Factors within a human being or animal that arouse and direct goal-oriented behavior. —Webster’s Dictionary
We all get down on ourselves or our situation, bummed out, or overwhelmed. Like with any solution, the first step is to recognize and identify your trouble, look it straight in the eye, and work to triumphantly overcome it. Well, this can be easier said than done, so here are a few practical tips to really get you fired back up when you’re stuck in a rut.
Look on the bright side
Think about—or better yet, write down—all the good things you’ve had and all the good things you’ve done. Whether they are material accomplishments or simply treasured moments with friends and family, this will remind you that life isn’t all that bad. Furthermore, it will remind you of what you’re capable of when you are motivated and getting stuff done. Climbing a mountain, finishing a book, doing well on a test, nailing an interview, or just receiving a compliment from someone who likes your style. The glass is half full!
Read Some Inspirational Quotes
Reading books is one thing (see below), but for a quick pick-me-up, just find a few good quotes. There are plenty if you just google ‘inspirational quotes,’ or hey, check out Signs of the Mountains for some great ones you can hang around your house. Write down your favorites and post them around your living space, like on your bathroom mirror, your dashboard and/or bicycle handles, a piece of jewelry, above your doorway or your bed, etc. My favorite place for quotes and/or goals is next to my bedroom lightswitch, where I run my hand along in the dark and can feel the paper every night, so I think about it before I go to bed.
Think, “I could do that!”(use a little Jealousy Juice)
This is one of the jokes about abstract art—sure, anyone could make scribbles and paint splatters, but they didn’t! If you see Joe Schmoe making a fortune off of something that you could do, try using a little something I call Jealousy Juice to get your wheels rolling. Now, the trick is to not get bitter and work only to spite Joe. Jealousy can be a slippery slope and probably end you back up in Unmotivated Town real quick, but if you’re aware of this and can use it just right, it can work. With a lot of different product ideas, websites, or art, the content is not always the very best in it’s field, but hey, content is better than no content.
Read books, Listen to Podcasts, Watch Videos
One of the easiest things to do while feeling unmotivated to do anything is to receive some positive input from a book, podcast, video, or other media. It’s easy because it’s passive—you can just sit there and absorb new information flashed before your eyes and ears. You can find plenty of podcasts out there, like The Daily Boost, or Pat Flynn. If you don’t feel like reading, you can usually find an audio book, like the 4 Hour Workweek or Dale Carnegies How to Win Friends and Insfluence People (both can be found on Audible.com. And there are plenty of videos on the internet too, some with funky text and images bouncing around, or others less straightforward. All these ‘motivational’ medias can work great and are usually applicable to many situations, but you might also check out a biography about one of your role models or a book on how to better do your particular line of work, or even just your particular hobby to get you started in something you find most enjoyable. As an artist myself, I really like this Bob Ross video. It’s both fun, inspiring, and downright catchy… “Every day’s a good day when you paint!”
Model After a Role Model
Steve Jobs, Henry David Thoreau, or Bob Ross are all great dudes, and it’s great to read about them and hear how they reached their goals in life. Though you’re most likely not in a similar situation or time period, certain habits and methods of achievement could certainly be applicable to improving your own situation. You can choose as many different role models as you like for as many different areas of life, skimming off the top the best attributes from each. When you get to know your role models better, you can try to think of what they would do in your shoes (WW__D? ~ What Would _____ Do?)
You’ve got to have some goals. Run the gamut: start with your wildest dreams, then bring it down to daily goals. Think of different timelines, like 20 years out, 10, 5, 1 year in the future; what do you want to be doing by this Tuesday next month? Your goals can and should be crazy and challenging, but also have some that you can accomplish sooner than later. It is crucial to break down the goals into smaller, more approachable steps—’Baby Steps’ (a la the Bill Murray movie, What About Bob). As a high school trigonometry teacher once said, “A piece at a time equals a piece of cake.” Goals will help get you started, provide direction, and keep you focused, giving you a reason to stay up late and/or get up early every day (maybe make 8 hours of sleep a goal). Like the quotes discussed above, you definitely want to write these down and put them around your house, car, office, etc., to constantly remind yourself of what you’re working toward.
