Whenever I tell people I work from home, this is the common reaction, “I could never do that because I would spend all my time sleeping or watching T.V.”
It’s pretty amusing to hear a statement like this because I’m not a very motivated person. I don’t live my life like an over-caffeinated Tony Robbins clone. Like a lot of people, I have those periods where I don’t want to do anything. Yet, I always find enough motivation to work on my goals and get a lot accomplished each day.
I’d say the trick to self-motivation is a combination of different factors. There isn’t a magical pill that makes you want to get things done. Instead it comes from understanding what makes you motivated and using this information to push you towards success.
Today, I’d like to talk about different techniques for self-motivation. These are all tricks I personally use to get a lot of things done in my life. I’m not an expert in this area, but deep inside I’m a lazy person. So I guess they do work because I’ve managed to Forrest Gump my way to success. With that said, let’s talk about how to skyrocket your self-motivation…
What Do You Want to Accomplish?
The first step to motivation is to identify and set specific goals. Most people aren’t self-motivated because they don’t have a clear sense of what they want. They’ll say meaningless words like “I want to lose weight” or “I want lots of money,” but won’t take the time to establish a specific outcome. You can’t be motivated until you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve.
Self motivation starts when you break down a general idea into individual activities that can be tracked and adjusted. So instead of saying something like “I want to become healthier,” you’d break down the concept of health into smaller chunks that can be measured:
- Eating better
- Getting more exercise
- Reducing stress
- Sleeping better
“Health” is a meaningless word. Yes, it’s important to have a major goal. One of mine is to become “financially free,” but I don’t use this phrase because there isn’t a clear parameter for what this means. Instead it’s important to take a major goal and break it down into small chunks. Which brings us to…
Establishing a Specific Goal
Like I said before, most people aren’t self-motivated because they don’t know where to start. For instance, you’d probably fail with a goal of “I want to get into shape” because you don’t have a clear outcome for what this means. You’re not motivated because there’s no way to know if you’re successful or not.
On the other hand, you can create motivation by setting a goal like “I want to finish the local half-marathon race in September.” This works because it lists an outcome that will be completed on an exact date. You’re not focusing on an arbitrary goal of getting into shape. Instead you’re establishing an outcome that has a clear yes or no answer. Either you complete it or you don’t.
Trust me it’s easy to be self-motivated when you know exactly what you want.
Let’s give an example of how I use this technique in my personal life… In a recent article I discussed my “Having, Being, Doing” list. Here I listed everything I want to accomplish in the next six months. One of my goals is to “create the first information product for the Steve Scott Site.” Notice how I didn’t say something like “make more money with this blog.” Instead I gave an actionable item that either gets done or it doesn’t.
To take it one step further, I’d create a goal like, “Create my first information product by March 1st, 2011.” So if you came back here in 4 ½ months, you’ll see I either completed this goal or I didn’t. This is all the self-motivation I need because I just gave you my word. I don’t want to run the risk of looking foolish by not following up on my promises.
Once you have established a clear outcome, it’s time to break down the goal into manageable steps. The trick is to incorporate them into your daily activities. With this method, you’re not worrying about a massive project that happens with long-term goals. Instead you’re taking tiny baby steps towards success.
It’s important to identify what’s a daily activity and what’s a unique, one time action. We break it down this way because motivation works differently with short and long-term goals. So let’s cover how to be motivated on a daily basis…
Self-Motivation on a Daily Basis
As you’ve probably learned, it’s hard to be motivated every single day. Sometimes you’ll be tired. Other times you’ll doubt yourself. The problem with motivation is it’s a slippery slope. If you decide to skip one day, it’s all too easy to make excuses for why you can miss another. Then suddenly you find yourself completely giving up on a goal.
The good news is there are a few ways you can find motivation – Even when you’re not in the mood to do something. To help you out, here are three different tricks you can use to give that little push when you need it…
Daily Motivation Trick #1: Shift Your Identity– A common problem people experience with a goal is a feeling of doubt. Often we don’t feel like a particular activity is part of who we are. For instance, it’s easy for a newbie marathoner to give up simply because he or she doesn’t feel like a runner.
A trick with any new goal is to convince yourself that you already have success with a skill. Even if you’re just starting a new blog, tell yourself that you’re already a successful blogger. Or if you’re trying to become the top salesman at your business, adopt the mindset that you’re already the best in the business.
I know this seems like a psychological mumbo-jumbo, but you’d be surprised at how motivated you can become when you have a confident attitude.
Daily Motivation Trick #2- Schedule the Activity- A daily goal should be as (or more) important than the things you do on a daily basis – Eating, showering, and brushing your teeth. The best way to do this is to schedule a specific time each day for completing a daily activity. If you can help it, try to do this first thing in the morning before starting your day. That way you’ll complete the most important activity before you’ve done anything else.
Daily Motivation Trick #3: Make it Impossible to Fail- This technique is not for the faint of heart. What you do is create an agreement with someone known as an “accountability partner.” Basically you make this person responsible for making sure you follow-through with a daily activity.
For instance, let’s say you want to develop a writing habit. You would write out a check to your accountability partner for $100. If this person doesn’t receive text or phone call from you each day, then he or she will be allowed to cash this check.
The trick to this technique is to make the price of failure more uncomfortable than doing the daily activity. Find something that really makes you not want to fail. An example I once heard was a Jewish guy who agreed to write out a check to the Ku Klux Klan whenever he didn’t complete a regular task. I guarantee he didn’t miss a day with that kind of incentive!
