Now that we’re nearing the half-way point in the year, how well are you keeping your New Year’s resolutions? Whether it be losing weight, exercising, learning a new skill, running a marathon, or whatever, it can be difficult to stay motivated.
Perhaps you stopped because you lost interest, got distracted, couldn’t muster the willpower, or were simply waiting for some mystical motivating force to kick in. And it never came.
There are many reasons we stop making progress in reaching our goals. Waiting for motivation to kick-in is one to eliminate.
Motivation will not come about without you taking the first step and achieving success—no matter how small that success may be.
The formula for achieving success with anything resides within your control. It won’t come from some outside force and it is unlikely to come with an “aha” moment unless you are already in the act of doing.
Doing is an iterative process found in writing, designing, experimenting, building, prototyping, and this process is necessary in order to fuel the motivation to keep going.
Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win, says you don’t have to find the motivation or willpower: you do what you need to do because that’s who you are.
Don’t look outside yourself for motivation; look within. And don’t wait for some mystical energy to intervene first, simply get started.
“Each little success is motivating,” writes Haden. “Each little success gives you confidence. The accumulation of small successes makes the process, um, maybe not fun, but definitely rewarding—and that’s all you need to keep going.”
Rather than waiting for the motivation to get you kick-started, you need to simply begin in order to achieve success—no matter how minimal that first success may be. Only through gaining a little success will it lead to the motivation you need to get started again. Success leads to motivation, which leads to more success and more motivation to more success and so on.
“Earned success is the best motivational tool of all,” writes Haden. “That feeling, that knowledge, is hugely energizing because it’s based not on wishing and hoping and dreaming but on a reality—a reality you created.”
As Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
This notion about motivation is just as important when you’re trying to learn something new. It takes deliberate practice, which requires focused attention and is conducted with the goal of improving performance. Begin and the motivation will follow.
In Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent, he suggests that when you are learning something, the key is to make sure you use a system that follows the REPS methodology:
R: Reaching and Repeating – Practice should require you to operate at the edge of your abilities. True growth for anything is just beyond your comfort zone. And you have to consistently reach and constantly repeat.
E: Engagement – Each practice must command your attention and make you feel emotionally invested in striving for a goal. Seek out little tweaks or little advances that you can build on to stay engaged and committed.
P: Purposefulness – Your practice must directly connect to the skill you want to build. For example, if you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of large audiences, simply rehearsing over and over again won’t get you there like practicing in front of smaller groups.
S: Strong, Speedy Feedback – The practice must provide an immediate and consistent flow of accurate information about performance. If you’re learning to play a song on the piano, try playing it slower than it is meant to be played in order to master phrasing and tonality. You’ll get faster and better understanding of whether you are mastering it or not.
No matter where you are with your New Year’s resolutions or anything you are looking to accomplish, while the temptation is to wait for motivation to come calling, resist. Because it won’t. You are in control and you just need to begin.
“There are two types of pain you will go through in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret,” says author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn. “Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”