The Best, Last Motivation Article You’ll Ever Read: Tactical Tips to Turn Self-Motivation into Habit
I know what you’re thinking: “Another motivation article?”
And I get it. I bet you’ve heard “set goals and memorize affirmations” hundreds of times. You’ve probably read thousands of motivational quotes, listened to hours of motivational videos, and read what feels like every book, blog, and article out there.
And if none of those made a lasting difference, why read one more? Simple: Because this is the one that’ll work.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s an important place for goals and affirmations. But those require conscious effort, and anything that requires conscious effort doesn’t tend to last.
What sets the most motivated entrepreneurs apart from the rest is that they’ve turned self-motivation into a habit. That’s why all those other tactics work for them; they no longer have to think about them.
And here’s the best part: What works for them, can work for you. But before we get there, let’s take a closer look at what it really means to be motivated in the first place.
The science of motivation: The locus of control
Ever looked at someone and wondered how they’re so motivated? Or maybe the opposite: Ever met someone and wondered why they’re so lazy, defeated, or reactive?
According to psychologists, the answer is simple: A person’s motivation (or lack thereof) is a result of their locus of control.
A locus (latin for “place” or “location”) of control is the degree to which someone believes they have control over their life.
Each of us habitually defaults to one of two loci of control: Internal or external.
Internal locus of control
Those with an internal locus of control believe they are in control of their fate and, if they want change, they have the power to create it.
For example, when the entrepreneur failed to raise money for his startup, he acknowledged that he didn’t deliver a compelling enough pitch to investors. He resolved to find an experienced mentor to guide him through the process next time.
External locus of control
Those with an external locus of control believe someone else is in control of their fate and, if they want change, someone else has to create it.
For example, when the entrepreneur failed to raise money for his startup, he blamed the investors for failing to see the potential in his product. He resolved to find “smarter,” more “visionary” investors in the future.
Changing your locus of control
Where’s your locus of control? Do you accept responsibility for your circumstances, or are you the victim of someone else’s actions?
If you struggle with motivation, you’ve probably been operating from an external locus. The most motivated people, on the other hand, use an internal locus; a genuine belief they have the power to create the results they desire.
Here’s the good news: It’s possible to change. If you want to be more motivated, you need a firmly-rooted internal locus of control. Once you’ve got that, the rest will come naturally.
Here are four methods to find your internal locus of control and master self-motivation, today.
1. Use rewards, consequences, and commitment devices
In The Power of Leverage, author Tony Robbins says motivation is controlled by two needs: Avoiding pain and experiencing pleasure.
In practice, that means you can train yourself to become more motivated by teaching your brain to associate pleasure with motivation and pain with “unmotivation.”
The three most effective ways to do that are rewards, consequences, and commitment devices. Let’s take a closer look at each.
A reward is something you give yourself for staying motivated and completing your goals. They should be personally meaningful and enticing enough that you’ll actually work to achieve them.
For example: If I reach out to five new prospects today, I’ll take my family to the beach this weekend.
The trick is following through on your rewards when you meet your goals. If you promise yourself a beach day with your family, make time for it.
Train your brain to associate motivation with pleasure.
A consequence is something you lose by not staying motivated or completing your goals.
They should be detrimental enough that you’ll want to avoid them, but they don’t need to be extreme. Research has shown that our brains often react to consequences in the same manner, regardless of severity.
For example: If I don’t reach out to five new prospects today, I’m going to skip this week’s Game of Thrones episode.
Like the rewards above, the trick is to follow through on consequences. You want to …
Train your brain to associate a lack of motivation with pain.
A commitment device is a combination of both reward and punishment.
Yale’s economic department defines a commitment device as, “an arrangement entered into by an agent which restricts his or her future choice by making certain choices more expensive.”
For example: Give someone you trust $100. If you reach out to at least five new prospects by the end of the day, you get your $100 back. If you don’t, you lose that $100.
The great thing about commitment devices is that they’re scalable. If you’re really struggling to stay motivated about a certain task, raise the stakes and increase the value of the commitment device.
