You’ve been pouring your heart and soul into your goals.
You’ve read all that’s out there about goal setting.
You’ve made your goals SMART. You visualise them regularly.
You have a strong motivation, and you’re clear on your ‘Why’.
You constantly fight off temptations and distractions, focusing on the future payoff.
You’ve invested in goal-tracking apps, books, and courses, but… you never seem to be able to achieve your goals.
You’re not alone.
Many people encounter this problem, and many assume, the problem is that they don’t have enough motivation.
In my experience, more often than not, this assumption is wrong.
Life gets in the way
Let’s say you want to start working out regularly. You know that with a good exercise routine your physical and mental health will improve, you will sleep better, feel better, may even lose weight and improve your productivity. You need it all. So, you set yourself a goal of developing a daily exercise routine to be healthier and happier.
You do some research on suitable sports to take up and decide to join a local gym. You’ve got some workout gear at home, but since you haven’t used it much in the past, you think you’d be more likely to exercise if you are held accountable by a personal trainer at the centre.
Together with the trainer, you decide that the best time to exercise is in the morning, so you start getting up earlier. You manage to do that for a few weeks. And then, you have an important morning meeting in town and skip a session. And then, you get sick. And then, winter comes in and it’s harder to leave the house when it’s cold and dark outside. So, you shift your training sessions to the evening. But evenings are even worse. All you want to do after a long day in the office is to get home, eat dinner, and relax in front of the TV.
I can totally relate to all this.
The most common and most ignored reason why we feel unmotivated
Yes, this may be just temporary ‘downer’ and in a week’s time, or in Spring you will feel motivated again. But perhaps your goal of taking up exercise to improve your well-being is not all that motivating for you?
Whoa! You’re probably thinking, ‘C’mon, Joanna, who doesn’t care about their wellbeing?’
Of course, you want to be healthier and happier!
And I’m not questioning that. I’m not questioning your desire to exercise regularly. I’m questioning the way you understand not so much what you want, but why you want it.
One of the most common reasons people find themselves in situations where they ‘run out of motivation’ is that they embark on a long-term goal achievement journey for the wrong reason(s).
The best way to get your motivation right
A lot of questions I receive from my readers and people I work with, revolve around motivation. For many, their biggest challenge is identifying what drives them in life and then translating those drivers it into the fuel for their goal-achievement plans. And that’s why they find themselves in never-ending cycles of motivational ‘highs and lows’ and exhausting ‘pump yourself up’ sessions.
If you are one of those people. I—if you’re sick and tired of having to motivate yourself constantly, —here is something that can help.
Below is my 5-Step framework that can help ensure that you have a powerful, lasting motivation for whatever goal you are working towards.
This 5-Step framework has helped me and many other people get the motivation ‘right‘, discover what really matters, and use it to guide the goal-achievement plans, without the exhausting cycle of having to ‘get motivated’.
If you’re looking for a strategy to help you make your dreams come true despite what life throws at you, this framework is for you.
5-Step Framework For Powerful, Lasting Motivation
Step 1. Understand what really drives you in life
Simple, isn’t it?
Unlike all those posts and eBooks that tell you to just spend some time thinking about it, I’m not saying this is as simple as putting your mind to it.
Actually, I find that the mind—the rational side of us— often has often little to do with it, and it’s the heart—, the emotional part of our selves—, that really matters here.
In my experience, the biggest challenge to understanding personal drivers is to see beyond what we think we’re driven by. Over the years, with multiple commitments, life experience and various expectations, many of us lose sight of what really, personally is important to us. It takes courage to even admit to yourself that well, yes, your family/community/pursuit of freedom/career are important to you, but there is something much more powerful we’re yearning for but feel too shy, embarrassed, or guilty to pursue.
Explore your true motivation not only with an open mind, but most importantly, with your heart open. Be brutally honest and gentle with yourself at the same time. Remember, nobody needs to know about it. You can keep it to yourself. But if you’re able to discover what really motivates you and use it as a fuel to propel you towards your goals, you may be able to achieve the dreams you never thought possible.
Step 2. Align the motivation for your goal with what drives you in life
It sounds obvious, but many people struggle with this step, too. Once you have a good understanding of what drives you in life, you can use this knowledge to ensure that the goal you have set for yourself is in line with it.
To use the example described earlier, if you’re working on a fitness goal because you want to be healthier and happier, but you discover that you’re a person who loves competing, or wants to become the best/the first/the only one, or maybe you simply enjoy learning—you have a problem.
Why? Because your competitive streak and the drive to become better at what you do is powered by the need to master, while health and well-being goals are not. Your goal (feeling better and happier) and your motivation (achievement, mastery) are misaligned.
