You know the type: he’s up at dawn, runs a quick 5K before making breakfasts for his kids and is working on launching another company while spending his evening perfecting his craft beers. And yet he’s the opposite of exhausted.
Meanwhile, there are too many days when you’re stuck in a rut and unable to get things in gear. In short, you can’t quite work up the power to do whatever it is you really want to do. No matter where you think your drive is – or isn’t – right now, these simple steps can boost your motivation.
Do Something, Anything!
Drive isn’t something that only lucky people have, like good hair or fast feet. In fact, anyone can develop drive, or motivation, if you know how to go about it. People often think of motivation and drive as the big flame that happens if you take lighter fluid and spray it all over a grill. A better way to think about drive is that you get some coal, light the fire and let it slow burn. That allows you to sustain and cook whatever we’re trying to cook.
One of the most surprising things about motivation is that it comes after starting a new behavior, not before. In other words, you don’t get motivated, then do something. You do something, and that gets you motivated. If starting out, even in a very small way, feels like anything from a minor sticking point to a monumental obstacle, try making the first few steps so easy that you waste no energy thinking about doing them. So, instead of working to get back to your leanest, fittest self, start small and just plan what you’ll have for breakfast most days and buying the type of healthy ingredients that you’ll enjoy eating.
Even pro athletes sometimes have a tough time getting started. What saves these athletes is that their environment is set up in a way that lowers the bar – there’s less activation energy that’s needed to get out the door. These athletes have trainers devising their workouts and training partners depending on them to show up. Their systems are organized to minimize hurdles. You can do the same.
Let’s say you’re a runner and notice you are working too much and exercising less. During your work commute, look for any parks or trails that might be on that same route. Add a few minutes to your travel time and stop at the local park for a run after work. Leave your running shoes in your passenger seat along with a quick change of clothes. Work to remove the barrier to taking that run. The location, the shoes, the clothes – these are all cues inviting you to take that action, so you don’t even have to think about it.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change Gears
The pandemic altered the lives of nearly everyone and led millions to re-evaluate and clarify what’s important, essential or meaningful in their lives. What gets you excited can be a moving target, since it’s natural to become interested in different things and develop different values over the course of our lives. To discover what you care about, try thinking about what happens on your best days – what gives you energy and joy. Then, try to structure your days to ensure that some of those “best day” activities can be experienced at least some of the time.
Create Micro Goals
Motivation can die when your workload is too high or the rewards too far off. So, the obvious solution is to break big goals into smaller tasks. Below your goal are subgoals, each of which has its own subgoals, cascading all the way down to specific behaviors. Goals closer to the top of the hierarchy explain why you’re doing what you’re doing and reflect your values, and goals further down the hierarchy explain how the goal will be met. Subgoals, give you tasks to succeed at along the way, which helps make long-term goals more manageable. Feeling like you’re making progress, by the way, also feeds your drive.
For example, your top-level goal could be to take a 2-week vacation this year. Your subgoals might be narrow down locations to two options, discuss options with your partner or friends, and finally, book the reservation.