Whoops, you did it again!
You ate that cookie. You skipped your workout. You went to bed too late and slept in. You quit the project you were working on. You failed to stick to your goals and now you feel miserable.
Why did you do it?
The answer is simple: you lost your motivation. You felt you couldn’t continue anymore and you gave up the fight.
Soon you realize that you may have made a mistake. You still want to achieve your goal, but getting there is damn hard. And your attitude pushes success farther and farther away from you.
So how can you avoid such setbacks and keep going even if you feel like quitting?
1. Remind Yourself Why You’re Chasing Your Goal
You most certainly have a reason for going after your goal. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have bothered trying in the first place.
When you lose your motivation, you get disconnected from the reason that fired you up in the beginning. You need to focus back on the outcome. Remind yourself why you chose to start pursuing your goal.
And more importantly, remind yourself how achieving your goal makes you feel. What wonderful feelings do you have when you think about it? Try to amplify them as much as possible by making the associated images and sounds very vivid in your mind.
Your goal certainly brings you a lot of value. It’s crucial that you keep that in mind whenever you feel like giving up. So coin out what benefit you receive from the attainment of the goal and bring it back into your awareness each time you want to quit.
I used this technique successfully with my polyphasic sleeping experiment. I had many moments during my adaptation period when I felt extremely tired and all I wanted was to go back to bed. I kept asking myself what on earth made me deprive myself of sleep. I then remembered that I was doing it for all the extra me-time I was going to have at night. I knew that as soon I adapted, I could use all those hours to do whatever I pleased. That was a huge incentive for me.
2. Remember Past Successes
Success breeds success.
I bet there are many goals you have achieved in the past. They may be similar to your current goal or they may be totally different. It’s really not important.
What’s important is that you have succeeded in the past and you have a history of success behind you. You are an achiever. You can then use the same success principles which worked for you in the past to stick to your current goal until completion.
Pick a goal you achieved that made you feel great. If it’s recent, than it’s even better. Then look at what you did right and what steps you took towards its completion. What got you going back then? It’s very likely that the same thing will get you going now.
This exercise helps you discover your motivational structure which you can use for future goals.
3. Look at the Worst Possible Outcome
If inspiration doesn’t help, maybe fear will.
This approach works very well if the feeling is strong enough. Just think of all the people who quit smoking in an instant because they were told they were going to die if they didn’t.
Fear can be a powerful motivator, if it’s used properly.
There’s a very inspiring quote by Karen Lamb that says:
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
Think of your goal and what could possibly happen if you continue giving up. Where would you end up being? How would your life look like in a few months? What about one year? What about five years? And 10 years?
Make the images as vivid as possible and don’t underestimate the results. Chances are that the image 5 years from now will look pretty bad and the one in 10 years is really going to scare you. I don’t even want to think how things will be in 20 years.
Please take a moment to do this exercise. Create a real image in your mind and intensify whatever feelings may appear.
Do you really want to end up like that? I think not. So get going!
4. Change Your Posture
How does your body feel whenever you get discouraged?
Next time you feel discouraged, take a moment to note your posture. It’s most likely that your shoulders are hanging forward, your gaze is down, your breath is superficial and you are frowning. Well, it’s definitely not a very encouraging sight to see.
New research has proven that emotions and body posture are interlinked. This means that any emotion you have will cause your body to adopt a corresponding posture. And the reverse is also true: your posture influences your emotions. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy gives a wonderful TED talk on this topic.
This is great news for you!
It means that whenever you feel discouraged and ready to quit, all you need to do is change your posture to generate positive emotions. You can switch from being discouraged to feeling empowered in an instant.
This is how an empowered posture looks like: the shoulders are pulled back, the back is straight, the head is slightly tilted upward, the face muscles are relaxed and the breathing is deep and slow.
Stand like that for two minutes and you’ll forget why you ever wanted to give up on your goal. You will feel strong and prepared to tackle any challenge you may face.
5. Affirm Your Way to Success
Affirmations are a great when coupled with motivation. They can really give you a boost of energy and determination.
Changing your posture is the outside-in approach and repeating affirmations is the inside-out approach. Together they will skyrocket your motivation.
Here are some examples of affirmations you can use to get back on track:
- I can do this
- I can achieve anything I want
- I am a successful person
- Every challenge I face only makes me stronger
- With each passing day things get easier and easier
- Each day brings me closer to my goal
- I am strong enough to overcome any obstacle
Feel free to design your own affirmations. Just make sure that repeating them really inspires you. You should get a positive feeling and a desire to keep going.
To find out more about affirmations and how they work, read my article series on The Power of Affirmations.
6. Turn Your Brain into Your Ally
Your brain can work either for or against you. It’s very likely that you are totally unaware of how your brain is sabotaging your best efforts.
I will give you a simple method which is used in NLP to change the feelings associated with a certain image in your mind.
First you need to ask yourself this: what do you see or hear in your mind when you feel like quitting?
Most likely your mind flashes an image before your eyes. That image may be either of the hard work you’ll have to go through or the pleasure you’ll have to give up when going after your goal.
I’ll give you a short example. If you struggle with keeping up your exercise routine, your brain may sabotage you just prior to your work out. You may think about how hard it will be to exercise. Or you may think that staying in bed or doing a different activity is much more comfortable. Or you may find all sorts of excuses why you can’t do it.
In each of these cases, you get to see an image of some sort and perhaps hear an internal dialogue too. Both will generate some feelings in your body. In order to stay motivated, you need to get rid of those images and the corresponding emotions.
And how do you do that?
The technique is actually very simple: you alter the images and the sounds.
Make the image black and white, dark, small, push it farther away from you and note how you feel. Do the same with the sound, if it doesn’t change automatically: lower the volume, accelerate the rhythm, imagine hearing it from somewhere outside of yourself, imagine hearing Donald Duck speaking, etc.
If you play with the imagery like this, the intensity of your feelings will decrease. You’ll stop feeling the urge to quit or do something counterproductive for your goal.
You can then take things one step further and picture the desired outcome in your mind. Use the same technique to intensify the feeling: make the image brighter, bigger, bring it closer (but not too close), see it in vivid colors, etc.
Once you have a positive feeling, get moving.
7. Get Around People Who Have What You Want
Success rubs off.
People who already got what we want can be a huge source of inspiration. Seeing them makes you believe that reaching your goals is possible. They are the living proof that it can be done.
The best part is that they can also share with you some insider knowledge. You get to find out exactly how they achieved success.
They can tell you what they did and how they motivated themselves. They can offer support in tough times. And you can always look up to them whenever you feel like giving up.
Successful people are much more supportive, unlike people with low aspirations. They know that it takes hard work and commitment to achieve goals and they are willing to help others.
To Be Continued
Due to the length of this article (3500+ words), it’s been split it two halves and each one is published separately.
Stay tuned for part two coming soon. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to my mailing list using the form below.
In the meantime, if you know someone who struggles with motivation, do them a favor and forward them this article. They will thank you later. Make sure to share it with your friends too.
Also use the comment form to tell me how you plan on implementing these techniques in your life. Where do you need more motivation and what do you intend to change?
Update: read part two of the article here