Lost Your Motivation? This Is How You Reignite It.

For years, I got a kick out of watching commencement speeches, YouTube montages and reading motivational quotes.

It’s easy to get all fired up from the safety of a warm living room Training for the Dublin City Marathon taught me more about motivation than any pep talk or video.

I ran by myself around the small town where I live, an hour outside of Dublin. I trained alone in the evenings or sometimes in the mornings after the kids went to school.

Later, I joined a nearby athletics club and trained with more accomplished runners. Each Monday and Wednesday evening, we ran intervals around a tartan all — weather 400-metre track. To an outsider, we must have looked like hamsters trapped on an accelerating wheel. But, our training demanded intense focus, and I was hooked.

I able to keep up for thirty minutes. Then my calfs would seize up and I’d pull over at the side of the track to recover. The other athletes continued lapping for another sixty without stopping. I was torn between quitting and pushing through. I would have opted for the former but I remembered why I entered the marathon in the first place.

My motivation came from within, as I felt tired of spending my evenings playing video games, watching television shows on Netflix or reading about Donald Trump.

Establish Your Why

Are you seeking a promotion? What would winning new customers mean for your business? Is your project a life-long personal ambition?

Before you embark on a big personal or professional project for months or even years, write down five to seven reasons why you’re going to focus on it.

Keep your reasons in a file alongside details of the project and document what success looks like. It’s good practice to combine internal and external reasons.

For example, “I want to write a nonfiction business book because it’s a life-long ambition” is an internal reason. Ambition is personal after all. “I want to find coaching clients because it will help this business increase revenues” is an external reason. You could find out you’re working in a start-up because you believe in the product or company mission.

Or you’re content because the job pays the bills and helps support your family. Or perhaps you picked a poorly-paid internship to improve your skills and open a door to new opportunities. These are all valid reasons for working hard once you’re aware of them.

Keep a List of Mini-Accomplishments

Perhaps, despite months of hard work, a business idea you once felt passionate about isn’t taking off. Perhaps you find yourself on the verge of vomiting at the edge of a running track like me.

It can take months of hard work to witness any real results and even then, much like a plant taking root, they might be imperceptible at first.

While training for the marathon, I didn’t notice that I’d become faster and stronger until a friend pointed out I was able to keep up. While focusing on a project, it’s easy to glance over your progress and instead worry about where you’re stuck.

It’s easier to accumulate a list of mini accomplishments and motivate yourself than work endlessly towards a single prize. Add to this list regularly, for example, “This week I closed three deals” or “I wrote five book chapters”.

Accept Your Motivation Will Wane

A new ambitious employee rarely complains about feeling unmotivated. Much like a fresh student of Spanish or an aspiring marathon running, they’re encouraged by the challenge.

You will encounter bland or boring moments in the middle of a long project. One more than one occasion, I dreaded getting up off the coach to train because the Irish winter rain was hammering the bedroom window. I came across this piece of advice George Leonard in Mastery. He wrote:

“You have to be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau to be keep practising even when you seem to be getting nowhere.”

If you’re feeling unmotivated or frustrated by a lack of progress, don’t abandon your work. Ask if this is simply a plateau, and concentrate on forward motion until you reach another milestone.

Surround Yourself With Experts

While training for a marathon, I spent many wet Sunday mornings running for hours. I didn’t feel like I was getting much stronger or faster.

Yet the athleticism of those I trained with encouraged me to run longer and harder and to get up earlier each weekend so I could build my leg muscles.

They taught me how to silence the negative voices in my head, focus on my breath and drive forwards. They rekindled the fire inside of me when my motivation waned. And when race day came, I knew what I had to do.

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