“Motivation may get you started but it takes discipline to keep you going.” – Bonnie Pfiester
I have plenty of fond memories as a kid, playing in my mother’s garden. One of my favorite playtime activities was observing the ants that crawled around the wide grounds and crevices. I marveled at their industriousness and tenaciousness, as they searched for the most delectable morsels of food.
Then there were the honey bees. I would cautiously watch them from a distance as they flitted from one flower to another, tirelessly collecting nectar for their tribe. In my childish ingenuity, I thought, “Don’t these ants and bees ever get bored doing the same thing every day? Do they ever have time for fun?!”
After a few biology classes in school, I learned that these tiny critters, like other animals, were driven by an instinctual need for survival. They know that if they don’t find food, they will perish. Nature, in its infinite wisdom, wired all living beings to be naturally motivated to meet all their fundamental needs.
We humans are no exception to this phenomenon – we’re relentless when it comes to fulfilling our primal necessities. Yet our minds and neurochemistry are a lot more complex than our fellow Earthlings. Our brains are composed of logically driven and emotionally driven parts, which both influence our decisions. So when we’re making choices, we’re being affected by a lot more than a need for survival.
This is why many people, no matter how many life hacks and articles they read about staying motivated and disciplined, still find it challenging to stick with a plan long enough to see tangible results for their efforts. On a logical level, it might all make sense to them and they may even be aware of the importance of taking action, but somehow, they face roadblocks in implementing the steps.
Those roadblocks occur because we neglect a significant factor in the decision-making equation: our emotions. The fact is that our propensity to make decisions and stick with it isn’t a purely logical process – it’s heavily emotional-driven! So the key to staying motivated and disciplined is finding ways to engage our emotions in tasks that we undertake, no matter how tough or boring they may appear to be.
Can you remember what it felt like the last time you were in love or you had a crush on someone? You would do anything to make your object of desire happy and to spend time with them. Nothing in the world could detract you from your quest to win their affections. Now compare those emotions to what it felt like when you were assigned a boring and complicated project at work. Feels a lot different, doesn’t it?
The most successful individuals will tell you that their story of success is anything but glamorous. In fact, they had to put in many hours, slogging away to achieve their level of mastery and expertise. But what drove them to see their efforts through was their absolute love for their vocation. It was a combination of their mind and their heart that kept them going and believing in a vision they couldn’t see yet.
But what do you do when a task isn’t particularly exciting to you? Even if the outcome is highly desirable, getting into the details and nitty-gritty of the steps might look like a potential snooze fest to you. You want to lose 10 pounds but you hate the idea of going to the gym and giving up candy. You want to work towards getting a promotion but you’re tired of listening to your boss’s rants at the office.
What does it take to stay on track with taking those small incremental steps until you finally reach that apex? Answer: by growing your self-awareness. By understanding what drives you emotionally, you can discover creative ways to get inspired and propel yourself towards success. When it comes to being motivated, one size doesn’t fit all and you’ll have to figure out what specifically works for you.
Here are some steps that’ll get you fired up to go the distance when it comes to manifesting your vision:
- Connect with your “why”: One way to put your heart into a typically mundane task or activity is by asking yourself this simple yet profound question: “Why is it important for me to take action?” You might have to ask yourself this question a couple of times to peel off the superficial layers until you finally reach your core reason. Some of the main motivators that inspire us include material rewards, opportunities for self-improvement, a feeling of accomplishment, or simply getting a step closer to a bigger goal that we deeply and passionately desire. Looking at the big picture makes it easier to find purpose in the small tasks that are required to get there. I recommend writing your goals and the steps needed to get there. Also consider creating a vision board if you’re the type who likes visual stimulation.
- Manage your physiology: Now that the mind-body connection is a proven fact, we can use our body and physical state to manage the nature of our thoughts and emotions. If we want to feel excited and be consistent in our actions, we have to develop the right neurochemistry and manage our nervous system for a strong foundation. I first learnt this concept at a Tony Robbins seminar, where he would keep us pumped up and engaged by making us dance, jump and hug our neighbors every 15 minutes. These active breaks prolonged our attention span during his 12-hour training days. Now you don’t have to jump or dance around to get motivated (especially if you’re in an office!). You can get into the ideal state by going for a workout or running, eating the right foods, visualizing, meditating, watching something funny or inspiring, or thinking about an exciting event or vacation you’re looking forward to. These activities will essentially fuel your inner state to spur you on to take action.
- Create structure in your life: Since we’re all creatures of habit, it behooves us to design a lifestyle that will keep us on a steady pathway towards growth and progress. A disciplined way of living requires the creation of structures that will ensure that we stay focused and prevent our energy from being scattered in activities that will ultimately bear no fruit. Some of the most effective ways to creature structure is by creating to-do lists, removing temptations and distractions, managing your work environment, and becoming an expert at managing your time, energy and schedule. Fortunately, self-discipline is a learned behavior, which requires repetition and practice in your daily life. Improved self-discipline will increase your ability to make effective changes to your routine, establish good habits and break bad ones.
- Stay accountable: When you maintain accountability, your sense of responsibility towards the steps that you’ve committed to taking deepens. Some people feel naturally accountable, while others might need to someone to hold them accountable. For instance, some people like having a personal trainer or workout buddy to keep them on track with their fitness goals. A career or business coach can hold a budding entrepreneur accountable by reminding them of their dream business. More importantly, your support system can be a source for resilience and strength, especially when you feel down, unmotivated, or when you lose sight of your goal. Their encouragement and support can be a big source of hope for you.
- Have fun and celebrate your progress at each step: When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. If you have the right attitude, you can make almost any task fun and interesting to do. Take working out, for example – there are folks who hate the idea of going to the gym. In this particular scenario, the gym-hater can ask him or herself, “What can I do to make working out more fun?” Play an active sport instead of going to the gym? Find a gym buddy to go with? Join a fitness class? Listen to an upbeat workout playlist? Another way to stay motivated is by consistently acknowledging your progress and the mini-milestones you’ve accomplished along the way. Be kind to yourself by taking the time to pat yourself on the back and rewarding yourself with a treat or a small celebration!
Like a flower, which requires our patience, love and nourishment in order for it to bloom, we too require care, attention and discipline so that each one of us can bloom in all our glory and spread the sweet scent of our inner gifts and talents into the garden of life.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to staying motivated and disciplined?
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