I’ve had several conversations recently with women who find themselves struggling to stay focused, stay on task, and keep moving forward with their projects and goals. I can relate to that, specifically when it comes to my efforts to get healthier this year. I thought this would be a good time to talk about getting started and moving forward on what is most important to us.
Motivation and productivity
What is motivation?
When doing my research for this topic, I first looked up the word motivation in the dictionary.
- Noun the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. “escape can be a strong motivation for travel” [this addresses the question of why you’re doing what you’re doing]
- the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. [this addresses the question of how much you want to do the thing you’re doing] “keep staff up to date and maintain interest and motivation”
Another definition states: “motivation is a condition inside us that desires a change, either in the self or the environment” [from What Is Motivation? A Psychologist Explains] Motivation comes when our current situation, internal or environmental, is uncomfortable enough that we are motivated to do something to change it. This can apply to our health, our relationships, our jobs, or our goals.
Two basic sources of motivation
- Extrinsic (comes from outside): examples would be a trophy, job promotion, or attention from other people.
- Intrinsic (come from inside): this is something we do from the satisfaction of doing it, not from validation from the outside.
One writer explains that motivation has 3 components: activation, persistence, and intensity. As the article put it:
- Activation involves the decision to initiate a behavior.
- Persistence is the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist.
- Intensity can be seen in the concentration and vigor that goes into pursuing a goal.
These three components can apply to any action, such as the pursuit of a goal, completion of a task or project, development of a habit, or change of a behavior.
Why is it important?
Motivation is important because it’s what drives us to act and keep acting.
“simply having the desire to accomplish something is not enough. Achieving such a goal requires the ability to persist through obstacles and endurance to keep going in spite of difficulties.” [from What Is Motivation?]
What interferes with motivation?
Health—even people with health challenges can be highly motivated to take action in pursuit of their goals, but it makes it harder. And, poor health can interfere with our motivation. Choosing to follow a healthy diet can help us maintain the energy and general sense of well-being that can help us press on.
Fatigue–this is also tied to our health. If we don’t eat well, get enough rest, drink enough water, and generally care for our bodies, it’s hard to find motivation to do anything. One note for women: persistent fatigue might have physiological causes (e.g., for me, hypothyroidism). Schedule a check-up with your healthcare provider just to make sure it’s not something that needs medical attention.
Emotions–when we are experiencing strong emotions (especially strong negative emotions, such as fear, anger, etc.), they can distract us, making it hard to focus, and can zap the mental and physical energy it takes to persist in the action we need to take.
Not seeing progress–when it feels like we’re not making progress, we can become discouraged. Sometimes this is tied to unrealistic expectations, like when we expect instant results. When they don’t come, we are tempted to give up.
Overwhelm–when either the project or the goal itself seems too big OR all the things you have on your plate add up to too much, it’s easy to lose the motivation to take action.
Comparison–if we’re comparing ourselves, our goals or our perceived abilities to what other people are doing and accomplishing, this can bring a sense of discouragement and affect our motivation.
Lack of confidence–nobody likes to fail. If we don’t have confidence in our abilities to do something, we can lose all motivation to even try.
Perfectionism–this is another internal conflict we may have that is tied to how we view our ability to do something. We can lose motivation to take any action towards our goals if we don’t think we can do it perfectly.
Lack of support–when the people in your life don’t support your goals (or actively discourage them) it can be hard to keep going.
What can you do to boost motivation?
- Collect motivational quotes that inspire you and put them where you’ll see them daily. Read them out loud.
- Create a plan. What obstacles are likely to come between you and your goal, and what can you do to overcome them? Thinking that through ahead of time puts you ahead of the game, because when obstacles come, you’re ready with the tools you need to get past them.
- Remind yourself of your why. Is your why strong enough to keep you going when things get tough (or boring)? If you don’t have a strong enough why (something meaningful to you) maybe you need to let it go and turn your attention and energy to something else that you do feel strongly enough about.
- If a lack of confidence is zapping your motivation to take action, take some time to remind yourself of the things you’ve accomplished in the past. If you have trouble identifying them, ask someone who knows you well. Give yourself credit for what you’ve done, and recognize that the same skills, mindset, and determination that helped you accomplish that goal can be applied to your current goal. As writer Liz Huber said in an article published on Medium:
“In order to achieve big, bold goals, you need to upgrade your mindset with a new set of empowering beliefs that will get you the necessary confidence to take on your goals.”
- Find a goal buddy-someone who can hold you accountable and give you pep talks when you need them (and you can do the same for them). Finding support can make a huge difference; if those closest to you aren’t supportive, look elsewhere. Join a group (in-person or virtual) of people who have similar goals. Being around like-minded people can be very motivating.
- Take a small step. Starting (or restarting) is the hardest part. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, ease back in slowly. Instead of working out for an hour, commit tov10 minutes every day (starting to rebuild the habits that help). Decide to write one paragraph, or even one sentence or one page, every day. Or, spend 10 minutes a day sorting tax documents/photos.
- Prepare your space. Clean your desk/office/workspace. Take an hour to get things back in order. Having a cluttered and messy office can be de-motivating. Play music that energizes you or a podcast that gets you cranked up while you work. (I go back to early episodes of Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School Podcast when I need a boost.)
- Get outside and get some fresh air. It can elevate your mood and give you that boost of energy you might need to keep going.
- If not seeing progress is demotivating for you, break the project or goal into small achievable steps. Checking them off, and the dopamine hit that comes from accomplishing that step, can energize you enough to take the next step and the next. Even a little bit of progress is still progress.
- Plan rewards for reaching key milestones. Treat yourself to something special for each accomplishment you have.
Understanding what motivates us as individuals and developing ways to get and stay motivated are important. There is another perspective worth considering, though. That is the interplay between motivation and discipline. As one retired Top Gun fighter pilot puts it,
“In real life, when fear, fatigue, and doubt set in, no speech can provide the motivation you need to keep going. The only thing you and your team can rely on is discipline. . . . Discipline . . . is what drives you to do the work you don’t enjoy, but is required. Discipline conquers fear. Discipline keeps you going when your curiosity, motivation, and excitement evaporate.”
In that same article, Jim Rohn is quoted as saying,
“If we don’t make consistent self-discipline part of our daily lives, the results we seek will be sporadic and elusive. . . . It takes discipline to conquer the nagging voices in our minds: the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of poverty, the fear of a broken heart. It takes discipline to keep trying when that nagging voice within us brings up the possibility of failure.”
Developing discipline–those habits of doing the necessary, of resisting short-term temptations in favor of long-term good–is key to keeping us going when we don’t feel motivated. Achieving the meaningfully productive life we want can motivate us to develop those habits–that discipline–that can make all the difference.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
How do you motivate yourself to develop the habits that keep you moving forward toward accomplishing what matters most to you? Please share them in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Motivation | Psychology Today
- What Is Motivation?
- What is Motivation? A Psychologist Explains. – PositivePsychology.com
- 9 Toxic Habits That Kill Your Motivation
- 21 Things That Can Kill Your Motivation – MotivationalWellBeing
- 8 Things That are Killing Your Motivation
- 8 Reasons You Lack Motivation — and How to Fix it | by Liz Huber | The Startup | Medium
- Little Known Factors That Could Affect Your Motivation: Team ICON Po – ICON Meals
- What you need to know about willpower: The psychological science of self-control
- Which Is Better: Discipline or Motivation? | Inc.com
- (30) Motivation | Discipline | Willpower | Habit [Explained!] – YouTube
- The Life Coach School podcast by Brooke Castillo
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