Learning how to motivate yourself is one of the most powerful skills you can learn in life. Motivation is definitely not something random (even though it sometimes feels like it is). There’s a psychology behind why you feel motivated or unmotivated.
In today’s self-development landscape it’s very popular to glorify self-discipline and to disregard motivation. I completely disagree with this notion.
Learning exactly how motivation works makes it much easier to stop procrastinating, overcome the inner resistance and work hard on your goals instead. Furthermore, it makes your work and life much more fun as you don’t have to force and discipline yourself 24/7 to do the right things (which, let’s be honest, isn’t a fun way to go through life).
I’ve tried both approaches in my life and work. I tried just disciplining myself to do the work even when I didn’t ‘feel like it’ and I tried getting myself in a peak state of mind before the start of the day. I can say with 100% confidence that I prefer the latter.
Why not look into the methods to make you ‘feel like it’? When there are habits and tactics available that can spark motivation within a matter of minutes, it would be a waste not to make use of them. Why rely only on your willpower when that’s proven by research to be a finite resource that weakens throughout the day?
Yes, you’ll need to perform these habits on a daily basis as motivation is just a temporary wave of emotions. But that doesn’t really matter when these habits only take a few minutes each day.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”
— Zig Ziglar
Nowadays, I’m more motivated than ever before — and my results are better than ever. It’s not that I wake up and immediately feel motivated. Rather, it’s that I exercise certain quick habits that spark the motivation necessary to work hard on my goals, without the need to force myself.
I clearly notice that when I don’t perform these habits, my motivation levels drop heavily. That’s why Zig Ziglar’s quote is so true — we need to spark motivation every single day.
Habit 1: Visualization
Visualizing about your goals and how your future could look like is a highly effective way to motivate yourself to work hard today in order to make your vision a reality.
In the past, however, I had trouble adopting visualization as a habit in my life because I always thought it was a bit vague and pseudoscience-ish.
However, visualization can be extremely powerful as it can prime your RAS (your lens through which you view the world) and disarm limiting belief systems. Furthermore, as your goals are at the forefront of your mind during your visualization, you’ll be consistently focused on them.
Personally, I use the 3-phase visualization technique, which takes only about 3 minutes to complete. In the first phase of the visualization you think about how your life would like 3–5 years from now. Clearly visualize what you’ve achieved, what you are doing, where you’re at and who you are with. In the second phase of the visualization you think about how the coming 12 months will look and the last phase of visualization you think about what you need to do today in order to make significant progress on your long-term visions.
During today’s visualization practice I envisioned how my business, Personal Growth Lab, would have many highly engaged followers that would join me on a Peak Performance retreat in Bali. I clearly envisioned the exercises we would do there (such as defining your values, setting your goals, getting clear on your priorities, learning about state change hacks and productivity techniques) and how fun and exciting this retreat would become.
This immediately fueled me with motivation to work hard (and smart) today so that I can grow the PGL following and make this retreat come true.
Habit 2: Reviewing Your Goals
Another highly effective peak performance habit is to review your goals every single day, preferably as part of your morning- and nighttime routine. By reviewing your goals and your reasons why you want to achieve your goals, you put them at the forefront of your mind. This doesn’t just spark the motivation to work hard, but it also helps you to stay focused on your goals and spark new ideas on how to achieve them.
The main reasons why people don’t achieve their goals is because (1) they set too many goals and are therefore spread too thin with their time, energy and focus, and (2) they ‘forget’ about their goals because they fail to remind themselves every single day about what they want to achieve.
Habit 3: Cold Showers
Taking a cold shower has become one of my go-to tools for getting out of a lousy state of mind and into a peak state of mind in an instant. It quickly helps to me to go from unmotivated and low on energy to highly motivated and peak energy levels.
From this improved state of mind it’s much easier to stop procrastinating and work hard on your goals instead. In fact, there hasn’t been a single time where I didn’t feel energized and motivated to go out and crush it after taking a cold shower.
I have to admit, at first, taking cold showers sucks. Your body is actually going into a stress response as the cold water hits your skin, but the key is to stay calm, control your breath, breathe deeply and silence your mind. After 10–15 seconds you’ll start to notice that you can actually handle it and that it’s not as bad as you first thought it would be.
Try to stay for at least 30 seconds under the cold water and notice how awake, energized and on fire you feel when you leave the shower. This instant boost of energy feels amazing, and it’s totally worth the initial struggle.
Habit 4: Reading
Reading the work of the greatest minds in the world is incredibly motivating. By reading business or self-development books, you feed your mind with empowering messages and learn new valuable lessons that you can implement in your own life.