2. Change the way you communicate with yourself
How you communicate with yourself about a task directly influences your motivation to complete that task.
Motivated people engage in positive self-talk, while unmotivated people engage in negative self-talk. Here are a few examples of negative self-talk that lead to discouragement and a lack of motivation:
- “I’m a terrible writer.”
- “This is going to take forever because it’s not something I’m good at.”
- “This is such a waste of time; it’s going to turn out terribly.”
If those are the kind of thoughts going through your head, it’s no wonder you struggle to follow through. Instead of succumbing to negative self-talk, the most motivated people say things like:
- “I’m excited for the increased revenue this is going to create.”
- “I’m thankful for the opportunity to improve this client’s life.”
- “I can’t wait for the reward at the end of this task.”
That might sound subtle, but …
The journey from good to great is made up of small changes, made consistently.
Next time you feel yourself engaging in negative self-talk, interrupt the pattern by asking these three questions:
- How does this task move me closer to my long-term goals?
- What other benefits am I going to gain by completing this task?
- What about this task am I thankful for?
The trick is giving each question the time it deserves. Don’t move on until you’ve come up with a genuine answer for each.
By answering the three questions above, you give yourself a reason to complete your task. Once there’s a compelling reason behind your task, motivation is going to come a lot easier.
3. Surround yourself with the right people
Entrepreneur extraordinaire Jim Rohn often said …
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
To test that theory, the Longevity Project studied an excess of 1,000 people over the span of 80 years. Among their many findings was the fact that …
The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become.
Changing the company you keep can dramatically change the type of person you are, so surround yourself with motivated, driven, and ambitious people. Here’s how:
- Create a list of five people you consider highly-motivated; those who know what they want and are relentlessly determined to get it.
- Next to each name, write down one way you could be valuable to them. Not sure how? Be blunt and ask them about their professional challenges, then tap your resources for potential introductions or value payloads.
- Execute on your value-generation strategy as quickly as possible, then find another way to provide value; something mutually beneficial that makes your presence relevant. Keep this up and you’ll eventually become a vital part of their network.
Or reach out to your investors; they may be able to recommend groups or make introductions. For example: One of our clients, Founders Circle Capital, does an exceptional job at this with their “scar tissue” groups.
These groups bring together high-quality entrepreneurs facing similar challenges and allow them to network and brainstorm. Everyone involved leaves feeling motivated with a renewed sense of purpose.
4. Increase the visibility of your goals
Everyone knows they need clearly-defined goals; that’s Motivation 101. What they don’t realize is that the power of goals isn’t in creating them; it’s in reviewing them.
When most people create goals, they write them down, stow them away, and promptly forget about them. They let the urgency of day-to-day operations distract them from dynamic growth and, before they know it, six motivation-less months have passed.
Your long-term goals (or North Star Objectives, as we call them at Mindmaven) should be so visible they’re consistently top-of-mind. If they’re not, they won’t be completed; it’s as simple as that.
Here are two ways to increase the mindshare of your goals:
1. Create a morning routine
Begin every day by reviewing your North Star Objectives. There’s no “right” way to do this. You might meditate on them, write them down, read them aloud, or envision them as already complete; as long as you feel empowered and motivated by the end, you’re starting your day off right.
2. Integrate your goals into your task management system
The biggest goal-killers are to-do lists. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business that you go days, weeks, or even months without thinking of the future. Counter this tendency by giving your long-term goals a constant spot at the top of your task management system.
In the end, remember this:
Your goals are only as powerful as the mindshare they occupy.
If you want to turn them into reality, they need to be a part of every aspect of your life.
The secret to long-term success
Getting motivated is easy; anyone can do that. The secret to long-term success is staying motivated.
For motivation to last, it needs to become a habit; and establishing a habit takes time. According to recent studies, expect an average of 66 days.
During those 66+ days, lasting motivation will require a conscious effort on your part and, like any new skill, you’re probably going to make a few mistakes in the beginning. Don’t feel discouraged.
As long as you use the strategies above to correct yourself, you’ll get there. Your brain is trained one day at a time, so stick with it. The rewards are worth the effort, I promise.