The commitments we make to ourselves and to others, and our integrity to those commitments, is the essence and clearest manifestation of our procreativity.
Stephen R. Covey author
Looking for quotes for my new book I realized yet again what a complex issue motivation really is. So often people say to me that the reason they can’t go for a cherished goal is that they haven’t got the motivation; they just want to know how to galvanize themselves into action. But in truth, I then wonder how ‘cherished’ their goal really is. I know for sure, from years and years of coaching, that when someone really wants to do something then they will find a way and if they don’t want to do something then they will find any old excuse, and ‘I can’t get motivated’ is a popular one! I have written a lot about motivation in the past but I am beginning to think that it needs ‘unpacking’ in a new way if we are to really understand its multifaceted nature. Just as we are inclined to conceptualize ‘confidence’ and ‘happiness’ as external objects (eg I need more confidence, I want happiness) we also objectify ‘motivation’ (eg I could do it if I just had the motivation). If we speak like this (and we all do at times) we distance ourselves from the confidence / happiness / motivation we seek, so that these qualities can seem unattainable. But we only have to remember that they are internal states of being rather than external things, and this uplifting realization puts us firmly back on track. No more wistful wonderings about the magical qualities of motivation but a grounded understanding of how we can generate the enthusiasm, energy and commitment to obtain our goals.
Let’s go back to that idea of being unable to achieve a desired goal because of lack of motivation. Perhaps this is where you find yourself right now, and if not you will undoubtedly recognize this condition because we have all been there. To have a goal and not to be able to activate it is very frustrating and confidence lowering. How often do we despair of ourselves when we are in this state: talking ourselves down (why can’t I get this together?, what is the matter with me?, I am such a procrastinator, I have no respect for myself …); writing endless to-do lists that burden us even further and plunging head first into that negative downward spiral of diminishing self-esteem?
My research into this subject is extensive and I have asked many people what they think motivation involves. The following article looks at some of these findings. Do you relate to any of these points? Are there any others you would like to add?
Right attitude: This can encompass many things but at its root there must be commitment: to self, to your purpose, to your journey and to your goal. I love the idea of being committed to oneself; it is another good way of expressing our intrinsic self-worth.
Carrot and stick: I personally can relate strongly to this image and I use it quite often with clients. As our self-awareness grows we get to know ourselves very well; we understand how we operate in quest of a goal (how much we need to push ourselves on, what sort of prizes we might give ourselves along the way). I am writing this book with an extremely tight deadline which forces me to produce a certain amount of words each day. The time pressure is my stick (and it works very well) but it can also frighten me into a writing paralysis if I don’t take enough breaks. So walks, cups of tea, chocolate biscuits and forays to Facebook are some of my carrots.
Focus: We know that whatever we focus on becomes our reality and so a laser beam of attention directed at our goal is a prerequisite for success. And this concentrated energy draws on our imaginative faculty so that we can start to really visualize ourselves taking the steps we need to achieve our objective. Creative visualization is a powerful manifesting tool that we are actually unconsciously using all the time – often producing unwished for negative outcomes (eg if we keep ‘seeing’ and ‘feeling’ ourselves failing then this is what we will manifest).
Exciting goal: Any old goal just won’t give us the juice we need. Unless we are totally and utterly in love with our objective and devoted to its outcome we might as well not even bother to exert ourselves. Consider your passion quotient for your goal (how much you love it) scoring from 1-10 (1 being not bothered and 10 being madly, deeply …). If you score less than 10 then you will be unable to generate the motivation you will need, so just put yourself out of your misery and let it go. Remember that an exciting new goal will require effort (otherwise you would have achieved it already) and you are going to need to be right behind yourself all the way.
Enthusiasm: This word comes from the Ancient Greek meaning ‘possessed by a god’, what we might call divine inspiration. And when we feel enthusiastic we are definitely in an uplifted, insightful and elevated mood. Think about when you last had this feeling and how the energy coursed through your body generating excitement. If you are enthusiastic about your goal then this inspired energy will be just the fuel you need for the journey ahead.
Being ready to leave a comfort zone: Maybe it is more helpful (and less scary) to think of this as requiring an ‘expansion’ of the zone rather than a ‘leaving’ of the security of the known. Comfort zone has two meanings: (1) A happy place where we feel secure, confident and relaxed (2) A prison of our own making, a ‘comfortable’ place only because we know it so well. Actually (1) can easily morph into (2) as we change and grow and want to move on but then find ourselves trapped by inertia born from a fear of taking a risk. A person with self-esteem knows when it is time to open up and expand their comfort zone to include more choices and possibilities. Motivation inspires personal expansion at all levels.
Positive energy: This is a definite requirement for any successful accomplishment. Emotional optimism, clear affirmations of intent and assertive action in quest of your goal all fall into this category. To remain motivated we need to be operating within the positive upward spiral of rising self-esteem and this means embracing all the positive aspects of our energy.
Having confidence: Confidence and motivation do go hand in hand: confidence > motivation > increased confidence > stronger motivation. But remember that these are internal states and they can be generated by your strong intention to move on. If you really intend to reach your goal then you will. Sometimes you have to have the inner conviction that you can do something even though you don’t feel confident. And it is only after you have taken that leap of faith that you feel confident (wow, I did it!). Don’t sit around waiting for the gift of confidence to arrive before you act on your own behalf or you might wait a lifetime
Persistence: I think that this is sometimes an underrated quality, considered rather less important than creativity, inspiration and sheer brilliance, but of course it is absolutely vital. Thomas Edison reportedly said that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration; we start with a marvellous idea and then of course we need to make it happen. The great inventor also said that, ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’ What a great quote; it really says it all doesn’t it?
Fearlessness: Again, this reminds us that sitting around waiting until we: are absolutely ready, have had enough training, are psychologically prepared, know we are good enough, feel more confident, are sure that we cannot fail … etc., is a pointless waste of time (unless our objective is self-sabotage). The title of Susan Jeffer’s brilliant book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, has become an iconic message because we can all relate to the meaning behind it.
Clear goal: We have seen how a goal needs to be exciting, and just as importantly, it needs to be clear. By this I mean it needs to be specific. It is no good trying to drum up motivation for a goal that is fuzzy around the edges (or even all the way through). How will we know when we have reached our objective if it remains unspecified? Clients sometimes say that their goal is to ‘be happy’ or to ‘be confident’ but such a wide brief makes success impossible. Clarify your goal; what exactly do you want? When you know your dream and can see it happening, the steps you need to take will just reveal themselves before you; this is so motivating.
Wanting success: This is a real get up and go generator isn’t it? In relation to this book we could say that your great desire to develop confidence and high self-esteem is motivating you to keep reading. Wanting success is also closely linked to loving your goal, and the two together create an all-win emotional response.
Not procrastinating: We all know what it feels like to keep putting something off and it is most demotivating. Procrastination can be simply an habitual reaction to anything new that might require an expansion of our comfort zone (or similar scarily demanding things). And writing endless ‘to do’ lists can make things even worse as we begin to overwhelm ourselves with mountainous jobs! A top tip here: throw out all those lists and concentrate on your number one priority. Take the first step towards activating this important goal. Just do this and immediately you are no longer a procrastinator!
Coaching and confidence boosting at http://www.lyndafield.com
Copyright © Lynda Field 2015 Adapted from my latest book, The Self-Esteem Coach.