You may be able to continue exercising for some time, particularly if you keep reminding yourself why good health and your happiness are important to you. You may even feel how exercise is improving your mental and physical health. But, there will still be something niggling you, a little discomfort, some weariness, maybe even disappointment. You will feel unfulfilled and may give up on exercising as a result. You might not admit it aloud, but inside, that little gremlin in your mind might be saying why bother since it’s not bringing what you want? (Even if it sort-of does).
The route to success is often as simple as reframing your goal to match your motivation for it.
If you can do this, most likely you will be able to pursue the same or a similar goal, but for a different reason. All it takes is admitting to yourself what you are driven by and rewording your goal to match it.
Step 3. Match your goal to the amount of motivation you have
Yes, I know, the gurus have told you to go for gold, and ‘commit 200% ‘, because you’re either in, fully committed, or out.
And in principle, I agree with them. I’m also an ‘either all in or out’ person. But, and there’s always a little ‘but’ ….
As it’s often is in life, we end up with multiple commitments and responsibilities. The longer you’ve lived, the more of those you are likely to have gathered.
So, consider how much motivation you have for this a particular goal and adjust the size of it if necessary. This is a point where it’s not helpful to be too bold, or too optimistic, thinking you’ll find more motivation along the way.
Measure your motivation on an average day. Why? Because, when you are ‘pumped up’ and full of enthusiasm for your new goal, you’re likely to assume this will last. And this is what you thought last time, and the time before, and last year too. And, by the way, did that work?
Well, you already have your answer.
My ability to achieve my long-term goals really shifted when I started matching my goals to the amount of motivation I had for that particular goal on an average day. If a goal I’m setting myself needs more energy that I have, I shrink the goal or extend the timeline. I want to write three books this year? Er, too ambitious, I don’t have that much energy or time. How about one longer and one shorter book? Or, three full-length books in the next 18 months. My goal may not look as good as the original one, but I’m much more likely to achieve it without extra effort.
Step 4. Keep your tank topped-up
To use a car and fuel analogy, sometimes, what you have in the tank is not enough to complete your journey. If your trip is really long, or you need to take a detour, or power up the heating or air-con, you’ll use up more fuel. You might even use more than your car’s fuel tank can hold.
So, for those long-term journeys, you may need to carry a jerrycan with you, and/or stop to fill up your tank.
It’s the same with long-term goals.
Here, I’m talking about rewards.
Rewards—, whether little pleasures, big-ticket items, or the simple sense of accomplishment— are great to keep you heading towards your goal, but only if you reward yourself with what matters to you. There is little use of in trying to push yourself harder to prepare for an exam tomorrow with a promise of a chocolate bar if you don’t like chocolate. It’s the same as celebrating an achievement that doesn’t really fill your heart with joy, is not motivational, and might actually be self-defeating.
Don’t be afraid to use rewards to keep yourself going. Incentives such as money, praise, simple pleasures or avoidance of unpleasant consequences can be effective. Use them in challenging times, when you have a looming deadline, or you’re going through a ‘motivational low’ and have to push through.
Just remember not to overuse those little rewards or their effectiveness will wear off.
Step 5. Track the right thing
You can’t really tell if you’re getting closer to your goal, if you’re not keeping an eye on your progress.
However, simply tracking your journey is not good enough. Because if you track an indicator that doesn’t align with your motivation—you’ll have a hard time sticking to your plan.
It’s like wanting to become fitter to feel happier and tracking your weight, or your body fat percentage. What do weight or fat percentage have to do with happiness? No much, do they?…
To make sure your tracking system does its job, you’d need to monitor how your fitness regime affects your happiness level.
Or, if you’re learning a foreign language to communicate with locals without a dictionary while on holidays, and tracking the amount time you spend revising the vocabulary, this is not a good system either. Find a way to actually talk with native speakers and track your ability to communicate.
Whatever is fuelling your desire to achieve your goal, make sure it’s reflected in your tracking method.
This will not only ensure that you know how you progress, but will also keep your motivation at the forefront of your mind. Which, in turn, will and top up your ‘motivational tank.’
And that’s it, that’s my formula for ensuring you have enough motivation to achieve your goals.
Yes, it’s that simple. Walk through the 5-Step Formula plan and you won’t give up during your next ‘downer’. Once you’ve mastered the steps, you will be able to set your goals and achieve them, as planned. No need to search for another inspirational story or a motivational trick to get yourself to work on your goal again.
Start with Step 1, and work your way through the Formula. Find your true, powerful motivation and change your life today!
This post is an excerpt from my new book: Not Another F-ing Motivation Book. A Pragmatist’s Guide to Nailing Your Motivation, Keeping It and Effortlessly Achieving Your Goals.
Interested in learning how to stop the exhausting start-stop motivational cycles? Click here to preorder a copy today.