Your Place in the Universe… No, in Your Sphere
If you think about the infinitely expanding cosmos, or take into consideration the Modernist writer Joseph Conrad’s “amoral, indifferent universe,” then you might start thinking everything is pointless—and you’re back to being unmotivated. But the flip side of that Modernist idea (btw, Modernism as a period happened around the turn of the 1900s, especially fueled by Darwin’s revolutionary Theory of Evolution) is that our existence is therefore solely based on our social relationships here on Earth between other people and things. So what I’m saying is, think of all the people that rely on you and respect you, and what will happen to them if you stay unmotivated. It could be a direct family member or even just a young impressionable kid that you see only every once in a while. Interactions like that make a difference in other peoples’ lives, if not your own. Don’t get holed up in your head in your house—just getting out in your sphere and interacting a bit can get you going again.
Sometimes I have sooo much to do that I just stare at the ceiling, paralyzed and overwhelmed, without a clue where to begin. To stop everything I need to do from swirling around in my head, I start by writing down a list of all the things I need to do. Just brainstorm and let things flow for a while. Then step back and prioritize, then start with priority number one and break it down into the most doable steps, which may be just taking a shower or making a phone call. Listing like this kind of goes along with goals, and it’s ok if these intertwine, just try to keep your tasks super specific and doable.
Imagine yourself having completed a goal—where you’ll be, who you’ll be with, how you’ll be sitting, what you’ll be drinking, what you’ll be wearing, and what you’ll have done. This could be a huge change or maybe not much, but you’ll at least be wearing a smile. If you think about it enough, you will eventually think it into being. “The more I practice, the luckier I get,” said Michael Jordan; “If you book them, they will come,” said Jim Morrison’s character in Wayne’s World.
Brake & Break!
Don’t keep hitting your head against the wall. Slow down, take a deep breath, take a break. Get some exercise or just start with a walk around the block. Some fresh air and a little movement will get your blood flowing and start helping you think new thoughts. Doing something other than what you’re stuck on will get your mind in a different frame and maybe you’ll even come up with a new solution that you couldn’t see before.
Get A Second Opinion
Whatever you’re working on, ask someone for some constructive criticism. At the very least, a little critique will get you to articulate your ideas more clearly as you communicate, at best you’ll have a major breakthrough. Some outside positivity can go a long way. If one person likes it, or at least thinks it has potential and can give you some direction, just think: who knows how many other people will like it.
When you achieve a goal, reward yourself. Don’t go overboard, but you know, take a break, eat a treat (preferably healthy, like strawberries), do some yoga or go for a run. Maybe buy some toy you’ve been wanting. Just don’t go spending that whole chunk of money you’ve been working toward, or linger too long in revelry—I’ve found that as soon as I think I’m ahead, I start slipping.
Keep the End in Sight
As an entrepreneur, hopefully you’re doing something you are passionate about in one way or another. Creating your own business can be a lot of work though, and some points along the way will definitely suck. Just keep the end in sight, how you’ll feel when you’ve come out on top. Like exercise can suck sometimes too, but man does it feel good when you’re done!
Make a Difference
How will your project impact the world or your neighborhood? Reducing your carbon footprint or just bringing a smile to a few faces are both important contributions. For example, a lot of people dismiss the arts as something superfluous, but good art is much more than a painting on a wall. Good art and literature make people think, questioning the status quo: why things are the way they are, why things are valued they way they are, does it all make sense(?), etc., etc.,—ultimately spurring some sort of progress, ideally. Hopefully whatever you’re doing can make a difference to someone or everyone.
Please comment below on what works to get you motivated. Have you ever been in a rut and needed a little help to dig out?