t’s the time of year again – when you make promises to yourself to change or do things that are good for you and then February rolls around and they’re nothing but a blip on the radar. In this part of The Better Man Series
, let’s talk about getting over the hump to be motivated as well as staying motivated to action.
Motivation is like a muscle – it has to be exercised to avoid atrophying.
As a man, a major goal in life should be to constant improvement in whatever aspects you deem necessary. When you give up this journey of curiosity and improvement is when the verve for life goes away and you’ll basically be dead – figuratively and literally – if you’re in your twilight years. Obviously, depending on your age, your goals can vary, but the mechanisms for getting and staying motivated are the same no matter who you are.
Over the years, in talking to people of all ages about betterment, I’ve encountered a weird issue – they feel bad for trying to improve their lives and it stops them from trying or aids in quickly abandoning their goals. They say they feel:
- Like they’re not helping others enough.
- Bad because their family or friends make fun of them.
- Too old, young, poor, skinny, fat, etc to do anything.
I’d argue that in order to make others around you better, you need to improve yourself, first. Only then will you be in a position to truly help others.
While your friends or family may never say this, or even know why they do it – making fun of you is just a reaction to them being scared that your progress is going to make them look and feel worse. And it’s 100% true, but that’s their problem, not yours. Don’t let them drag you down so they feel better about themselves.
As for being too (insert excuse here) – that’s just an excuse you’ve learned to justify your lack of motivation. You know it’s B.S., too.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Let’s get into actionable steps to get and stay motivated.
Find your triggers
Start thinking about the things you run into in your daily life that inspire you to action. They could be anything, but here’s some common ones:
Once you’ve established the things that motivate you, it’s now time to make them, in some way, part of your day. This is key to ensure that wonderful Pavlovian response is triggered multiple times a day. Think of it like a quick caffeine jolt for your motivational engine.
Be around people who inspire you
Being around motivated people is inspiring and it’ll absolutely rub off on you. So find a way to be around them – invite them out to coffee, give a call, schedule a recurring monthly lunch, join a co-working space, etc.
If that’s not possible, then you can try watching or listening to speeches of people you find inspiring. Just find a way to interact with inspiring and motivational people on a regular basis.
Define & Set Goals
As man without goals will achieve very little. So set goals and start hashing out what you really want to do. The one thing I’ll warn you against, though, is not setting specific enough goals. Wanting to be rich and famous is not a goal, it’s the result of a goal (of goals) achieved. Wanting to be more in-shape is not a goal, it’s too vague. So keep them specific, like:
- Bench pressing 200lbs
- Going on a monthly date with my significant other
- Learning a new language
- Getting a promotion to a certain position
- Buying a house by the time you’re __ years old
- Starting a business
Don’t know what goals you want to achieve? Put together a “Anti-Goal” list of things you’ve tried or thought about trying and absolutely don’t want to do. Then start whittling it down by way of deduction instead of addition.
Don’t beat yourself up
The common issue I see with people who lose motivation is not giving their goals enough time or flexibility. If a goal takes longer than you anticipated, or your goals have shifted, or you have a setback – don’t beat yourself up over it.
You are your harshest critic.
People often get discouraged and think about giving up when these things happen, but instead of feeling down about it, understand that this is part of the process and be thankful for how far you’ve come and that these are things every motivated person has encountered, as well. If it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.
Have a plan of action
Figure out a way (probably many ways) to achieve whatever goal(s) you have and then break it down into actionable, bite-sized chunks. Then, and only then, can you take that motivation and start working on achieving your goals.
Standing at the foot of a mountain and not realizing that it’s going to take many, many smaller steps to get to the summit will do yourself a disservice and you’ll give up because you didn’t set a plan of action to get to the top.
Coincidentally, the more smaller steps you achieve, the more motivated it’ll make you. Movement begets more movement.
There are some systems available, if you’d like to take a structured approach. Getting Things Done is a system I personally use and a bit of a companion or supplement to that system is called Bullet Journaling – which I also do.
It’s easy to be busy everyday, it’s hard to make progress everyday.
Set aside time for review
Over the course of working to achieve your goals, you’ve got to ensure you understand how far you’ve come and celebrate the small victories. Without that, it’s easy to get frustrated and lose motivation.
Your goal(s) will take a while (almost always longer than you thought) to achieve, so you’ve got to set aside time celebrate these smaller wins the to give yourself the motivation to keep working to the ultimate goal.
I like to take the natural breaks of seasons/holidays to set aside time for reflection and reorienting. During the Easter holiday, 4th of July weekend and Thanksgiving weekend, I sit down, look at what I’ve done and first, be thankful for al that I’ve achieved and then decide if directions or mindsets need to be adjusted. It’s extremely helpful and refreshing and I can’t suggest it enough.
That’s it! I hope it’s been helpful and you start working toward your amazing goals this year!