How to Get Motivated – 9 Proven Ways To Fuel Your Motivation

How to Get Motivated - 9 Proven Ways to Fuel Your Motivation

The difference between reaching a goal or not is having the motivation to stay with it during the tough times – and there’ll be more than one tough time along the way. 

If only the motivation and energy that was around at the start of the adventure stayed all the way through. What happens instead is that at the times it’s needed most – times of self-doubt, stumbles, distractions – motivation hits the floor, which is no place for motivation to be.

Almost all goals will be reached eventually. It’s a matter of how hard you can push through the tough times.

How to Get Motivated

Here’s what science can tell us about keeping motivated and on track to putting something brilliant into the world that wouldn’t be there without you.

  1. Start small.

    This is critical. Have small, workable goals that are easy to achieve. Want to run 8km? Start with 1km straight, or 2, or maybe 4. Want to lose 10kg? Start with 2kg. Need to study all weekend? Start with the next hour. Start small, with something that’s reachable, and you’ll astound yourself with what you can do. That’s a promise. Which brings me to …

  2. Celebrate your wins.

    Research has found that celebrating your achievements will motivate you towards future success. This is why it’s critical to line your path to your ultimate goal with small, achievable ones. Write down your achievements and look at them often. It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. Have something concrete to look back on so you can see the luminescent glow of the things you’ve achieved along the way. When they light up behind you, what’s ahead of you will light up too.

  3. Build anticipation.

    Don’t start straight away. Instead, set a date for a week or two away – more if you like – and mark it on a calendar. This will give you the time to get excited and work out your plan, including your step by step goals. By the time the date rolls around, you’ll have all the energy, focus and commitment you need to achieve your goal – and achieve it you will.

  4. The 20-second rule.

    This one comes from Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor. Along the way towards your goal, there’ll be times that you just don’t feel like doing what you need to be doing. Don’t let that knock you off track. Those days are going to happen and tomorrow will be better. To limit those times, have a 20 second rule. It works like this. The point of distraction comes and goes within 20 seconds. That’s all it takes to decide to do something other than what you’re meant to be doing – online shopping, the Google rabbit hole … you know how it works. Make the bad habit, or the thing that will hijack your path towards your goal, twenty seconds longer to get to. Put the junk food at the back of the high shelf. Put the remote control batteries in a drawer. Alternatively, put the things you need to be doing more within close, easy reach. Have your exercise gear laid out. Put healthy food at eye level. Have your work space set up and ready to go.

  5. Talk yourself into something easier.

    For the times you just don’t feel like it, tell yourself you’ll just make a start. Let me give you an example – me and running. We get along okay – not great – but okay. I never feel like it but I tell myself that I’ll decide whether or not to go after I put my shoes on. Then, I tell myself I’m going for a walk, not a run. Then, once out the door, I tell myself that I’ll just run for one song and then I’ll see how I feel. I keep doing this for the entire 5km and before I know it, I’m gasping for breath and falling through my front door – which lacks all grace but that’s okay because I’ve done it. I do this every time and I’ll do it next time and the time after that because it works. This can be applied to anything. Need to study? Tell yourself you’ll just sit down for 30 minutes – then see how you feel. Want to lose weight? Tell yourself you’ll just eat carefully for the next hour, or until 5pm and then you’ll see how you feel.

  6. Self-talk in third person.

    Research has shown that people achieve more when the self-talk is in third person. Say ‘You can do this,’ rather than ‘I can do this.’ The exact reason is unclear but quite possibly it’s because when we were young, success started with someone saying, ‘You can do this!’

  7. Change ‘I can’t’ to ‘I won’t.

    When things get tough and the words swirling around making trouble are ‘I can’t,’ change them to, ‘I won’t.’ ‘I can’t’ leaves no choice. ‘I won’t’ makes the decision all yours. ‘Can you?’ or ‘Can’t you?’ … depends on how capable you are. Will you? Or won’t you? … depends on what you decide.

  8. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

    This is a massive one. Comparison is a life-sucking troll and will skittle you off your path before you can say, ‘worse than’. Don’t compare. Learn. Watch. Grow. But don’t compare. Perhaps others are doing something similar to you but nobody will be doing it like you. Your path will be different, the point you’re at will be different and your ending will be different. Different. Not less than.

  9. Don’t let one missed day throw you off the horse.

    We’re only human. Along the way towards a goal we’ll stumble. It’s inevitable. And it’s okay – completely okay – so don’t let it be the thing that makes you throws your hands in the air and turn your back. Think of it as a break, not a failing. Miss one day and then get back to it – don’t let one day roll into two.

Every goal can be met, provided that there is the motivation and resilience to pull you up by the hand when you stumble. 

Use these tips to stay motivated, and when you feel like you’re falling, be motivated by the search for what it is down there you’re meant to find. There’s always something – make sure you’re open to finding it.

7 Comments

Ana

so glad that i stumped upon this site.it is the lowest peak of everything in my life…professional, personal… the great thing is that the site is helping me getting out of the tiny little box into which i have been pushed by none other than the only man whom i have been loving so much till date for more than a decade now that too without realizing about what he was doing to all the self-motivational kind of person i always am.Thank you.

Reply
Ravi C G

I always look for motivation around me, But often lose my path towards goal. I find your tips very helpful I had forgotten to reward my small wins. Thanks for spreading motivation.

Keep writing… Keep Motivating people to do good.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Thanks Ravi. I’m so pleased this has been helpful for you. It’s very normal to lose the path now and then – the main thing is that you find it again when you need to.

Reply
Barbara Tyler

I teach Goal Setting Workshops and your advice rings true. Great advice…start small…reward yourself…change your self talk. Great article.

Reply
Merie Burton

I’m a psychotherapist in Brisbane, Australia and I absolutely love your website, your philosophy and your insight into our humanness. I am on the “same page” and I will definitely be sending my clients to your website as a wonderful resource.
Thank you
Merie

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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