Motivate Yourself

Motivate Yourself

You and I both know that, sometimes, it’s hard to self-motivate. Pretty much everyone experiences it at some point- getting out of your warm bed on a cold morning, sticking with your workout routine, catching up on emails and phone calls, giving a presentation to a large group, making the healthy meal choice, initiating a difficult conversation, transitioning from something fun to something not-so-fun. It might even sort of feel like a miracle that you were able to make it from bed to the bathroom to brush your teeth this morning.

And before you get too deep into the “Ugh, I’m so lazy. I just need to suck it up! Everyone else seems to be able to do it” narrative, let me just tell you that every typically developing human brain experiences this same problem. The human brain is wired to seek comfort and satisfaction because comfortable and satisfied equals safety (i.e., you get to live). Discomfort, on the other hand, equals danger (i.e., you might die). It’s adaptive. This process is what helps keep you from standing in a busy street full of cars or leaving your hand on a hot stove. Your brain doesn’t care (or even know) if, in reality, you won’t die from giving a presentation to 500 people. It just knows that its little limbic system is firing signals that the current situation is not safe. Your body is a great listener to this network and starts to release more cortisol into itself and before you know it, you are in full fight or flight mode. Do this enough times and you get a good old fashioned pattern happening in which you don’t even need to think twice before this process is right behind the trigger.

But take heart. It’s possible for you to rewire this process in your brain so that you don’t have to go through quite so much sturm and drang. It takes work and commitment, but with enough practice, you can retrain your brain to respond more favorably to what you previously viewed as insufferable tasks.

Rewiring your brain to perceive things differently can help you to accomplish all sorts of things that normally feel tricky or burdensome. You can learn to manage your time better, delay gratification, improve your self-discipline, strengthen your relationships, and improve your confidence, just to name a few. You might even start to view your brain as a cute sidekick and powerful ally instead of an enemy. To improve or maintain the relationship you have with your brain, take a look at two basic things you can do to increase your ability to self-motivate.

First thing’s first. You need to know why you are doing what you’re doing. You’re much more likely to keep your commitments if they are in line with your value system. Start by identifying your values, the way you live your life, your personal code of integrity. Do you want to be a better parent? Do you want to live a more purposeful life? Do you want to be and feel healthier and stronger? Identifying your values behind the action is crucial for getting your buy-in.

Second, you must identify actionable and measurable goals for yourself. This will give you a concrete plan for next steps and a sure-fire way to see if you’ve hit your target or not. Let’s say that one of your values is self-respect. Part of how you demonstrate self-respect is by treating your body well. Some ways you can treat your body well? Get yourself moving regularly and feed yourself healthy foods. So, one of your actionable and measurable goals can be “Today, I will take 200 more steps than I did yesterday” and “Today, I will drink 16 more ounces of water that I did yesterday”. Start small and be realistic. Remember to step up your goals as you accomplish them. The more you practice accomplishing the challenges you set for yourself, the more you will increase your confidence and ability to self-motivate and the better you will be at it. (I’m serious. fMRIs show that the more our brains experience challenges and accomplish goals related to those challenges, the more emotionally resilient we become.)

Some days, you might shoot your goal right out of the water. On days like these, you will feel invincible. Other days, you might have a hard time making it to your goal at all. You might even fail. This is a good thing. We can talk about how these failures are useful to you (and how failure, in general, is an important part of the human experience).

If you’ve tried this and are having trouble or if you can’t seem to get yourself in gear to make the first move, please let me know and we can talk about next steps.


Love and Be Loved,

Motivate Yourself from Stuck to Successful

Motivate Yourself from Stuck to Successful

There are a lot of different aspects of our lives in which we can feel that we have fallen into a rut. We can go through periods during which time we feel like a relationship is in a ditch, our job is humdrum, we can’t budge a project we’ve been working on, or we feel like we’re in a general funk.

We start to say things like, “I’m stuck,” “I don’t know what I can do,” and “I’m running out of options.” We feel desperate, frustrated, and anxious. This can be a bit of a rabbit hole, and we find ourselves in the dark without a light.

So, what do we do next? How can we step out of this rut and get back on track?

First, clarify your goals. Write down what you want your outcome to look like. This can be anything from “I want to like my job,” to “I want to have a satisfying relationship,” to “I want to produce a product of which I’m proud”. The goal can start out abstract or concrete.

Second, ask yourself a few questions:
a) Why is this goal important to you?
b) What will be made possible for you if you achieve your goal?
c) What is at stake if you don’t achieve your goal?
d) What will you have to give up to achieve your goal?
e) What would have to be true for you to achieve your goal?

Here is an example of how to use these questions. Let’s say you have identified a goal to run a marathon. It is important to you because you want to feel that sense of accomplishment and because you want to see how far you can push yourself. What will be made possible by running a marathon is a new sense of your abilities and a deeper understanding of how you work. What’s at stake if you don’t achieve this goal is the feeling of a lack of discipline, inexperience of your abilities, and reinforcing the belief that you can’t accomplish a goal you set for yourself. What you will have to give up to achieve your goal is some of your free time which you will spend training and the freedom to eat whatever you want whenever you want because you will need to take excellent care of your body. What will have to be true for you to achieve this goal is that you are committed to your goal and yourself, that you are going to train even when you don’t feel like it, and that you are going to eat a healthy diet.

Third, break down your starting goal into smaller goals to be met within shorter time periods. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a goal. The more intimidated you are, the less likely you are to feel confident about achieving your goal. Figure out smaller versions of achievement within the same big picture. About the marathon example, you might set a smaller goal of eating one healthy meal today/ running two miles today after work- something that you need to do to help get you achieve your goal, practice your self-discipline, and that feels doable.

Fourth, anticipate obstacles so that you don’t use them as excuses. Every path to a goal contains obstacles. There will be times when you have to be more flexible within the parameters you have set. There will be times when the person who wants to run a marathon gets sick, has to take a few days off from training, and must motivate to get back on track. You know that accomplishing something can be hard- you’ve been in a rut! You also know that there will be days when you’ll feel less motivated, experience discouragement by something that doesn’t go your way, and doubt yourself in various ways. None of this means that you’re on the wrong path or that you won’t/can’t achieve your goal. It means that you have to build up to it, be persistent for yourself, and think of the obstacles as valuable lessons.

Fifth, remind yourself of accomplishments past and present. You have faced obstacles and hardship on your way to these accomplishments. You can do it again. Remind yourself of what it took for you to achieve prior goals.

Sixth, keep yourself on track by regularly reviewing your goal. Orient yourself to your current progress, where it needs to be, and what else you can do to improve your progress. This will also help to validate how far you’ve come.

Try out these steps with a small goal and see how rewarding your effectiveness feels. This will whet your appetite to apply it to more complex goals. Now, go out and conquer!

Love and Be Loved,