It’s really hard to stay motivated all the time. I am always so positive in those first hazy moments of morning. The fresh new day is inspiring, like a clean, blank sheet of paper awaiting my pen strokes. I write mental motivational lists that are crumpled and tossed aside by mid morning. Whether it is about eating clean (my newest and latest personal goal), writing more prolifically (if it’s possible) or the long, lazy walk I promised I would take with the dog; inevitably I stop for an extra cup of coffee and the motivation and the oomph has flown out the window. I find myself off task and increasingly agitated.
We all have dreams and goals for our lives. It’s oh so easy to pen a bucket list, but hard to follow through. It is as if we set unacheivable goals, and hope someone sets it all up for our success. Even when I plan my days (often, and with plenty of unwind and down time for myself,) I find my motivation lacking by mid morning when the dog starts whining and all I want is another coffee and a nap. There are so many distractions that derail our chances of of achieving our goals, but the biggest obstacle by far is our selves. So here’s my take on how to stay motivated, whether to your giant end of the rainbow goal, or just to finish cooking breakfast.
Goals. I keep saying goals, and I’m not talking sports folks. This is your life, so decide how to live it. We can’t just say, for example, I’m going to lose 50 pounds and do yoga ten times a week. Small steps. First set an attainable, doable goal, say 10 pounds and yoga twice a week. Write it down. I have a little section of notes on every page of my planner. Yeah, I know, a new concept for me (those who know me, stop laughing, I feel you) but it really helps. It lets me identify what I need to do each day. Of course if you looked at it you’d see all sorts of weird stuff, for example this week’s notes read : “Shameful, box garden, where were the bones?, plot Rye, dinner. ” No joke. Means nothing to you, but a week’s work for me. Since I’m looking to my “endgame”‘goal for this small section of time (I have 5 weeks left), instead of freaking out by focusing on my large goal of finishing a 5000 word descriptive fictional piece with supernatural undertones, I broke it down. I know, you can’t see it; think plot, characterization, pastoral elements. Plot Rye is all about character development. Don’t ask. When (ok if) my submission is chosen I’ll send you all a copy. Promise. Dinner is a reminder that my natives get restless around 6:30 pm. By reflecting on all these smaller, more doable goals, I stay motivated and on task, making it easier to reach the goal post. (Ugh, the sports crept back in 😉) Maybe that will motivate you!
So, very important paragraph here. Internal motivation. This is easily the most incredible, and I cannot stress IMPORTANT thing to remember. We are programmed as humans to be motivated by both extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal) motivators. Extrinsic is more Pavlovian. You know, ring the bell, dog jumps, reward the dog. We are trained to perform certain behaviors (dear readers, I almost wrote circus behaviors) in order to receive rewards and prevent punishments. You can think work, but really it’s about competition. Think about a race or a contest where you are motivated to create, run, or something else for a prize reward. It’s more short lived, and therefore extrinsic. It requires others and other people’s validation, observation and reward, positive or otherwise. Intrinsic motivation is something we do for ourselves. Actually, probably one of the best positive, happy motivators we have. Intrinsic, or internal motivation comes from within. It is the moment deep in your soul that you decide you are going to set a goal and reach for it, even if it’s just making a cup of coffee. Intrinsic motivation encourages personally rewarding behavior, for example, when you change a habit or lifestyle. It takes work, but you see results and even if slow, still sends warm fuzzies and motivates you to keep on track.
Next, surround yourself with positivity. (Yes, I know, I made that word up, but it’s a good word. Maybe I’ll submit to the Urban Dictionary.) when you let yourself be in a negative, toxic environment, it is twice as hard to achieve your goals. Step back, away from the Negative Nellies and eliminate the dark places from your life. We all have demons, we don’t have to feed them. (Well I do, but that’s for another time.) Surround yourself with people who support and inspire you. Read books by authors you admire, visit inspiring place like museums, beaches and shoe stores, (Um, yeah, you read that right). Outside influences have a great power over our thoughts, emotions and goals. Keep it positive!
Be accountable. Your goal may be years in the making. It is a long time to stay focused and motivated, I know it’s so darn hard to wait, but it’s always worth it, trust me. My advice? Share your ambitions with others. Always tell a close friend or family member, so they can offer feedback and tough love when necessary. My mom is my biggest fan, but she’s really subjective, and I love her for that. Hubby is great at the tough love. I tell everyone I meet that I’m a writer. It keeps me on track, and the final train station is always in view. It helps me celebrate the small victories. This month was the launch of this very website you’re reading. Thanks again, and remember to share and pass it on. I’ll try to keep the good stuff coming. Motivate and inspire, yup, that’s my goal. Oh, and of course to share some of those yummy coffee beans with you (sip and slurp as necessary☕️.)
Ok, now, I beg of you dear friends and reader, celebrate your small accomplishments. Even the tiniest step forward is something to celebrate. It helps remind you of the bigger picture, the big trophy goal at the end. We all deserve some Kudos and Congratulations (ok, and maybe some really good chocolate) to motivate us to stay on track. Choo choo! Train is heading in the right direction!
Another way to stay focused and motivated is to write it down. I’m not talking about cryptic notes in your planner. Invest in a journal. Mine says “Brilliant Thoughts.” It’s leather bound with a quote from Henry Miller inside the front cover: “Writing like life itself, is a voyage of Discovery,” and yes, that inspires me. Studies show that when we write things down, it yields a power. We are more likely to do, to achieve if there is something tangible to see as opposed to loose ideas floating dramatically in the left hemisphere of our brains. So grab a journal and list your goals, you can even document your journey. Looking back at your small successes will make you feel good, and that is intrinsic motivation my friends.
Last, but certainly not least, make it fun! If your dreams are boring and arduous you won’t like them very much. That leads to lack of positivity, productivity and motivation. Most goals worth reaching require blood and tears to be accomplished. My last nonfiction piece of a little less than 2000 words took me three weeks longer than I anticipated. Luckily I planned well so I didn’t miss the submission date. This work took a piece of my soul and crumbled it to dust, but I feel it really helped in the long run. When I clicked submit, I knew I had a victory, maybe not in the publishing, but in the finishing. I needed to vomit out that story, that piece of my past I tried to bury in the bowels of hell. And I celebrated. A glass of wine, and some heavy duty prayers to the Gods of Publication. (I’ll keep you all posted dear readers.)
Most of the time I have fun with my writing. I like a little humor (even if only I find it so) to lighten up what might be a serious subject, sometimes, life is just funny, and that is a gift. Especially to a writer. I like to shake up my ideas, and write in strange places (rough drafts anyway.) I penned an essay on Milton’s Paradise Lost in the loo at the North Arms, my apologies Dr. Henson, but you did grant me an A. (1080 and Guiness make good writing partners., lol. )Therefore, a reward, a prize, a motivation.
Let me leave you with my top ten ways to stay motivated:
- Coffee (with a good book)
- Doggie Cuddles
- Bird Snuggles
- Call your Bestie
- Memory Lane (old photos)
How do you stay motivated? Have you celebrated your accomplishments? Share your thoughts, hopes, dreams or other in the comments.
Thanks and stay motivated and caffeinated!