How do you show up to yourself on the days where you feel like your motivation is just not where it should be? You know you ‘should’ feel grateful and you know you ‘should’ reach out to someone, but quite honestly you just don’t feel like it. On those days, you need a new strategy and that comes with a new perspective. Here are some ideas you can use to reclaim your motivation:
Just do the next right thing for 5 minutes
“Discipline is your best friend. It will take care of you like nothing else can.” Jocko Willinck
What happens if you fall off the wagon and skip the exercise session or give into the brownie that was staring at you for the last hour? Firstly, forgive yourself, fast track the negative self-talk of the inner critic and just do the right thing for the next 5 minutes. Go and get a glass of water or walk outside for 5 minutes. If you lost your temper, go give your kids a hug and just do something that signals to yourself you are back on track and on the path to progress.
See your day in micro choices
“Don’t pursue happiness; pursue a lifestyle that gives happiness!” Dandapani
When you rely on will power and motivation to get through the day, it won’t be a sustainable strategy because will power is like a muscle and eventually it will fatigue and let you down. This normally happens when you don’t protect your energy and sacrifice sleep for work and are now reaching for the wrong sources to keep you going. When this does happen and you give into surfing the web instead of your actual work or grabbing the bag of Pringles instead of fruit – don’t toss the entire day and figure you’ll get back on the wagon tomorrow. Just reframe your day from an ‘all or nothing’ attitude to micro choices. If the last choice wasn’t your best – then make a concerted and conscious decision that the second half of the day will be better. Or break your day into quarters so if you don’t do great mid-morning, you still have multiple opportunities to correct it.
What would this look like if I did things differently?
“Being able to quit things that don’t work is integral to being a winner.” – Tim Ferriss
Often motivation declines when you feel like you have tried everything and still are not as productive as you would like. Naturally over time, this will start to derail your motivation and drive. Author, Tim Ferriss, suggests you ask yourself this question ‘What would this look like if I did things differently?’ So if for example, you are sitting in meetings all day and only start your ‘actual work’ at 3pm– ask yourself the question. Perhaps it means not accepting every invite that comes in. Perhaps it means waking up earlier to get your self-care in the diary as opposed to promising yourself you will do it at 5pm every day and when the time comes, you would rather slump down in front of the TV from exhaustion.
What is the best use of my time right now?
Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life” – Alan Lakein
When you find yourself in overwhelm, ask yourself ‘What is the best use of my time right now?’ So if you only have a 30 minute gap, what is the best use of your time? If you sit procrastinating and browsing the socials and perusing the latest news updates, that time disappears along with the lost opportunity of progress. Remind yourself, it is micro wins over time that create progress. A micro win is simply a small step – think Lego block – towards achieving your goal. If you are writing a proposal or creating a PowerPoint, just writing down the table of contents or slide headings is a micro win. At the end of that 30 minutes, you made progress! Then when the next gap of time comes up, you can continue with the momentum. Don’t think just because you have a small gap, you can’t get anything significant done so you may as well waste it. Those pockets of time are little gifts throughout the day. In order to utilise them to their maximum benefit, you need to have done the work first of defining the most important tasks for the day.
Understand where your time can’t go
“Lose an hour in the morning and you will spend all day looking for it” – Richard Whately
If you are feeling unmotivated to move forward be it on your work or personal goals, start by planning your week before you are in it but with a new spin. Think about it differently this time – start by including everybody else’s schedule into the diary first. For example, if you have kids – schedule in their lessons, homework, activities, and your daily zoom call with your team. In this way, you can clearly see what gaps are remaining in the week. Now – insert your self-care blocks, work blocks, house work blocks, etc. If you don’t take all of this into consideration, then you are setting yourself up for failure and frustration because the narrative becomes very self-critical.
Adopt the Maui habit
“The day you’re having now is determined by a decision you made this morning’ – Dandapani
BJ Fogg is a Stanford professor and author of ‘Tiny Habits’. He says that every morning, you should start your day with the Maui habit. It goes like this – after I wake up and put my feet on the floor, I will say ‘It’s going to be a great day’. Even if you are not feeling it inside, it creates a trigger for your brain and body and puts you into a positive state. Think about the alterative of ‘Oh no – not another day of lockdown’. How can you possibly feel motivated on the latter?
BJ says ‘The Maui Habit creates a positive feeling that inspires many people to add other good habits to their morning — like making the bed. As you do the Maui Habit, you can experiment with other habits, like doing the dishes before you leave in the morning or thinking of one thing you’re grateful for as you brush your teeth. I champion the Maui Habit because this simple action helps you to tackle other challenges in the morning. When you succeed with those, you create an upward trajectory for your day that can uplift your attitude and boost your performance at work and beyond’.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance” – Eckhart Tolle
This is an instant way to change your mood, focus and perspective. During times of confusion and overwhelm, one tends to focus on what is missing. There is a huge sense of loss for the lives we used to lead and the way things were. However you cannot dwell on the past for too long, although very tempting. So when these days happen because you are only human – take out a piece of paper or a journal and write down what you are grateful for. Don’t think about it – write it. Aim for at least 3 things every day and at the end of the day, add another 3 things you are grateful for that happened in the day. Over time, you begin to change the lens of what you focus on and by appreciating the small things, you generate feelings of joy and boost your energy from the inside out.
And on the days where none of these tools works for you, simply reach out to someone and make their day better. That is the most instant form of motivation there is.
Here’s to making the days count, not counting the days.