Being motivated to continue doing something difficult is usually a struggle. When we’re doing something and then in the middle of it we’re suddenly faced with a big challenge, sometimes it seems hard to press on. There are times that our negative experiences and failures keep us from continuing. We become fearful of making mistakes again. Other times, we just lose our focus and direction. Our environment may suddenly change and we find ourselves getting ‘lost‘ in transition. We forget what our goals are and why we started in the first place. In any case, when you start losing hope and feel under-motivated to continue, keep these things in mind:
1. Be Thankful. We often lose confidence from past failures and personal weaknesses which then kills our motivation. We have to focus and think of what we want and why we started in the first place, but sometimes it is the same reason why we start to lose confidence in ourselves. As time goes by, our brains start to question why we still aren’t getting what we want. We become jealous of others’ achievements and compare ourselves with them. The solution for this is to focus on gratitude. Be thankful for your small achievements. Remember your accomplishments and what it took for you to get there. If you are a runner struggling to make it past sub-30 or your sub-1 or whatever your target is, be thankful for those few minutes or even seconds that you scrape off from your time. If you have been going to the gym to lose weight, be thankful for the capability to work out and sweat every day, and remember that you are on the road to fitness. We lose hope when we tend to forget about our strengths and dwell on our failures. Make an effort to feel grateful and you’ll realize how competent and successful you are.
2. Focus on Positive Goals, not just on results. We sometimes set unreasonable goals for ourselves and when we don’t reach them, we lose confidence in ourselves. Some people set goals like “I want to lose 30 lbs in 1 month” which is totally unhealthy. I once had a client who wanted to improve her figure by having a thigh gap. I had to patiently explain that this is an anatomical difference and can’t be easily modified with exercise or any weight loss program. Also, being skinny does not mean being healthy. When you run, you don’t reach the finish line by thinking about the finish line, but you focus on each grueling step that you take to reach it.
3. Set Your Direction. If focus means having positive and specific goals, then having direction means to make a clear strategy of your day-to-day actions to achieve your goals. Without an obvious next step, we tend to procrastinate. If possible, make a sequential list of things to do until you reach your goal. Identify the activities that lead to success. Some actions that you take can be good, but may not lead to your goal. Remind yourself everyday of what you need to do next. I think a good analogy of this in sports training would be Periodization. You have an ultimate direction towards your goal with the Macrocycle -your year long or season-long training plan. But you should still have your Mesocycle and ultimately your Microcycle which is specific to what you do for each training day.
It is inevitable to encounter failures and problems along the way as you take steps toward your goal. What’s important is that you strive and persevere and keep negative thoughts from killing your confidence and motivation. Martin Luther Jr said “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” And after that first step, keep focusing on the next steps ahead of you.
Be thankful for each step. Focus on positive and reasonable goals. And set a clear direction for every action that you take.