Through reading, you continuously focus your mind on growth instead of mindless distractions, and you spark new ideas that get you motivated to take action.
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”
— Jim Rohn
If you make it a strong habit to read every single day, you’ll fuel your mind with new ideas and motivating messages. Personally, I read for about 15 minutes as part of my morning routine. This helps me to start the day with an engaged and highly motivated mind.
Habit 5: Affirmations
Affirmations are essentially messages that you want to remind yourself of on a daily basis. This could be in the form of post-it notes hanging around your house or by having a single piece of paper with all of your affirmations on them.
Your affirmations can include any message that you find empowering and motivating. Whether it’s inspiring quotes or life-lessons you’ve learned yourself, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it gets you motivated.
Personally, affirmations such as ‘you are strong, you are powerful, you are great, etc.’ don’t really work for me. There’s nothing wrong with it though, and maybe they work great for you. My personal preference is to affirm important questions and principles that will help me improve my performance during the day.
For example, part of my affirmations is the question ‘What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’ This helps me to focus on my most important task every single day.
Another part of my affirmations is ‘Focus on the highest value activities. Focus on just a few key things. Continuously do a 80/20 analysis and eliminate or outsource everything else’.
But I also have reminders like ‘Fear is a compass for action, direct action.’ and ‘Act and behave like the person you want to be. How would they act?’
Affirming these messages or questions to myself on a daily basis helps me to focus my mind on doing the things that are necessary to accomplish my goals, and it feeds me empowering messages that spark that motivation within to work with much less resistance than I used to.
Habit 6: Continuously Optimize Your Environment
We are truly a product of our environment. Most people view themselves as separate from their environment, but this is impossible.
In fact, your environment continuously influences how you feel, think and act. It influences anything from how motivated you are to how productive you can be.
Your environment, such as the people you surround yourself with (friends, colleagues, family and your significant other) and your direct environment (your home and your office) can either support your goals or hinder your goals.
For example, your environment could make you lose motivation because people in your surroundings distract you from your work. Another common example is that friends and loved ones try to talk you out of chasing your goals or subtly shame you for improving yourself. Maybe they even (subconsciously) try to pull you back towards destructive habits while you are trying to build up empowering habits.
“You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
— Tim Ferriss
That’s why you should continuously analyse whether you have the right people around you. Ask yourself important questions such as:
- Which people support and inspire me?
- Which ones hold me back or talk me down?
- Which ones make me feel better and which ones make me feel worse?
- From which people do I learn a lot?
- From which people do I get energy and which people drain energy?
These are all questions you should ask yourself regularly. If you come to the conclusion that the people in your environment are actually limiting your success, make it your mission to surround yourself with new people who accelerate your success. Make it your mission to find your ‘tribe members’. Talking with and being around these people is one of the surest ways to spark the motivation within, as you engage in more stimulating and inspiring conversations more often.
Another example of an environment that limits your motivation and success is when your physical environment is filled with distractions and lacks success-reminders.
Especially as a work-from-home entrepreneur (like myself) or freelancer, you should be careful when it comes to your work environment. When you try to work with focus and intensity while your environment is filled with distractions (such as your Playstation, Netflix, bad foods and even your smartphone), you’ll find it hard to stay motivated. All of these distractions pull for your attention non-stop as your brain finds them more stimulating and novel than your work, pushing you towards procrastinating.
Instead, make sure you work in a distraction-free environment to keep your focus and energy on your important work at hand.
Furthermore, if you want to continuously get that spark of motivation throughout the day, make sure you fill your office or home environment with success-reminders such as inspirational books, empowering affirmations and pictures of your goals.
By creating a supporting environment, you make motivation ‘effortless’ as your environment essentially does the work for you.
Personally, I found that upgrading my environment was one of the most powerful decisions I’ve ever made to upgrade my mindset, motivation and productivity levels.Through upgrading my physical environment and surrounding myself with inspiring people, I built a ‘system’ that sparks motivation and new ideas round the clock. I encourage you to do the same!
Now Do It
Learning how to motivate yourself is one of the most powerful skills you can develop. It makes it a lot easier to stop procrastinating, decrease inner resistance and work hard instead.
Furthermore, you don’t need to force yourself every single time to do the work. Instead, it’ll flow with less effort and with more joy. In my opinion, that’s a much more fun way to live your life.
Therefore, as an action point for this article, I recommend you try out at least 3 of the previously mentioned habits. Experiment with them and see which ones work the best for you!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
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