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Published on July 22, 2020

What Is Motivation And How It Can Change Your Life

What Is Motivation And How It Can Change Your Life

You’ve been thinking about learning to drive since you were a teenager. You believe having a car would give you freedom, choice, and adventure—as well as enhancing your career prospects.

But despite these beliefs and the encouragement of your friends and family, you’ve never gotten around to learning to drive.

What has stopped you?

Well, you might blame it on a lack of time or a lack of money. But in reality, it’s probably due to a lack of motivation. And this lack of motivation could well be holding you back in all areas of your life.

Now, imagine if you had zest and boundless motivation. You would not only learn to drive and get yourself a car, but you’d be excited to take on other big goals too. And with lots to aim for—you’d be passionate and alive.

The Motive Behind Motivation

Firstly, have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “what is motivation?”

Well, while I could give you a long, detailed answer, I prefer to share with you this simple definition:

Motivation is the driving force behind your actions.

Take eating, for instance. When you wake up in the morning, you’re probably motivated to grab a bite to eat. And even if you usually skip breakfast, I’m sure that by lunchtime you’re super-motivated to eat some food!

In this case, hunger motivates you to find and eat something. So, are you hungry in other areas of your life?

If you want to be successful, then you’ll need to be.

Wealthy people are hungry for money, fit people are hungry for health, and wise people are hungry for knowledge.

It’s their hunger that pushes them to succeed. Without this, they would probably just be daydreamers who never achieved anything major in life.

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The good news is that it’s never too late to learn how to become motivated and to inject that power into all areas of your life.

Let’s look now at exactly how to do that.

Making Motivation Work for You

There are five elements of becoming motivated that you’ll need to learn and adopt if you’re serious about changing your life. Each element will help boost your motivation, but all five together will super-charge it!

I’ll talk about these five elements and give you examples so you can see each element in action.

1. Finding Inspiration

The number one cause of feeling unmotivated is having nothing to be inspired by. If nothing excites you, then nothing will motivate you.

Is there a way to find inspiration? You bet there is!

The trick is to go back in your life to the times when fun, adventure, and enthusiasm ruled the day. This could be last year, five years ago, or even back to when you were a child.

One thing is certain: there were days when your life was exciting and purposeful.

It may have been your first kiss, your first holiday with friends, or the thrill of getting your first job. Think back to how you felt at that time—probably on top of the world. That’s the emotion that you need to rekindle in your life.

Another reason to look back in your life is that you may have given up following dreams that other people (possibly your parents) told you were a waste of time. These might be things like becoming a professional musician, actor, or sports star.

We all had ambitious dreams like these when we were young. But more often than not, these dreams were crushed by adults who told us to be ‘realistic’ about our lives.

If you want to be excited about life again, then allow yourself to dream once more.

This could lead you, for example, to join a drama class to train as an actor. Even if this remains as a hobby, you’ll start to taste enthusiasm in your life again. And you’ll be able to take this inspiration and use it in different areas of your life.

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2. Goal Setting

American football coach Vince Lombardi once said:

“Success demands singleness of purpose.”

In other words, you must know what you want before you have any chance of getting it.

When you start to set goals for yourself, you’ll quickly find that you have purpose and motivation. It’s the difference between sailing to a specific destination or just letting your boat drift upon the ocean.

The secret to goal setting is to start off small. Choose some easy to achieve goals like giving up caffeine for one day a week or waking up every day 30 minutes earlier than you normally do.

Once you’ve achieved your small goals, you’ll notice that you’ll have grown in self-confidence and belief. That’s when you’ll be ready to set some bigger goals. These might be things such as finding a new job, clearing your debts, or even traveling the world!

Bigger goals may seem hard to achieve. But you’ll make them more palatable by breaking them down into bite-sized chunks.

For example, if your goal is to find a new job, then you could break this down into the following steps:

  • Decide what job you really want to do.
  • Tailor your resume to match this job.
  • Practice your interview skills.
  • Register with recruitment agencies.
  • Take on any advice they recommend (such as boosting your qualifications).
  • Go along to interviews.
  • Celebrate when you’re offered the role you want!

Goal setting is fundamental to being motivated. It costs nothing to do, yet it will reward you abundantly.

3. Persistence

The third element that you must have to be motivated is persistence. This trait will keep you going when the going inevitably gets tough.

Just think of a runner in a marathon. If they reach halfway but feel half-dead (most runners say this happens to them), then without the element of persistence, they’ll probably call it quits.

The winners are the people who keep running until the finish life—however arduous that may be for them.

It’s the same story when it comes to your hobbies, relationships, or career. If you quit when things aren’t going so well, you’ll never find the happiness and satisfaction that come from staying the course.

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Life is always a mixture of ups and downs. This is why you must be persistent if you want to achieve big things in your life.

4. Getting Support

If you try to do everything yourself, you’ll set yourself up for failure.

The reality is that to achieve any big goal you will need the help and support of other people. It’s just not possible (or desirable) to do everything yourself.

To give you an example of this, let me tell you a short story from the early days of Lifehack.

Back in 2005, the website was just starting to take off, and I was getting lots of new subscribers. Some companies were even asking to advertise on the site.

This was at the time when I was writing the content, marketing the content, answering subscriber queries, maintaining the website, etc. Lifehack really was a one-man band at the start.

But as its popularity soared, I found myself becoming too busy to handle everything that needed doing. That’s when I decided to hire some people to help me!

Initially, I hired someone to look after the finances, someone to look after the marketing, and someone to help me out with creating new content.

It was amazing the difference this made. Instead of being stressed out and working all the hours under the sun (and moon!), I was able to find time to plan the way forward for Lifehack and to create a strategy for success.

And it worked. Lifehack is now one of the most visited self-improvement sites in the world.

So how about you? Do you try to do everything yourself?

If yes, then you MUST break out of this habit if you want to achieve big things.

I’d also recommend you consider getting support from a mentor. Read our article How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed for how to get started with this.

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5. Rewarding Yourself

The final essential element for boosting your motivation is to reward yourself as you achieve your goals — whether these are big or small.

For instance, imagine that you set a goal to redecorate your home. This would probably include purchasing and fitting items, such as new carpets and curtains. But it would likely also include repainting most of the rooms in your home.

Now, it would be unrealistic to expect to redecorate your whole place in a day. Instead, you’d probably want to do a little at a time. Maybe something like this:

  • Choosing new carpets
  • Choosing new curtains and blinds
  • Choosing paint for each room
  • Purchasing the items
  • Arranging a carpet fitter
  • Painting the walls and ceilings (you might choose to do this yourself)
  • Fitting the curtains
  • Inviting your friends and family around to see your new-look home!

Each of these steps may take you a few hours or a few days. But to keep you motivated, my recommendation is to reward yourself when you complete each step.

A small reward for the steps listed above could be going out to get a coffee and cake at your local café. A big reward for having completed your redecoration goal could be to go out for a meal with your friends or partner.

By rewarding yourself as you go along—and at the end—you’ll keep yourself focused on completing your goal, and you’ll be excited to set the next one!

Start the Motor!

Have you noticed that the pronunciation of motivation sounds like MOTORvation?

While I’m not encouraging you to use the incorrect spelling, I would like you to think of motivation as a motor—one that you can switch on to help drive you forward in all areas of your life.

When motivated, you’ll be unstoppable. You’ll no longer procrastinate and look for excuses for not doing stuff. Instead, you’ll be a super-powered success story!

So turn the key and get started!

Featured photo credit: Tegan Mierle via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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