People tend to shy away from what’s difficult and lean toward what’s easy. That’s not always a bad thing—many easy experiences are fun and relaxing, whether it’s watching a great movie, relaxing on the beach, playing hide-and seek with a baby, or simply taking an afternoon nap. Everyone needs easy things that refresh, rejuvenate, or relax, and taking it easy is healthy.
However, if you’re seeking to change your life in a big way—maybe by dropping 50 pounds, starting a new business, writing a book, relocating, or ending a crappy relationship—shying away from difficult experiences will harm you and hold you back. To make big changes, you need to be motivated, build up energy to thrust forward, and maintain momentum toward your goals.
Of course, this is much easier said than done! But if you’re looking to create a better life for yourself, you’ll have to forge through at least one or two difficult experiences first.
To help you get started and stay on track, here are a few tips from science and some inspiration from author Dr. Bob Rotella’s, the New York Times bestselling, groundbreaking guide to success, How Champions Think in Sports And Life.
1. Get Motivation
Motivation is a very personal and often very private phenomenon. While some people get motivated by helping others, getting healthy, or by the hope of financial gain, others may be motivated by fear, hate, or resentment of the life they’re living. Whatever brings you to a place of intense desire of inner belief in yourself and your meaningful dreams, it’s all positive motivation—turn those feelings into the means to an end.
To get motivated and overcome foot-dragging, we must all uncover the deep desires that motivate us, and to do that, we need to understand ourselves to the core. When a person is doing what he or she loves and is finding rich meaning in his or her life, then motivation naturally follows.
Here are a few key takeaway quotes about motivation from Dr. Rotella’s book:
● “The ability to take a dream and use it to create a process is that separates exceptional people from mere dreaming…What’s important is whether the dream or goal gives birth to a process.”
● “A champion understands that it’s fine to savor an experience when it’s positive, to remember it, to embrace it. When an experience is negative, he understands that he can’t let himself get stuck in it. He can see no benefit from ingraining a bad experience by reliving it.”
2. Charge Ahead
Just like a racehorse needs a sudden, focused burst of energy to get out of the gate ahead, you’re going to need an energy boost to launch yourself over any obstacles that stand in the way of your goals. Sometimes those obstacles are people or circumstances that make your dreams sound difficult or impossible, but just as often, the obstacles are your own secret doubts and fears.
It takes a huge burst of energy to create new beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that lead to new habits. In chemistry, there’s a similar process called Collision Theory that only occurs when particles “have enough energy for change, also known as activation energy, at the moment of impact to break the preexisting bonds and form all new bonds.”
In pursuing our dreams, we also must come to understand Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion: “A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.” In order to move a resting body or to stop a moving body, an external force is necessary. In other words, nothing starts, stops, or changes direction all by itself. This is the concept known as inertia, and it applies to your ambitions in the same way it applies to everything else in the universe. In order to achieve major change that leads to success, you must set yourself in motion, breaking free of the stagnant status quo with an extraordinary energy burst.
Here’s what Dr. Rotella has to say about this energy:
● “Going after big ideas takes sweat. It takes persistence, patience, and a bedrock belief in yourself. Not everyone will do it. That’s why we call it trying to be exceptional.”
● “What’s important is not avoiding adversity, but how an individual responds to it. You have to develop mental hardiness that responds to setbacks with energy and confidence.”
3. Building and Keeping Your Momentum
Once you launch your vision and ideas, you will begin to build momentum. Even once you’ve reached a new level of success, you must build on that success to get yourself to the next level. In essence, you can capitalize on early success to propel you farther. Learn lessons from past failed attempts, and adjust your course along the way, but never lose your momentum.
Psychological momentum (or PM) plays an enormous role in success. The principle of PM says that “Whatever tasks people undertake, perceptions of positive PM enhance their sense of success in goal pursuit. When they initially experience success, their self-confidence and competence grow, leading to heightened expectations, expanded mental and physical effort in task performance, increased perceptions of positive PM, and a greater likelihood of success will follow.”
For example, when you’re just starting a weight loss and fitness routine, 20 minutes of cardio 3 times a week may be plenty of work for you. However, if you’re seeking a big change in you weight loss and fitness levels, you can’t stick with that same routine forever. Eventually, you’ll need to kick it up. That’s when you can start building your momentum, and by listening to your body and following your instincts, you’ll know when to add on another level.
Here are Dr. Rotella’s tips for keeping your momentum strong:
● “Excelling at any athletic endeavor demands a commitment to work persistently at the fundamentals and to long hours of practice in between competitions. There’s an old saying that you sweat in practice so you don’t bleed in the game.”
● “In sports and business, if you’re not aspiring to dominate, to be the very best, you’re coasting. And you can only coast in one direction.”
Making big life changes isn’t easy, but difficult work brings the greatest rewards. Never lose heart, or sight of your goal, and use these three steps to get started and propel yourself along your journey of self-improvement, whatever your goals may be. In the end, you will make important progress toward your goals, and by facing difficult challenges head-on, you will also become a stronger, more motivated, and more capable person along the way.