GETTING MOTIVATED IS A CHALLENGE
Getting motivated is a challenge, and it often takes more than good intentions to really get going. When we first come up with an idea, our heads are filled with scattered thoughts and a vague plan of action. The problem is that good ideas don’t go anywhere on their own. Without a tangible force behind us nothing happens. Do you work harder when faced with a deadline? We all do because we have no choice but to produce.
So how do we force ourselves into action? A great way is stepping up and putting some hard earned cash on the line. Investing money in a goal does two things. First, it provides you with a valuable resource towards reaching your goal. Second, it gives you something to lose. If you don’t do anything at this point you’re wasting your own money.
I was first exposed to this idea in a post by Violent Acres that explains why the poor have a higher rate of obesity than the rich. V points out that poor people don’t lack the willpower to get in shape, they lack the resources. Only the rich can afford personal trainers, expensive gym memberships, and high priced groceries. With all these resources available it’s hard not to stay in shape.
At first I disagreed. Why can’t someone get a great workout for free by running outside and doing pushups and situps at home? In theory this works, but practice is different. Say you decide not to buy the gym membership and resolve to work out at home. Excuses always turn up. One day the weather is bad so you don’t run. The next day you come home tired, turn on the TV and never get up. Without a monetary investment to lose, there isn’t pressure to perform. By investing in a gym membership, you’re not just buying a place to workout, you’re buying motivation.
In effect, you become your own employer. When someone is hired, an employer pays for office space, a computer, training, etc. If that person doesn’t produce, the employer loses money. That’s why he also pays a supervisor to ensure the employee works hard. If you decide pay a consultant or personal trainer, you hire you own supervisor. By investing money in your goals you become employer and employee.You have something to lose if it fails and everything to gain if it works. It’s harder to be lazy when it means wasting your own money.
Any savvy entrepreneur will tell you that it takes money to make money. If you aren’t willing to spend a nominal sum to further your cause then how committed are you? By all means be frugal, but look at the big picture. Free resources are great but you can’t rely on them alone. What is the worth of a $30 book that helps you make thousands in the long run? Spending on valuable assets that grow your business is the sign of a wise investor.
We’re only human. We have good intentions, but our willpower can fail us. Over time we wear down and need an extra push. Don’t let the fear of wasting money prevent you from investing in your goals. If you know you want something, invest in it financially and mentally. Give yourself a resource and a reason to push yourself. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. One great investment can make up for scores mediocre ones. With hard work you’ll make back the money you spend, but you’ll never be able to get back lost time.
We’ve all faced the disappointment and guilt that comes from setting a goal and giving up on it after a couple of weeks. Sustaining motivation for a long-term goal is hard to achieve, and yet the best goals can usually only be accomplished in a few months or even years.
HERE’S THE SOLUTION: FOCUS INSTEAD ON CREATING A NEW HABIT THAT WILL LEAD TO ACHIEVING YOUR GOAL.
Want to run a marathon? First create the habit of running every day. Want to get out of debt and start saving? Create the habit of brown bagging it to work, or watching DVDs instead of going to the movies, or whatever change will lead to saving money for you.
By focusing not on what you have to achieve over the course of the next year, but instead on what you are doing each day, you are focusing on something achievable. That little daily change will add up to a huge change, over time … and you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come in no time. Little grains of sand can add up to a mountain over time.
I used this philosophy of habit changes to run a marathon, to change my diet and lose weight, to write a novel, to quit smoking, to become organized and productive, to double my income, reduce my debt and start saving, and to begin training for an Olympic triathlon this year. It works, if you focus on changing habits.
Now, changing your habits isn’t easy — I won’t lie to you — but it’s achievable, especially if you start small. Don’t try to change the world with your first habit change … take baby steps at first. I started by just trying to run a mile — and by the end of the year, I could run more than 20 miles.
How do you change your habits? Focus on one habit at a time, and follow these steps:
- Positive changes. If you’re trying to change a negative habit (quit smoking), replace it with a positive habit (running for stress relief, for example).
- Take on a 30-day challenge. Tell yourself that you’re going to do this habit every day, at the same time every day, for 30 straight days without fail. Once you’re past that 30-day mark, the habit will become much easier. If you fail, do not beat yourself up. Start again on a new 30-day challenge. Practice until you succeed.
- Commit yourself completely. Don’t just tell yourself that you might or should do this. Tell the world that DEFINITELY will do this. Put yourself into this 100 percent. Tell everyone you know. Email them. Put it on your blog. Post it up at your home and work place. This positive public pressure will help motivate you.
- Set up rewards. It’s best to reward yourself often the first week, and then reward yourself every week for that first month. Make sure these are good rewards, that will help motivate you to stay on track.
- Plan to beat your urges. It’s best to start out by monitoring your urges, so you become more aware of them. Track them for a couple days, putting a tally mark in a small notebook every time you get an urge. Write out a plan, before you get the urges, with strategies to beat them. We all have urges to quit — how will you overcome it? What helps me most are deep breathing and drinking water. You can get through an urge — it will pass.
- Track and report your progress. Keep a log or journal or chart so that you can see your progress over time. I used a running log for my marathon training, and a quit meter when I quit smoking. It’s very motivating to see how far you’ve come. Also, if you can join an online group and report your progress each day, or email family and friends on your progress, that will help motivate you.
Most important of all: Always stay positive. I learned the habit of monitoring my thoughts, and if I saw any negative thoughts (“I want to stop!”) I would squash it like a little bug, and replace it with a positive thought (“I can do this!”). It works amazingly. This is the best tip ever. If you think negative thoughts, you will definitely fail. But if you always think positive, you will definitely succeed.