Self-Motivation for an Ongoing Project
It’s not hard to be motivated for a long-term project full of steps. In fact, I think this is a lot easier to do than a daily activity. The first thing is to brainstorm/mind-map all the steps you need to take to complete a goal. This is a process where you ask what needs to be done after one task is completed. As an example, here is what my list would look like for creating an information product:
- Write the eBook (Part of my daily activities)
- Create the sales page
- Outsource eCover and salespage graphics
- Create affiliate marketing tools
- Contact Clickbank to set up credit card processing
- Test every part of the sales process
Next, put all these activities on a timeline. You don’t have to go crazy here – Just make sure there’s a rough estimate of how long it takes to complete each step. This helps track your progress along the way. There will be times when it takes longer than planned to complete a step. The trick is to adjust your schedule and keep up the momentum.
The final step is to create a weekly to-do list. Here you’ll schedule specific blocks of time, dedicated to completing a long-term goal. Make this list a sacred part of your week. Just like other things in your life, there should be no excuse for why you’re not completing these items.
What I recommend doing is using “time blocks” to complete long-term projects. For instance, I dedicate 45 minutes for each task on my to-do list. After time is up, I simply cross off a single task. This works well because it creates a feeling that I’m making progress on a major goal.
Additional Self-Motivation Techniques
In addition to tackling short and long-term goals, there are a number of ways you can increase self-motivation. This section will cover a few different techniques/resources I’ve encountered on this subject…
Death as the Ultimate Self-Motivator
One of the books my dad read after his bypass surgery has the straight forward title of Change or Die. The premise is simple, how do people go about changing their lives when faced with a simple choice – Either change your lifestyle or face a very negative consequence…like death.
In Change or Die, Alan Deutschman talks about how we all have the ability to change our behavior. The problem is most people don’t do it, even when the action is simple as taking a pill every day. The key to success is to follow a simple three step process—Relate, Repeat, and Reframe:
- Relate– Gain new hope that your life can change. You do this by finding people who have similar background and experiences. They provide a support system because they know what you’re going through…kind of like a sponsor with Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Repeat– The daily practice of this new skill or lifestyle. For example, eating a specific diet on a regimented basis, not allowing for slack days.
- Reframe– A complete shift to a new mindset. You become a new you who simply doesn’t do the behaviors that were hurting your life. One of the tricks to this mental change is to surrounding yourself with examples of how your life has changed.
I mention the Change or Die book for one simple reason…
When given enough a strong incentive, it’s easy to be motivated to make a change. I bet if someone literally put a gun to your head and said to change you’d find a way to do it!
When my father had his bypass surgery he embraced the principles of Change or Die. He even went as far as taking a weekly course on The Ornish Diet which is a program designed to reverse the effects of heart disease. I know this diet hasn’t been easy on him, but he’s now faced with a simple choice: Either he changes his lifestyle or he dies.
Self-Motivation through Confidence
Another key to self-motivation is a little bit of confidence. I like the quote from Matthew McChonaughey’s character in the girly movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” In a scene when he’s accused of being too cocky his response is simple: “No, not cocky – Confident.”
This quote is a great mantra for self-motivation. Have confidence in your ability to complete a goal – Even when people are telling you it can’t be done. Nobody is going to knock on your door every day and say “you can do it.” Your motivation has to come from within. Be a little overconfident (or even cocky) about your chances for success.
It sounds crazy, but I have the mindset that I can achieve every goal I set. Sure they’ll be obstacles. But these roadblocks are designed to make me a better person. For instance, I started this blog back in January with the belief that it will succeed. I haven’t achieved this goal yet, but I know it’s around the corner because I’m nailing all of my milestones.
How do you develop this kind of confidence? I believe it comes from drawing on previous achievements. We’ve all had success in some area of our lives. All you have to do is set up a constant reminder of what you’ve accomplished. You can even go as far as reciting your previous successes on a daily basis. This should give you enough motivation and confidence to push forward when the going gets tough.
Using Music to Find Self-Motivation
We all love music. Some songs make us feel happy, while others make us sad. The funny thing is you can use music to create a “self-motivated mindset.” Think of all the people who bring an iPods to the gym. Most of the time, they’re listening to something high-tempo because it gives them a psychological boost necessary for working out.
Music is great for motivation because we tie specific emotions and feelings to certain songs. What you can do is create a playlist of songs that make you want to tackle the world. Then whenever you’re feeling a bit lackluster, play this list and you’ll get a boost of energy.
For example, in my post about how to improve your writing I mentioned that I listen to one of fifteen different albums when working. The cool thing is this music instantly puts me in the mood for writing – Even when I’m not in the mood.
I can’t really tell you what type of music to play. We all have our own personal preferences. The trick is to test out your favorites and see which ones provide the best kind of motivation.
Embracing the Self-Motivated Lifestyle
A core theme of this site is the idea of “Lifestyle Design” which I learned from The 4-Hour Work Week. Initially I was interested in this concept because I wanted to automate my business, travel the world, and have more fun. But when you really think about lifestyle design, I think it’s more about achieving mastery over how you spend your time.
We’re all given the same hours a day. It’s how you choose to spend this time that makes the difference in your life. In this post, I gave many techniques for improving your self-motivation. These shouldn’t be isolated from the rest of your life. They should be part of an entire lifestyle – In which you control every aspect.
You should be motivated to work…motivated to spend time with your family…motivated to exercise…and motivated to do what you want to do in life.
There will be times when you’re not up to working on a goal. The trick is to make everything part of your lifestyle, so it becomes unthinkable to miss a day or slack off.
Final Thoughts on Self-Motivation
Motivation comes from within. While I can sit here and write 2,500+ words about how to be motivated, the harsh reality is you are solely responsible for taking action. I’ve done my best to list every technique I know for getting excited about tackling a goal. The rest is up to you. Don’t just read this post – Take action and become motivated to get what you want out of life.Take Action. Get Results.