How To Motivate Yourself To Do Things When The Going Gets Tough

When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren’t the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.” Arsene Wenger

When I was a kid, my motivation was really on and off. I remember in first grade, there was a tryout for some karate class. They had us do all kinds of tests like running, push ups, sit ups…etc. and then they selected the best people to get into the class. I did not make it.

I got pissed and made my mom go beg the instructor of another karate class to let me in, even though the class had already started. Finally, after a lot of begging, they let me into the class. Let’s just say that at that time, I was really physically untalented.

The good thing about the class was that it wasn’t just about karate, but also about developing overall physical fitness for little kids. At the beginning, I was pretty bad. However I started practicing at home, doing all kinds of exercises and very fast I got my act together, got faster, stronger and more coordinated and made it to the top of the class.

Then I lost motivation and gave up. This type of thing would repeat itself all throughout my school years. I would go for short burst of intense effort (both mental and physical), and then I would just give up. After a while, I was begging my mom to unsubscribe me from the class.

One factor in this was the fact that I was young and when you are young you don’t realize that you only have a limited amount of time. I felt like I had a lot of time to spare and would act like it. Part of my lack of motivation also had to do with laziness, part of it with the fact that we moved around all the time (I went to 6 schools in 12 years), and part of it had to do with the fact that I just didn’t like to put out too much effort, instead coasting on my talent.

All in all, I just didn’t like doing things that made me feel uncomfortable. If I could avoid doing them, then I would.

The race

One moment that still haunts me happened in my senior year of high school. I was on the track team, ran sprints (100m, 200m, 400m) and was pretty fast. We were running the divisional finals. I was pretty mad. All year, I had been posting solid times, but the local newspaper had labelled two other guys as the favorites to win the sprints and stated that there was nobody even close to them.

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I beat one of those guys last year and the other one I never faced. I posted similar times as them and I should have been one of the favorites. So I arrived at the track meet, a man on a mission. Or at least I thought.

The first race I ran was the 100m final. I got in the blocks next to one of the guys labelled as the favorites. I was never good at starting out of the blocks, but I was ready. Then something happened. The favorite next to me jumped the gun by a milisecond and so did the other favorite. I was expecting them to go for a repeat start, but they didn’t. The gun went off a few miliseconds after, but that is an eternity in the 100m sprint. That cost me the race. The race should have been restarted, but wasn’t. Nothing I could do about it.

I came in third, a bit disappointed, but then a few minutes later I found out that I ran my personal record (11.1 seconds) and my time was fast enough to qualify me into the big all-divisions final. There, I would end up racing against the fastest high school sprinters in the world (but that is another story).

The moment

However it was not this moment that haunts me. I did feel a bit cheated that I lost due to someone else doing a false start, but I still had the 200m to look forward to. One of the supposed favorites pulled out, which left me with only one other contender. I beat this guy last year by a pretty good margin. I was sure I was going to win.

We went down into the blocks, got ready, the gun blasted and we were off. I was leading the race. I was running fast in first place, but a little by little I was starting to feel tired, the lactic acid was starting to make my legs feel heavy. I was in the final straight, a few meters before the finish…

At that moment, instead of gritting my teeth and giving my best effort and going for the last push, I did the opposite. I was in the lead, felt tired and gave up. I slowed down a bit, coasting towards the finish.

Then I saw the other guy speed past me. He had done the opposite of me, he had mustered the last amount of strength and raced past me, collapsing just behind the finish line, totally winded and out of power. I came in second, happy that I gave it my “best” and that I got a medal. I was happy with second place.

However that came back to haunt me. Even now, entering my early thirties, I still look at that moment with despair. I had victory at my fingertips and I let it slip away. The other guy had more heart. He was more motivated to win and mustered the last amounts of willpower and strength in order to do that. I didn’t.

I just wasn’t motivated enough. That lack of motivation defined my early life. I now look back at this and want to beat my head against the wall. Sure, the circumstances were against me (especially the fact that we moved around all the time), but I still could have done more with what I had.

Motivation

I think it all comes down to motivation. If you really want to do something, you will work hard for it.” Edmund Hillary

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Motivation is defined as a person’s reason for a certain action. This reason can stimulate the commitment to do something. This means that certain motives can drive a person’s behavior and determine their path. It’s sort of a spark that can grow into a fire in the belly, driving you forward to achieve great things.

Now that I am older, I can see how many opportunities I missed by not being motivated enough to execute. Luckily, I am still young enough to learn from that experience and make sure that those types of moments never again repeat themselves. Sure, I fail sometimes, but I am way more consistent in motivating myself and pulling through.

One factor that has shown me the way is that I learned from experience. Another factor is that I see time slipping me by as I get older and older. Time is no longer eternal, but instead a precious commodity that should not be wasted.

However the biggest factor has been coming up with and following a system. Having a good system is the best way to stay motivated consistently.

You can get yourself motivated temporarely, but staying motivated for a long time and on a consistent basis is quite the challenge. That’s where the different parts of the system help you out and make you less likely to lose motivation and instead help you to pull through when it counts.

How to keep yourself motivated consistently

1) Have a vision

In order to create constant and consistent motivation, you need to create a vision and a mission for yourself. You need to have something that you will drive towards and these are the things that will provide that final end state.

2) Be benefits oriented

Always keep in mind why you are striving to achieve your vision. You need to be benefits oriented. Why are you doing this? What benefits will this create for you? Keep this in mind when you have doubts and it will serve as a way to remind you.

3) Have intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from enjoying the process. The activity is its own reward and not some outward benefits like money. Having intrinsic motivation lead to inspiration, which is one of the key factors of drive. With inspiration, you won’t need to push yourself to do things, you will naturally want to do them.

