Happy February! We are one month into 2021 and hopefully everyone has been succeeding at choosing excellence on a daily basis in pursuit of their goals and New Year’s Resolutions. At this point many are in ‘stage 4: action’ or ‘stage 5: maintenance’ in the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change mentioned in last month’s blog [New Year’s Resolutions – Choosing Excellence] and you may be wondering how to maintain your motivation now that we are over 30 days into the new year. Perhaps you’ve been struggling to stick to the changes, and you have wavered on your path, but not to worry because this post is all about motivation and commitment to help you stay on track!
Firstly, motivation is the desire one has to act in service of a goal. At this point I’m sure your goals were clearly defined when you began the year and you have planned out your resolutions; however, many people struggle after a few weeks of pursuing their goals and resolutions because their desire to act on them may have diminished. This is totally normal.
Motivation is a state, not a trait. Traits are more stable and enduring characteristics or patterns of behavior, whereas a state is a temporary way of being, thinking, feeling, or behaving. That means that motivation can come and go. So, if you have been feeling unmotivated, worry not! While some people have an easier time getting themselves motivated, it's not that they are just ‘highly motivated people’ and if you're not one of them you're doomed to be perpetually unmotivated. Those people may have just learned how to better achieve a motivated state and with practice, like any mental skill, you can too.
It is also important to note that within that desire to act in service of a goal, that there are two distinct forces which drive us:
1. Intrinsic Motivation is the enjoyment of doing something for its own sake. This is what I mean whenever I talk about pursuing your passion.
2. Extrinsic Motivation is the opposite, it's the external inducements (rewards and punishments) outside of the activity itself. It's about control.
Intrinsic motivation is inherently belonging naturally to you, it cannot be fostered by anyone else. Rewards, like praise or grades or prizes for example, teach people that what matters is what you'll get from doing the task, it intrinsically devalues the things for which you got the reward, and destroys people's natural interests in them. This is why I try to promote and foster a person’s intrinsic motivation; the act of doing something without any obvious external rewards, for you to do something because it's enjoyable and interesting, rather than because of an outside incentive or pressure to do it.
External rewards are not inherently bad and I’m not suggesting you never use them, but while they may change your performance in the short-term, they can also cost you dearly in terms of robbing you of your enjoyment, happiness, and joy for the activity in the long-term. Not to say that you will always be or should always be highly motivated, happy, and enjoying every step of the way in the pursuit of your goals. As I mentioned last month, being motivated, and choosing excellence is hard when you are tired, rundown, busy, or stressed out, but those are the times when persisting shows how great you truly are and is a testament to your resilience and mental fortitude. Michael Phelps talks about this when he says:
“The difference between great and good, I think the greats do things when they don’t always want to. I think that’s what makes them great. I’ve looked up to [Michael] Jordan forever, that guy probably didn’t want to play basketball every day, but he’s the G.O.A.T. Peyton [Manning], he didn’t have to study film for thousands and thousands of hours, he did it because he wanted to be great.” – Michael Phelps, The Weight of Gold
Being great and achieving excellence happens when it would be easy to walk away or give up, but you choose to persevere through whatever adversity you are facing and perform regardless. Your commitment to choosing excellence must outweigh the temptation to settle for average or give up. Excellence can mean something different for every person, but your pursuit for your own personal excellence must be a priority for you to be successful. Fully commit to the process.
Here are three tips to help you when your motivation may be lacking but you want to double down on your commitment to excellence like Phelps, Jordan, and Manning who crush those personal goals even when they might not feel like it:
1. Reconnect with your ‘why’
What is your compelling purpose for pursuing this goal? Reaffirming your why (why you chose this goal, this path you’re on, why these things are important to you, and how they connect with your values) can reignite your passion and revive your motivation.
2. Create a routine for yourself
Schedule your time and make your workout, meal prep, or whatever your goal/resolution may be a habit by incorporating it into your daily routine. Time management skills like this will help you adhere to your goals as they are framed as an essential part of your schedule that are non-negotiable.
3. Use cues in your environment to help spark your motivation
Listen to some music that gets you fired up and puts you in a more positive, energetic, and motivated state. Or post some motivational quotes or photos where you can use them for inspiration or to remind yourself why you are pursuing these goals.
4. Use motivating language
Last month I talked about choosing excellence. Telling yourself that you “have to” do this, “must” do that, or “should” do something can weaken your motivation. Change the language to “want to” and “choose to” instead. It is incredibly empowering and exactly the motivating language you need to hear.
5. Utilize your support network
You do not have to be alone in this! Reach out to someone you trust to be your motivation or accountability buddy. Achieving long-term behavior change can often require ongoing support from friends, family, a coach, or a physician so do not be afraid to reach out to your supporters. Even if it is just a text when you aren’t feeling motivated to a friend who can send a quick reply to help remind you of your why or send you a motivational quote to help.