What are some ways to become motivated and stay motivated?

Being and staying motivated is not easy. It’s actually hard work.

No matter which phase of life we are going through (studying at college, looking for work, managing a career, trying to overcome an obstacle, working on developing a new habit), motivation is the one thing that will make a difference and take us forward to where we need or want to go.

The key to staying motivated is to think beyond our daily life. We need to always have a specific goal that we want to achieve; it doesn’t matter if it’s attainable in 3 months, a year, 5 years from now, or even later. Once we know what that goal is, it’s just a matter of creating time in our busy day to do something, even if it’s something small, that will get us closer to it.

Here are a few things you can do every day to grow your motivation muscle.

ONE. Write the important stuff down.

  • Identify your top 3 goals. For example: graduate from college, get an advanced degree, find a job that is the best fit for your skill set, develop a skill that you’ve always wanted, get physically fit, become an entrepreneur, grow your personal or professional network, etc.
  • Then, under each goal, write down 3 things you will need to do on a regular basis to make progress. For example: if your goal is to get physically fit, then the things you should focus on can be creating a meal plan for the week to eat healthier, doing some form of exercise daily, and doing research on YouTube for fun workouts that don’t take up too much time and can be incorporated easily into your day.
  • Finally, create a weekly schedule to fit in the activities you’ve identified as important to achieving your goal. Divide each day into hourly increments, then block off time for your responsibilities. You should still be able to find a couple of hours where you can do what you set out to do. If you feel you don’t have enough time, then consider keeping a morning and nighttime routine to give more structure to your day.

TWO. Be laser-focused on making progress, by asking this question first thing in the morning: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

  • Why this habit matters: it encourages you to think strategically about your life, it keeps you focused on your goals, it forces you to prioritize, and it serves as a personal promise to yourself.
  • How you can incorporate this habit into your day: put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot. Then, as you follow your daily schedule, make sure that you are doing what you need to do so that you complete the one thing you’ve identified as important to you for that day.

THREE. Feed your brain.

A great hack to boosting motivation is to expose your brain to different ideas and perspectives from other people who managed to overcome an obstacle or to succeed in accomplishing something they’ve always wanted to do. Who knows, hearing these stories could give you an idea or two how to implement the strategies they used into your daily life. Use this opportunity to learn, be curious, wonder, question, pause, think.

A. Listen to podcasts

  • Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod (creator of The Miracle Morning, provides ideas to cultivate a morning routine and be productive early in the day)
  • Ask Altucher (Q&A sessions with entrepreneur/investor/writer, where he responds to questions from listeners on a variety of topics)
  • Optimize with Brian Johnson (condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and also micro classes on how to apply these ideas)
  • Happier With Gretchen Rubin (a fun show led by bestselling author of “The Happiness Project” with small ideas you can apply to your life to exercise your happiness muscle)
  • Question of the Day (a show for people short on time and long on curiosity, with a lot of good humor in trying to answer the question at hand)

B. Read books (fiction and non-fiction)

Why? It’s the equivalent of living multiple lives; reading can stimulate your imagination, utilize your critical thinking skills, and ultimately, it will give you food for thought on how you could respond differently to what is happening in your life.

  • Fiction: Dive deep into the lives of others and get lost in private lives of fictional characters, find out what makes them tick, ask yourself what would you do in their place.
  • Non-fiction: Learn from the experiences of others in their quest to live a happier life, become healthy, start a business, excel at a skill, overcome an obstacle, live a life with more meaning and a sense of purpose.

FOUR. Treat yourself.

So now that you’re working on taking this motivation thing seriously, you should give yourself a reward to mark the occasion. What you choose to reward yourself with will depend on your personal interests, affinities, your passions, as well as your personality.

  • Do you enjoy spending time with friends? This weekend, get everyone together for an evening out to watch a movie together, attend a concert, catch up over coffee or dinner at your favorite restaurant, or invite them over to your place for a few hours of laughter, good conversation, and fun.
  • Would you prefer to spend some time alone or with your family or partner? Schedule a night in, order takeout, have fun talking and eating together; or, spend an hour or two in an activity that makes you feel really good, like playing guitar, chess, painting, writing, or any project that really gets your mind engaged.

Whatever you choose, it should feel like a celebration of small wins. For every hour that you dedicate to your personal development and to staying motivated for what matters most to you, reward yourself so you feel like you’ve accomplished something worthwhile: investing in your own future.

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