Money is not a motivating factor. Money doesn’t thrill me or make me play better because there are benefits to being wealthy. I’m just happy with a ball at my feet. My motivation comes from playing the game I love. If I wasn’t paid to be a professional footballer I would willingly play for nothing.” Lionel Messi

4) Visualize the goal

Having a vision will help you visual your goals at all times. You can go inside your mind and create a picture of what you will look like and what you will be, once you achieve your goal. Positive visualization can serve as a powerful way to keep you focused on your objective and not waver.

This serves as a factor in pull motivation. You will be drawn towards the goal, because of your desire of that end state.

For some people, a negative visualization can also be effective. Creating a picture of how you will end up if you don’t keep on plugging through can also have motivational effects.

5) Self-talk and affirmations

Many people talk to themselves. This self-talk can be positive (“Come on you can do it. You’re great!“) or negative (“You suck. You will never achieve this!“).

You need to boost up your positive self-talk and try to eliminate your negative self-talk. You will never be able to eliminate negative self-talk, but you should always have some easy positive retorts to it available, so that you can counter it when it does appear.

A daily ritual of positive affirmations can be beneficial for some people. However for most people these affirmations need to be linked to real life successes.

6) Set up the right environment around you

In order to keep yourself motivated, you need to have a positive environment around you. Surround yourself with positive action-oriented people who will support you.

Habit triggers could also be pump up songs or motivational quotes, that you can go to when you are feeling down or unmotivated. Pump up songs or quotes can get your dopamine flowing, getting you more eager to do the task. Once you have that dopamine flowing, your brain anticipates a reward and is more prone to do things that will achieve that reward.

7) Identify potential obstacles to motivation

The best way to overcome periods of low motivation, is to try to identify the obstacles that can cause low motivation and then try to come up with things that you can do so that those obstacles don’t affect you. Obstacles will make the going tough and that’s when your motivation will waver the most.

Remember don’t fight emotions. The harder you fight them, the stronger they become. This has been proven in scientific experiments. In his book “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” Oliver Burkeman writes: “When experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel.”

One example of this type of experiment is when people were told to concentrate for 5 minutes and not think of a white bear. What did most people think of during those 5 minutes? A white bear.

Your brain is wired in such a way as to make attempts to suppress emotions futile. The theory that explains this is called “ironic process theory” and it states that when you produce deliberate efforts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to come up to the surface.

The best way to keep yourself motivated during hard times is to set up habit triggers. That can be done by automatizing actions into habits.This way you rely less on motivation and more on routine. This is a good way to get through periods of low motivation.

One neat trick that you can also use in order to motivate yourself to go on, comes from a scientific study done in 2012. They say that people who are just starting out in the pursuit of a goal, should over-exaggerate their progress at the beginning, however when they are reaching their target they should instead downplay the progress they have achieved so far and instead pretend that they are still far from achieving their goal. In that way, they force themselves to elicit more effort in order to overcome the last remaining obstacles.

8) Success breeds success

Little wins will pack one on top of each other, getting you even more motivated. This will create a steamroller of positive motivation and prevent you from feeling negative emotions.

Try to create little quick wins at regular intervals in order to keep the steamroller rolling. For example, create little tasks or goals that you can finish rather quickly. Finishing these tasks will create sighs of relief and then help motivate you to carry on.

You will then be able to ride a wave of positive energy to accomplish bigger and harder tasks.

9) Be hungry for success

Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.” Les Brown

How to put all this in a package

In order to be motivated consistently, you need to put all these things together in a package. At the top of your package is the vision. The vision is the thing that drives you.

The vision consists of some goals that you need to achieve. Make sure that the bulk of your goals are about self-development in order to spark intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation will lead to a natural drive, which will sustain itself.

Visualizing the end state, as well as positive self-talk and affirmations need to be used at certain moments, when you are having doubts or feeling negative. They help you keep your eye on the prize. That’s why being benefits oriented can really help.

You need to set up a positive environment in order to keep yourself motivated at all times. Maybe post some quotes on the wall, have some pump up music ready. This can serve as a way to consistently remind you of your motivation and also as a quick way to boost your motivation when you feel it’s draining.

The package of motivational techniques is not the only thing that you need to have. Having motivation is just a part of the overall system. The system includes tools and techniques that you can use in order to plan out what you are going to do in order to achieve your vision and also to keep track of your progress. You need to stick to that system.

When the going gets tough

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When the going gets tough, clench your teeth and struggle on. Give it all you got.

Let the fact that you can be a winner motivate you. I could have been a winner on that day, instead I settled for second place. That epic failure continues to haunt me to this day, especially since it epitomizes my attitude in those days.

There is nothing wrong with second place. If you work hard, power through and end up second, that is something to be proud of. However if you could have been first, but instead weren’t motivated enough to bite your lips and forget the temporary pain, and ended up second, that is something that you will never forget.

I did taste the sweet juices of victory in my life, including on the track, however the vile smell of defeat can leave a stink that will last a long-time, especially when it came because of an avoidable mental failure on your part.

Let the fact that you never again want to smell the awful stink of defeat, motivate you to push through the tough times. The strategies outlined above can help you and should be a part of your arsenal, but this one last sentence should be enough to motivate you. A hunger for being the best that you can be should be the basis of your consistent motivation.

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” Mario Andretti

 

Read more: The Ten Thousand: A Story Of Courage And Determination

Success tips and motivation from Muhammad Ali:
Suffer Now And Live The Rest Of Your Life As A Champion: Success Tips From Muhammad Ali

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