How To Keep Going When You Want To Stop
Several years ago, I trained for the Dublin City Marathon for the first time.
I ran by myself around the small town where I live an hour outside of Dublin. I trained alone in the evenings or sometimes in the mornings after the kids went to school.
My motivation came from within, as I was tired of spending my evenings playing video games or watching old television shows on Netflix.
Later, I joined a nearby athletics club and trained with more accomplished runners. Each Monday and Wednesday evening we practiced running intervals around a 400-meter track.
To an outsider, this looked like a perverse form of hamsters trapped on a wheel, but marathon training demands an ability to focus on forward motion for an extended period, much like starting a business.
I was able to run relatively fast for 30 minutes, then my calves seized up forcing me to move to the side of the track and recover.
The other athletes continued lapping me for another 60 without stopping.
Establish Your Why
Are you seeking a promotion? What would winning new customers mean for your business? Is your project a life-long personal ambition?
Before you embark on a big personal or professional project for months or even years, write down five to seven reasons why you’re going to focus on it.
Keep your reasons in a file alongside details of the project and document what success looks like. It’s good practice to combine internal and external reasons.
For example, “I want to write a nonfiction business book because it’s a life-long ambition” is an internal reason. Ambition is personal after all.
“I want to launch a new product and increase our revenues by ten percent this quarter” is an external reason.
When your focus wanes, reread your reasons why this project demands your attention.
Keep A List Of Mini-accomplishments
While training for the marathon, I didn’t notice I’d become faster and stronger after a few months of training until a friend pointed out I was able to keep up for longer.
While focusing on a project, it’s easy to glance over your progress and instead worry about where you’re stuck.
A list of mini-accomplishments will help you pause and reflect upon key milestones along your journey.
Add to this list once a week, fortnight or month.
Accept Your Motivation Will Wane
Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
At the start of a project, applying yourself is easy.
It’s hard to complain about lacking motivation when you’re starting a new job, learning a skill like speaking Spanish or even training for your first marathon.
You will encounter bland or boring moments in the middle of a long project. On more than one occasion, I dreaded getting up off the couch to train because it was cold and wet, and I felt sluggish.
If you’re feeling unmotivated or frustrated by a lack of apparent progress, don’t abandon your work. Ask yourself if concentrate on forward motion on until you reach another milestone.
While training for a marathon, I spent many gray and wet Sunday mornings running for hours without feeling like I was getting stronger and faster.
Yet the athleticism of those I trained with encouraged me to run longer and harder and to get up earlier each weekend so I could build my leg muscles.
They taught me how to focus on the breath and the power of forward motion. When race day came, I knew what I had to do. Focus on turning your ambitions in reality and you will too.
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