If you have a goal, then you’ll probably face a lot of discouragement. Rejection, criticism, frustration, obstacles and failure are all part of the package. Although a few people might be immune to discouragement, I know I’m certainly not. I suspect you probably aren’t either.
For myself, I’ve found that trying to resist negative experiences isn’t helpful. Trying to be stoic and pushing through problems can help initially, but eventually it wears you down emotionally.
The alternative is to recharge your motivation. Just like resting for a day can help sore muscles, refueling your motivation can help a bruised ego.
Motivation Isn’t Affirmations…
When I talk about motivation it’s easy to get the picture of Stuart Smalley. This character from Saturday Night Live has such insights as, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” These affirmations might work for some, but I’ve gotten pretty lousy results from them.
Instead of affirmations, motivate yourself with ideas. I’ve found getting my ideas flowing to be a far better remedy for an emotional setback than telling myself I’m a good person. Generating new ideas, solutions and goals can snap you out of a negative state.
Here are some motivational idea-generating tips I’ve found helpful:
- Do Something Creative. If you’re recovering from a particularly disappointing setback, getting new ideas won’t be easy. Trying to tackle the problem directly may backfire. Instead, I like to spend a few hours doing something creative and relaxing. Drawing, painting and building can start your idea-generators going in the background before you try to motivate yourself.
- Listen to Audio Tapes. I think it’s a good idea to have a few motivational audio tapes. These can help steer your thinking away from negative thoughts and towards new ideas. The content of these programs isn’t usually groundbreaking, but where it starts, you can usually continue in generating new ideas.
- Journal. Write down all of your ideas on paper. Explore any problems you face and start thinking of possible solutions. Writing is better than just thinking, because you have more control over where your thoughts lead. Journaling gives you an added layer of control over your mind.
- Review and Plan Goals. Go over your goals. Review, change them and set new ones. Setting new goals can restart the enthusiasm you might have lost after a setback. When I get stressed after a particular negative result, tweaking my goals and reminding myself of them can start me on the flow of ideas once more.
- Meditate. I’ve never found sitting cross-legged and chanting “OM” for an hour does much to motivate me. But meditation can help if you treat it as an interactive self-dialog. Practice your breathing and visualization until you can start creating other characters in your mind. You can then “talk” with these characters to sort through problems. The intense focus combined with relaxation can often give ideas you would otherwise miss.
- Exercise. One of the major symptoms of depression is a lack of energy. While your temporary setback might be nothing compared to full-blown depression, a bad mood can drain the energy out of anyone. Exercising can be the first step in reversing this trend by boosting your energy. Even going from apathetic to angry can be a stepping stone to rebuilding your enthusiasm.
- Posture and Body Language. Standing and moving as you would if you were in an enthusiastic state can be enough to trigger the feelings of enthusiasm. I wouldn’t take this as a magic cure-all, but if you are feeling down, the first step should be to adjust your posture.
- Spend Time With “Idea Magnifiers”. Some people can do a great job of magnifying and reflecting any enthusiasm you have. Spending time with these people and avoiding negative people can also help. This step isn’t as easy as it sounds. Often, in the desire to connect with people after a setback, I’m pulled towards people who are sympathetic, but only magnify my bad mood. Identifying the people that actually cause a change in your mood rather than the people who tolerate your complaining is critical.
- Achieve Something Easy. I believe a good way to look at motivation is like a ball rolling down a hill. If it hits an obstacle, all of the momentum stops. However, only a slight push forward can start the ball rolling again. Take on a simple task you know you can accomplish. Organize your office. Go to the gym. Empty your inbox.
Motivation is Built in Steps
My final suggestion is simply to recognize and respect the state you’re in. Our culture puts so much importance on being happy all the time, it can be easy to let a temporary bad mood become a further blow to your self-respect.
Starting with a small idea-generating activity can be better for recharging your motivation than with a big one. Trying to overview your goals after a major disappointment might make you even more frustrated. But working on a creative activity like painting can help subtly get the ideas flowing before you handle bigger tasks.