We can achieve amazing things when we really, really want to, yet somehow lack the motivation to do something comparatively easy like eat less chocolate or cut down drinking. And of course when I say “we” I really mean other people.
Recently a friend of mine completed a charity walk across England in flip flops and another one drove a bus from Finland to Thailand and nearly froze to death in Russia, (the diesel froze in the engine and they were attacked by bears or wolves or something suitably dangerous…it might have been Elk) yet I find it nearly impossible to walk past the sticky rice and mango stall in the market and pop down the road to the gym once a week. Perhaps I should just find some lazier friends.
So what’s this self motivation malarkey all about?
History is littered with endless events of super human achievement that must have taken aircraft hangers full of motivation to complete, yet we all seem to stumble at such lowly first hurdles when it comes to keeping self motivated to do the simplest things, like lose weight, exercise more or eat more healthily.
The common assumption is that motivation is something that is done to us, like a sergeant major shouting at his troops or a teacher motivating his students…or dare I say a Life Coach motivating a client.
The big problem is that motivation like this never lasts. It only works when it’s happening. As soon as the sergeant major stops shouting or we walk out of the classroom or the Life Coaching session we are back to square one. As soon as the motivating episode recedes into the background noise of life we find ourselves back at the unmotivated beginning scratching our heads and wondering whether to have extra condensed milk on our mango sticky rice.
The Big Secret
Self motivation works best if it’s not dependent upon external factors. End of story, that’s it.
The real trick is to internalize motivation; turn it into something that we really want to do. No matter how big or small or difficult or crazy the task, if we really, really want to do it we will. As an old university colleague once said “we’re stubborn little fuckers really…but only if our minds are made up.”
“But” I hear you scream with outrage “that’s the point, we don’t really, really want to do it…that’s why we need a sergeant major screaming at us.” And so we return back to a square which is known as one.
The only way to truly get out of this dilemma is to internalize that motivation, turn it into something that we really want to do…but how?
For a long time it was assumed this was impossible. Psychologists and counselors laughed when such crazy notions where put forward in the early 1990s. A decade later there had been a revolution in motivational psychology.
There are many different ways that internal motivation can be created. Here’s just a small selection of simple strategies that you may find useful.
Strategies To Increase Internal Motivation
Think About It
Really think through whatever it is that you are planning to do, and then think about it again. Then do these exercises:
- Imagine yourself having made this change and how better your life will be and then write a list of all the positives that you will experience.
- Write yourself a letter from a point in the future, as if you have achieved your change goal and explain to yourself how you did it, how you managed to do it this time, making sure to identify any problems that you experienced along the way and how you overcame them.The more you think about it the better.
Draw up a careful 12 week plan, making sure to establish an end goal and all the little goals along the way. Make sure to include any information from your letter from the future you.
What rewards will you plan to give yourself after having achieved goal number one? Pay really close attention to just the first 12 weeks…after that the chances of longer term success shoot up to about 80%. It’s those first few months that really count.
Talk About It
“We learn what we believe as we hear ourselves talk.” Talk about your plans to everyone you know. Keep talking about what you are going to do differently and how it will positively effect your life.