How do you motivate yourself for achievement?

  • Are you driven by deadlines?
  • How about gut-wrenching fear?
  • Positive reinforcement?
  • Team support?
  • Shame? Reward? Do-or Die self-confidence?

Knowing what motivates you helps you to achieve your goals. That is, if you know your goals. What if you want to lose 10 pounds in 90 days because you have to go to your high school reunion? That’s a goal. But, what’s the motivation? Are you doing this so you can look great and show off in front of that boy who jilted you at the senior prom? Is that going to be enough motivation to starve, run and weight-train for 90 days? What happens after the high school reunion? Are you planning on returning to your old self? Probably. The singular goal of revenge isn’t really a goal at all but rather a recipe for failure and disappointment. There are other, better, and stronger ways to motivate you for success.

Here is my short list based on current research into human nature:

Decide what you really want! Instead of setting short-term or long-term goals based on what you think is important or what you should be doing, honestly assess what you are willing to tolerate to meet the goal. In Empowering Underachievers, co-authored by P. A Spevak, PhD, I learned that setting your goals based on what others want is a recipe for failure. And Robert Brooks, PhD, author of The Power of Resilience, found that the simplest way to self-sabotage your goals is by adopting those set by others. So, consider what you really want, what is important to you, what brings you enjoyment, and what are you willing to do to achieve the emotional payoff of meeting the goal. If you cannot do this for a stated goal, then it’s not your goal and you need to re-think it. So, about that high school reunion, maybe you just want to have your colors done, and splurge on a lovely new outfit that works perfectly with who you are now. This way you will conjure up some fond memories about high school and the reunion and just forget about that jerk.

Grapple with your emotions. Sometimes we lose our motivation when our long-term goals are in conflict with our immediate needs. If you are someone who wakes up every morning committed to a diet
only to break down every afternoon at 2 PM, then you are not in touch with how you really feel. This happens because your rational mind set the long-term goal but your binge eating is based on your emotions. Your emotions are seeking immediate attention and soothing and cannot wait for the long-term rewards of your goal. Underneath that behavior is someone who is struggling with control, power, and feelings of failure. Try to use these feelings to motivate yourself into a good diet program that will help you grapple with your feelings and structure an eating plan that will support your long-term goal with short-term tools and soothing support.

Use visualization. Set a detailed mental picture of what your life will be like when you reach your goal. Visualizations help you see the goal more clearly and make it more tangible.

Break down your goal into manageable pieces. Just as you set a detailed picture of your end results, you want to look at only the day or hour ahead of you. Dividing your tasks into small pieces keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the greatness of your tasks.

Reinforce your motivation. Look for the myriad ways you benefit from the tasks you accomplish daily and from the rewards of the big picture. Say you want to re-organize your kitchen and that means cleaning, purging, re-organizing, re-shelving, painting, etc. Whew. And the benefits? Besides a clean kitchen you have more closet and drawer space, you’ve created an area for your baking goods so that when you want to bake it’s easy to find all your ingredients, and you can now display Aunt Betti’s Waring blender from the 1950’s.

Develop a support network. Setting a goal without telling anyone or asking for support is like taking off across the Atlantic alone, in a rowboat, without any paddles. It’s futile. As you analyze your real goals, based on your real needs and wants, spread the word, but only to those who can be supportive. Tell your family and consider the following; hire a coach, join a group, participate in an on-line network, for example, if you don’t trust your family and friends to be committed to your goals (and think about finding a new family and friends while you’re at it). Seriously, life is much better when you have a team on your side. In How Full is your Bucket? By Rath and Clifton, they found that having a close friend at work increases productivity dramatically. How cool is that?

Keep track of your plan and your progress. This workbook is all about tracking your progress. Write out your plan, step by step, to help yourself remember why you set your goals and how you are going to get there. Having your plan in front of you can keep you encouraged and honest. If your goal is to drop 20 pounds and you’re tracking your food and realize you’re eating Oreos every night, then something has got to give.

Face your obstacles. What’s getting in the way of your success? How easily do people, things, and temptations distract you? Are you ready to be assertive and clear about your needs? Take a look at what’s keeping you from your achievements and face them. But be kind to yourself and assess how best to overcome your obstacles. Perhaps, practicing your assertive skills before going off to the family party is in order. Having options and planning for them is a great way to strengthen your resolve to meet your goals as well as solving some problems you may be facing.

Practice your affirmations. In this workbook you will have an opportunity to develop your own daily affirmations for positive thinking. Affirmations are in the positive, in the present, and reflect your goals. This practice helps you dwell on the positive instead of the negative. You’re having about 70,000 thoughts a day. If you aren’t managing them, they’re managing you! Guaranteed.

Some tricks to help you motivate yourself.

  • Start new projects on your first day of the week
  • Plan to focus on your new goals early in the day. That way no matter what happens, you attended to your commitment to yourself.
  • Ease into your new life. Break your work into bite-sized pieces. Maybe 10 minutes of work is all you can do sometimes. When I am tired but at the gym, I just get on the treadmill and turn on the music. I commit to 10 minutes of brisk walking and sometimes that’s all I can do but more often than not I can log my hour of run/walking and feel great at the end of my time.
  • Invest in yourself. Join a group, hire a coach, get a tutor. Pay for some support and you’ll be more motivated to do the work.
  • Develop one daily affirmation that you can fall back on. “My clients pay me and praise me,” got me through the early stages of my coaching career.
  • Enjoy the process. While I am not a fan of multi-tasking sometimes it’s helpful to do two things at once. Turn on the music while you are starting your writing exercises, call a friend or listen to some upbeat music as you take your daily exercises. Whatever it takes to make it more interesting.
  • Ask for support. We need regular reinforcement and recognition. If you’re not getting it from yourself and those around you, find it and wrap it around yourself. If you don’t ask for it, no one will know you want it and need it.

That’s an order from the Confidence Coach, Kathleen Schulweis

Author's Bio: 

Kathleen B. Schulweis is a Professional Certified Coach, trained in Co-Active Coaching as well as a professional Sociologist. She has over 20 years of professional experience working with professionals from UCLA, USC, and Caltech. Her coaching practice has a professional growth and development program for women and men, especially helping professionals close the gap between their behavior and their fulfillment. She is the founder of Confidence Connections, Do you desire to manage change and combine professional success with personal fulfillment? Contact Kathleen.