What motivates you?

For me personally, the answer is this:

I’m curious to see how I evolve as a human being as I’m working on becoming the best version of myself.

Curiosity has always kept me going. It helps me seek out knowledge that will be helpful to me, it keeps me focused on developing skills so that I can get better at doing things, and it boosts my critical thinking as I’m making sense of everything I experience in life.

That said, the question of being (and staying) motivated is not easy. It’s actually hard work. Sometimes we feel stuck in our present circumstances and don’t see a way out. Maybe we think we’re putting in so much energy without seeing the results we want. Or maybe we’re going through an existential crisis of sorts and think to ourselves, what’s the point in doing anything at all?

If there’s one thing that can help us get out of a stagnating mindset when it comes to motivation, it’s to think beyond our daily life. Creating a big picture of what our life is for, and why we are living it, is something that will keep focused on what lies ahead. To be successful at this, it’s critical to keep things simple. Your big picture doesn’t have to include all the colors and details you want it to have ideally (although that’s something to work towards). For now, let’s just think about what it would take to create an outline of the big picture so that we have a blueprint of what we want to do.

Here are 5 ideas for creating your big picture that can help you get motivated and stay motivated, no matter what you choose to do.

Motivational idea #1. Write the important stuff down.

Why?

This technique is useful for several reasons: it trains your mind to focus a few steps ahead, it eliminates the possibility of forgetting something important you need to do, and it sets in motion the act of accomplishing your goals, step by step. When you see an actual plan of what you will be doing in hourly increments, it keeps things simple, and it is less likely you will blow things off because even if you do, you will still have to make up for the time lost.

How can you do this?

  • Identify your top 3 goals. For example: get physically fit, start a home business, increase your network of friends.
  • 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.
  • Then, 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 incorporating a morning and nighttime routine  to give more structure to your day.

Motivational idea #2. 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 because 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 can you do this?

  • First, write it down: take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker.
  • Next, put it somewhere where you’re most likely to look at it: it can be on your bedroom or the bathroom wall, next to the mirror for example.
  • Then, look at the question and ask it out loud as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
  • Take a minute to think what’s on your agenda for the day, then pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud to yourself.

Motivational idea #3. Cultivate a morning routine.

Why?

It’s a great way to stay on top of your game by accomplishing several things early in the day, which in turn, helps you get motivated to be even more productive throughout the rest of the day. A morning routine gives you structure, it breaks down your early hours of the day into smaller chunks so that you feel productive in several areas of your life: personal, professional, health and fitness, etc.

How can you do this?

  • Always have breakfast. It gives you energy and it’s fuel for your brain. A great example is a combination of protein, fruits, and healthy fats (such as nuts): it can be oatmeal or yogurt with granola, fresh fruit, walnuts (an excellent brain booster) and almonds.
  • To wake up your mind and body, pick any type of physical activity. It can be a session at the gym, or it can be something shorter and even more simple: a morning yoga routine, a set of hindu pushups, a 20-minute power walk or a brisk run before hitting the shower. The goal is to be consistent; smaller chunks of activity can give you energy, and you can always supplement them later in the day with another 30 minutes of walking during your lunch break or a workout later in the afternoon.
  • Say thank you. For five minutes each morning, think of 3 things you are grateful for today: it can be something as simple as a roof over your head, food in the fridge, a warm bed, running water, a positive relationship with people you love the most, etc. Practicing gratitude about what we have going for us can restructure our brain to focus on positive things, which sets the tone for the rest of the day, and that can also impact our motivation.

Motivational idea #4. Explore where your unique skills can add value to others.

Why?

Adding value means you bring something to the table that can help to solve a problem other people have. More important, it shifts your mindset from focusing on yourself as an isolated individual with a set of challenges you’re trying to overcome to seeing yourself as an active member of your community. So what could you bring to the table? It can mean anything from using a personal strength or skill (the ability to teach, build furniture, draw someone’s portrait, or negotiate a business agreement) to addressing an immediate problem by asking someone, “How can I help you do that?” Whether the problem is big or small, temporary or long-term, your ability to add value gives you a greater sense of purpose and impacts your big picture.

How can you do this?

  • Start with this question: How can I add value to my circle of friends, family, or coworkers? First, identify areas where you believe others may benefit from your help. Then, consider what are the best ways to offer your time or expertise.
  • Be creative about ways to share what you know. For example, as you are learning and getting better at a particular subject, you can illustrate what you’re learning by drawing charts, diagrams or other ways to present your ideas visually. Or, you can share your notes by posting them online on your blog or by creating instructional YouTube videos describing what you learned to a broader audience.
  • Become an active participant in an online forum such as Quora. Why? It’s a good place to post questions that can motivate others to get involved and respond, and also an opportunity to write answers that can improve someone’s knowledge, give a shortcut to finding a solution, or help in some other way. You never know when one small thing you’ve mastered can become one really big thing to someone else. Sometimes it’s like opening a door to a new world, and that’s where you can add real value to the lives of others.

Motivational idea #5. Treat yourself well.

Why?

A great motivational trick is to give yourself things to look forward to. When you achieve a small goal, give yourself a reward to mark the occasion. Rewards are important to give ourselves the feeling that we deserve a positive outcome because we are putting in hard work and effort to get things done, no matter what those things are—personal goals or career goals, for example.

How can you do this?

What you choose to reward yourself with will depend on your personal interests, your passions, as well as your personality.

  • It can be having an evening out with friends for some live music, or enjoying a tasty bar of Swiss chocolate.
  • If you like to stay active, it can be going for a long bike ride to get some fresh air and exercise, or hiking for a whole day over the weekend.
  • If you just want to chill, it can be soaking in a 30-minute bubble bath with some relaxing music, or watching a movie you’ve been putting of for the day when you have more time. This time, you’re in luck—that day is today!
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