Practical Motivation for Self-Help Haters

Because motivation can open doors for you…. do you see what I did there? Please allow time for a hearty laugh at this magnificent caption before proceeding to the article.

I have to admit, I cringed when this one came in.

It’s my fault, really. Whenever you title an article something like “Shift Your Mindset,” you’re bound to get a few skeptics.

But “Self help???”


I don’t want to be a page in a self help book. “Self-help” as it’s generally known is fleeting, it’s fake, and it only benefits people in theory.

Worse, it often hooks people into thinking the only way to improve themselves is to keep reading articles, keep buying products or books, and keep hanging on to hucksters.

I’m not a super hero, I’m not Internet royalty (yet), but I am a self-starter. I’ve gathered quite a crowd on Medium, launched a blog, raised my salary at my full-time job $20,000 in 2 years (hey guys I just got a raise!), and have the first draft of a book written mostly on the power of my motivation.

But I don’t expect you to take any of that on faith. I don’t expect you hear a big rah-rah pep talk and all of a sudden change your life around.

You’re smarter than that.

The only way I know to fight vague, airy-fairy “self-help” is to wage war with practicality.

Here 5 practical things I do to keep my fire burning:

1. Adjust your goals into your existing life, not the other way around.

Every time I’ve failed at something, it’s because I tried to squeeze it into an area of my life where it just won’t fit.

Start small. I know you’ll want to go all in, but go all in on something little at first, then get bigger. This gives you the immediate feedback of completing a small victory, while also building the groundwork to to more.

Oh, and by the way, be honest. Every time you lie to yourself, a 6-year-old drops her ice cream in the sand. If you have 6 kids under the age of 10, you aren’t going to have hours and hours of time to work on that novel.

Use something like my Free Time Checklist if you need it. Do whatever you must to deal with your current reality.

2. Set Your Own Standards

Whether you are in a corporate environment, school, or a self-employed role, there will be folks who will think you’re doing too much.

Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. I don’t know.

What I do know is that if you set your own bar by the actions of other people, you will get the life they have, not the life you want.

Paint a clear vision for what you want (no matter how outlandish), break out the steps small enough to fit into your existing life (remember rule #1?), and then follow them.


3. Don’t look back

If you’ve ever been on a workout regimen, you know how bad it sucks to do less than you are capable of. The reason #1 in this list is so important is because if you build your goals into your life a little at a time, you have a chance to keep them.

Keep a little weight on the bar until your form is perfect (i.e. do your thing until you can do it almost without thinking), and then keep a consistent schedule. Consistency trumps erratic bursts of effort.

If you say you’re going to write on Monday, don’t give yourself any excuses. Whether it’s at 5:00 A.M. or 11 P.M., get it in. You can do it.

4. Do it for somebody else.

Up until I realized I wanted to marry my wife, I was a Simpsons-watching, carb-chomping, late-sleeping college kid. But when I realized Kate would probably prefer a husband who didn’t constantly have pizza sauce on his pants, I started to shape up.

Tapping into the needs of others can motivate you. You can only do so much for yourself, after all. I mean come on, how much money or fame do you actually need?

There’s an important caveat here — What I don’t mean is “chase the goals someone else wants for you.”

Remember, this is your life. You set your own bar. Just make sure your goals serve other people as well.

5. Love yourself. Forgive Yourself.

At the end of the day, guilt, shame, and regret are probably the most crippling emotions. I know people who wake up hating themselves. Maybe you’re one of them.

But I have to tell you something — You’ve got to live with yourself for a really, really, really long time.

You are uniquely created for something with exactly your set of abilities, background, and talent. I know that much is true.

Do everything you can as well as you can, remember that something is better than nothing, and move on.

You’ll get another shot tomorrow.

You guys are awesome for making it all the way down here! I’ve got to ask — what motivates you? Answer in the responses or hit me up on Twitter.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Todd Brison

Written by

Author of The Creative’s Curse, The Unstoppable Creative. Seen in CNBC, Inc. Magazine, and in my kitchen doing dishes.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.