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How to Motivate Yourself

How to Motivate Yourself


    Bruno Mars

    is not alone when he wakes up singing,

    “Oh, today I don’t feel like doing anything. I just want to lay in my bed.”

    That’s just human nature, and some days it’s harder than others to entice ourselves to get to the gym or drag on our running shoes like crack fictional investigator Kinsey Millhone, who runs if only to be able to eat Quarter Pounders whenever she feels like it.

    But the one who wins the ongoing battle of wills within us is ultimately the one that signals success or failure. And those who can overcome that internal naysayer more often than not stand a better chance of seeing successful results, no matter the mission.

    I want it. I really, really want it.

    Consider Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”. The holiday tale about a boy on a mission starring Peter Billingsley has now become a cult classic on TBS, in part from its marathon run on the cable network every Christmas Eve, but also because of its heartwarming message about Christmas dreams that do come true.

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    And when it comes to motivation, few can match the determination and focus of Ralphie, who wanted nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder BB gun, despite myriad warnings about the gun’s safety. He wrote classroom essays about it, sat on a department store Santa’s lap to ask for it and placed ads for the gun strategically throughout the house for it his mom and dad to see in time for Christmas.

    Ralphie was motivated to invest so much effort into enticing his parents to buy him that gun because he was motivated by desire, and in the big picture could imagine himself with his Red Ryder, chasing burglars away as he starred in his own Wild West show, circa 1940.

    For Ralphie, the gun itself was an external, or extrinsic motivation, but the process of acquiring it was intrinsic motivation (or internal) as the fantasies of owning it gave him so much pleasure that writing essays seemed as if it was no work at all, even for a boy who viewed homework as an elaborate plot to steal his young joy.

    And through his efforts, Ralphie ultimately merged the two main sources of motivation that drive virtually everything we do.

    The same holds true for an Olympic hopeful, who strives to be the best he or she can be in hopes of earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal, but in working toward the goal sees intrinsic rewards in the lean, mean fighting machine that he or she has become.

    Most goals are reached by using both forms of motivation.

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    Intrinsic motivation: For the simple love of it

    Those projects we tackle where we look up at the clock, hours after we’ve started, and have no idea where the time has gone because we were so involved – that feeling is intrinsic motivation, and wouldn’t the world work better if all of us felt that way about everything we do?

    Imagine saying, every day, I don’t go to work, I go play. When looking at new challenges, seeing them in that light is a great way to make them happen.

    Seeing a challenge as a chance to become a better person is an excellent motivator, whether it’s a gourmet cooking class, a math problem or mastering a new dance move to look killer on the dance floor. The satisfaction of success is an internal motivator, and is in itself the reward.

    Extrinsic motivation: From the outside

    For Olympic athletes, the idea of a gold medal at the end of a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice is the driving force behind the action. The idea that he or she is the best in the world, and has the endorsements – and bling in the form of medals to show for it – is the reward that comes at the end of a hard-won battle.

    To motivate through workouts, we often have to envision those rewards coming to fruition to make it happen, to find the strength to get moving.

    What’s in a reward?

    But how do rewards in general motivate? Not so well, it turns out. Studies have shown that although we all love it, it turns out that money is not the best reward. A teenage girl who is offered $10 for every pound she loses might be more inclined to see being able to fit in a great prom dress, or land her dream date, as a better motivator than the money.

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    Once money enters into the picture, the task takes on the illusion of work, and that is seen less favorably. One classic study asked lawyers to help low-income people with their legal needs, some being offered a very low wage for their services, others being asked to perform the services for free. Turns out, the offer of money transformed the task from good deed to work, and made that control group less likely to agree. The motivation wasn’t money, it seems, but the good feelings that came from within for doing something nice.

    Threats of punishment also don’t work as motivation, it seems. Instead of making people more inclined to work harder, the looming threat of some form of punishment usually backfires. Nerves caused by the thought of failure usually lead to more slipups and mistakes rather than less. Fear is only a great motivator on a show like “Fear Factor,” and there, it’s the money that’s the true motivator.

