This is the second article in my series  about how to make personal growth last. In this article I am going to discuss how we can maintain motivation over longer periods of time so that we can consistently apply the kind of actions we need for continuous growth.
What is motivation?
In order to be able to control motivation, we need to specifically define it. Although most of us know what it feels like to be motivated to do something, it is often hard to put that abstract feeling into concise words.
My dictionary defines motivation as: “1) the reason or reasons behind one’s actions or behavior. 2) enthusiasm.”
Lets look at that definition. The first part of the definition defines motivation as the “reasons behind one’s actions”. In this sense, we can define motivation as what causes us to take the actions we need to take. The second part of the definition defines motivation as our enthusiasm, or the emotional feeling we get from being motivated.
Our motivation is therefore caused by a combination of our reasons with our emotional state. By looking at these two components we can identify how to maintain motivation over a much longer period of time.
What are your reasons?
The biggest part of motivation comes from simply having a strong enough reason. If someone held a gun to your head and told you that you need to stick to your diet, you’d be a lot more motivated to stick to your diet. On the opposite end, if someone told you that you would be paid a million dollars if you stuck to your diet, you probably would be far more driven.
So the key to maintaining motivation is to just give yourself strong enough reasons to keep going. This is a critical aspect to goal setting. Writing out a comprehensive list for why you want to accomplish something is critical to achieving it. If you don’t have a long list of extremely strong reasons, you are far less likely to stick with it. You can see how I did this in the past with one of my own goals .
Clarity is key here. Take out a pad of paper and a pen or a word processor and just start writing down all the reasons you have for taking those next steps in your personal growth. You need more than a vague idea of why you are doing something. Writing out all of your reasons alongside your goals will create the sense of importance you need to feel motivated.
The final key here isn’t just to have reasons. It is to be constantly reviewing and updating them. If you simply write down your reasons and then put it away never to be seen again, you will lose focus. Instead, make your life constantly remind you of your goals. Carry your goals and their reasons around in your pocket. Place Post-It notes on your bathroom mirror outlining your goals and their reasons. Start the habit of writing out your goals every day on a piece of paper.
Many people start this process of discovering their reasons but then forget about it as they get caught up in life. As soon as you see yourself starting to do this, go back to your goals and your reasons. When you don’t have that precise picture of what you are trying to do and why you are trying to do it, you will lose motivation.
The second part of motivation is in the creation of enthusiasm. Keeping reasons around can often create the feeling of enthusiasm we need to get started. Other times we need more to push ourselves into a state of enthusiasm. The whole idea of enthusiasm is to get ourselves not just to do things because we need to, but because we want to.
You need to recognize that we live in an extremely negative culture. All of the media is centered around how everything is going wrong. Even worse are the people we spend time with. Most people make far more negative comments about things than positive comments. In fact, our culture is so conditioned to be negative that some people dislike others just for being too positive.
Our culture isn’t only negative, however. The current western culture is also focused largely on under-achieving. We are constantly surrounded by people who think that a good job is one that requires the least amount of effort. Many people even brag about how lazy they are.
In a culture like this, to have optimism and the drive to achieve things requires work. You need to fill your mind with the ideas and thoughts of people who are successful and motivated if you want that motivation for yourself. If you only listen to the crowd of unhappy and unmotivated, you aren’t going to be picking up ideal patterns of thought.
There are several ways we can combat the constant atrophy presented to our minds from these degrading sources. My two favorites are:
1) Buy some personal development audio books. Listening to people like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale or Brian Tracy talk about goal setting and personal development and their extreme enthusiasm will rub off on you. No wonder so many people come out all hyped up from a seminar. The key is, though, to be listening constantly. You need to fuel your mind with the attitudes of more successful people than unsuccessful people.
2) Make new friends. Go out and meet people who are successful and have a great attitude. By associating with people who have a lot of enthusiasm on a regular basis, you will begin to adopt their frame of reference.
Enthusiasm is more than positive thinking!
I’m not going to tell you that the key to success is to have a positive attitude. But if your attitude of life is that it is futile and that you don’t have control over it, you certainly won’t be successful. In fact, I’m going to argue that being overly conservative or negative can be a good thing.
Many people think that entrepreneurs tend to be very optimistic thinkers. But in truth, the majority of successful entrepreneurs are very conservative in their predictions of the future. They usually overestimate their costs and underestimate their profits. However, entrepreneurs must be driven by the faith in their eventual success and their own compelling vision.
This is very similar to personal growth. Using positivity doesn’t mean walking around acting like everything is going great when it isn’t. You need to be very alert and even conservative or negative with your short term results. This will keep you from being devastated when you don’t meet your expectations.
However, and this is a big point, you need to be positive about your eventual future. Being overly conservative in your short term must be balanced by being overly optimistic about your eventual future. This will create the enthusiasm you need to keep going forward despite short term obstacles.
Other Factors that Damage Motivation:
1) Low Self-Confidence – If you don’t have realistic confidence in your abilities you won’t even start. Building a healthy and realistic self-image is necessary to take action. The best way to build your confidence is just to start. Confidence is often a natural side effect of making steps in your personal development.
2) Arrogance – This is the opposite of low self-confidence, and it too adversely effects motivation. Overconfidence can often result to some very painful failures when reality confronts your self-image. Arrogance often goes hand in hand with ignorance. If you start educating yourself, you will soon realize how much you need to learn, which can help reduce an inflated ego.
3) Past Failures – Failure can often damage motivation. The key to recover this motivation is to set yourself up for some successes. Remember to take steps to learn from your failures so they become a learning opportunity rather than a blow to your ego.
Motivation can be a tricky to maintain over time. Fortunately there are steps we can take to put it under our control. The key points to keeping that motivation are:
1) Write down your reasons/goals
2) Review your reasons regularly
3) Create enthusiasm by using audio programs and enthusiastic people
4) Be conservative in your short-term predictions but be very positive about your long-term predictions.
5) Create a healthy self-image
With a commitment to continuous improvement and the motivation to maintain it, you are well on your way to integrating personal development permanently into your life and to make meaningful gains with it. Now that you know how to control your motivation, you are responsible for maintaining it.
In my next article I will bring up patience. Patience is a critical element to maintaining personal growth. Without patience we will abandon ship at the first signs of difficulty. Much of personal growth is about making small short-term sacrifices for huge long-term gains. Stay tuned!
Making Personal Growth Last Series: