive your own mistakes.

    8. Take Smaller Steps

    It is common for people to stumble in life because they are simply taking on too much at once. Whether it be too much ambition, unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, or some extra curveballs, big steps can sometimes be too much to take.

    The truth about big steps is that they are rare, disruptive, and difficult to keep up without crumbling. The big steps—the real life-changing goals and dreams that you have—can often be broken into much smaller steps that are more manageable and that will get you to the same place.

    If the going is getting particularly tough, it might be the case that you are simply trying to do too much at once. Try taking smaller, more manageable steps, and see if obstacles and difficulties become easier to navigate.

    9. Use Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage

    Everyone will agree that the courage we have stored within ourselves is often finite and difficult to sustain for long periods. We tend to think that making a big change in our life and getting out of a rut requires courage for long periods that we simply cannot manage.

    The good news is that this isn’t true. Most of the pivotal moments of change in your life—including pulling yourself out of a hole when the going gets tough—come from small, courageous decisions in short, precise moments.

    Quite often, using twenty seconds of insane courage when it is needed is enough to completely change the trajectory of our lives. Whether it be asking for that promotion, deciding to go to the gym for the first time in months, or having the courage to break through your insecurities and ask someone out, most of these only require a few seconds of insane courage.

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    To learn more about tapping into a deep sense of emotional courage, check out this TED Talk with Susan David:

    10. Accept That Your Motivation Will Wane

    One of the main reasons that people get discouraged and struggle to keep going in hard times is that they never expected their motivation to dip.

    When we start a project or enter a relationship or take on something new and exciting in our lives, our motivation is high, and we are in a mindset of excitement. We start thinking about all of the positives that could come from these things.

    However, as time wears on, motivation levels inevitably drop, and you start to focus on the negatives of what’s happening or the added responsibility that you forgot to consider.

    When this happens, you have two choices:

    1. You can put on your rose-colored glasses of the past and falsely remember how perfect everything was.
    2. You can put on your realistic glasses, face the difficulties, and keep moving forward into something better.

    The true test of character comes when you hit a dip, motivation wanes, and you just don’t feel like doing stuff anymore. The secret is to realize that all of this is temporary and that you don’t need motivation to act.

    It’s nice to have motivation, but the true test of character comes when motivation inevitably wanes. In those moments, will you keep going?

    Final Thoughts

    So there you have it. Each of these ten ideas for how to keep going when the going gets tough is versatile enough to be applied to almost any difficult situation that you find yourself in.

    Life is going to present many difficulties. This isn’t something to fear but something to embrace. With these steps, you can navigate these stormy waters a little easier.

    More Inspiration to Help You Stay Strong

    Featured photo credit: Gaelle Marcel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness
    [2] American Psychologist: Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans
    [3] The International Journal of Psychoanalysis: Emotional Processing: The Mind-Body Connection

    More by this author

    Daniel Riley

    Daniel is a writer who specialises in personal development and helping others become the best version of themselves.

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    Published on September 27, 2021

    What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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    What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

    We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

    In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

    What Is Incentive Motivation?

    Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

    The Roots of Incentive Motivation

    Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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    Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

    One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

    “Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

    Examples of Incentive Motivation

    In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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    Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

    Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

    Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

    How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

    Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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    Fear Motivation

    In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

    Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

    Social Motivation

    Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

    The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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    Before You Get Up and Go…

    Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

    Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

    For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

    Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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    So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

    Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
    [2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
    [3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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