    So what is the best motivator? That depends on the task at hand.

    How to get (and stay) motivated

    To get you on the right track, consider the following tips:

    1. Have a goal in mind.  Whether you want to fit into the same size clothes as you did at your high school graduation or you want to be able to run with your kids, pets, or grandkids at the park, the goal is the thing to keep in mind to help secure positive results.
    2. See and track improvements. Getting on the scale every Monday to measure pounds lost or realizing that running a mile suddenly turned into two miles without much extra effort can provide the impetus needed for getting over hurdles of discouragement, sure to come no matter the goal.
    3. Take a break. If you’ve been working really intensely, you’ll be likely to be even more invested in the coming days if you take a day to recover from a hard workout or take an afternoon to replenish energy stores with a coffee break if you’ve been writing day and night trying to reach a big deadline.
    4. Focus on how seeing the goal to fruition will make you a better person. The knowledge that comes from making good food choices or learning which forms of exercise offer the best health benefits makes you a better person. Knowledge is money.
    5. Reward yourself. Many people find that by setting up rewards as part of a process – new earrings for 10 pounds lost or new bike gear after taking on that steep climb without stopping – will help make the road to success just that. A real success.

    The more motivation…the merrier

    Everyone tends to have a dominant type of motivation.

    For some folks, they could care less about attention, accolades, and what other people think. They are motivated intrinsically. They simply want what it is they want for their own reasons. People like this don’t need to be carrot-and-sticked in order to achieve a goal.

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    On the other hand, you have those of us who are all about the rewards, attention, and bling. We are extrinsically motivated. We want what we want because of how it will make us look in the eyes of others. We have a strong desire to be able to show off our awards, jewelry, or body. We like be the envy of others, or at least receiving the praise of others.

    So, does it matter whether you’re more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Does being more motivated one way limit your success and results?

    No, not at all.

    What matters is for you to know whether you’re more motivated from within, or if you derive more of your motivation from external factors.

    You then take that knowledge and put it on steroids. Boost your most dominant motivator until there’s little room left to improve it. But, don’t stop there. After you’re done playing to your strength or dominant type of motivation, spice up your weaker area. Think of how you can double your less dominant type of motivation. Why? Because the more motivation you have and can cultivate, the more success you’ll experience. And that’s the whole purpose of motivation – to help you more easily and swiftly achieve your goal.

    Whether your desire is to lose 20 pounds, sculpt gorgeous abs, or increase your income by 100% within the next 6 months – motivation will make it happen for you. Increase your motivation and you increase your results.

    (Photo credit: Man Running with Focus via Shutterstock)

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    Justin Miller

    Healthy Lifestyle Architect, a Fitness and Nutrition Coach

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

    I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

    Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

    How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

    Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

    Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

    At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

    Want to know the good news?

    No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

    All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

    1. Develop a Positive Mindset

    If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

    That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

    Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

    Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

    Absolutely!

    But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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    Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

    Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

    It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

    “I’m not smart enough to…”

    “I don’t have enough experience to…”

    “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

    When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

    If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

    When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

    • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
    • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
    • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

    Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

    Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

    All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

    But this isn’t true!

    If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

    If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

    When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

    Ditch the Dwelling

    Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

    Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

    When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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    But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

    The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

    Easier said than done, right? Try these:

    1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
    2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
    3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
    4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

    The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

    Be Patient about the Process

    No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

    Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

    If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

    To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

    2. Connect with Your Purpose

    One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

    If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

    Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

    Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

    Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

    “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

    One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

    Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

    Find Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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    Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

    But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

    If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

    3. Find Strength in Unity

    The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

    Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

    Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

    If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

    If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

    Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

    The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

    A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

    If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

    Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

    Recruit Some Cheerleaders

    If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

    Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

    As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

    Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

    Form an Accountability Group

    Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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    Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

    Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

    Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

    Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

    4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

    Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

    As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

    We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

    When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

    • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
    • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
    • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
    • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
    • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
    • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

    Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

    Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

    Tying it All Together

    Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

    But here’s the bottom line:

    A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

    No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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    Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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