Finding the motivation to achieve your goals is an elusive thing. Too many people wait for inspiration or motivation when trying to achieve a goal. Imagine if everyone waited for motivation to get work done.
I know a lot of writers, and many will say they can’t write until their muse speaks to them. That’s their motivation. But if we all waited for our “muse,” we’d rarely get things done. I mean, think about it—I can say I’ve never been truly motivated to complete a math assignment. And the harder it was, the less motivation I had. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do my homework.
Who needs motivation?
If we all waited for motivation, productivity would drop to nothing, and our economy would fall apart. Since productivity has improved over the years, it’s not likely that it has anything much to do with real motivation other than people doing the things they have to do in order to achieve a goal. Do you think the cook at McDonald’s is excited about making you a Big Mac? It doesn’t matter. He shows up and just does it. His goal is to pay his bills. He does that by making your burger.
It doesn’t matter who sets the goal, whether it’s one you decided on or one set by an employer or teacher or coach – it’s set, and someone has to get it done. The problem is that so many people fail simply by ignoring the fact that finding motivation isn’t necessary; only doing is.
Often as adults, we understand this. We go to work every day whether we want to or not. It’s harder with kids. I see it all the time with my executive function clients. They can’t find the motivation to start or complete an assignment, or they struggle to get going.
The truth about motivation
They sit around waiting for inspiration to come, wondering why everyone else is doing better than them, and they’re waiting for some spark of motivation that will never arrive. You can avoid this issue by realizing the truth:
Motivation Doesn’t Exist
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “I know motivation exists. I feel it every time I want to do something.” I get it. Desire, longing, inspiration…they’re all things that can help propel us forward easily. But you don’t NEED them to succeed.
You’ve probably heard of the starving artist who can’t paint or the writer with writer’s block. It’s interesting that these creative professions have the same myth: there is some secret motivation that has to come in order to achieve success—some mysterious spark of inspiration that will get you off your ass to do what you need to get done. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Doing—Not Thinking—Gets Results
Ultimately, it’s a choice you make. Time and again, the people who are truly successful in their own lifetimes are not people who wait for a spark. They don't waste time finding motivation. They are people who get up out of bed every single day, rain or shine, and do things that lead to an end result of success. Of course, it’s easier if we feel “motivated,” if we’re doing something that interests us or that we want to do.
The successful painter paints every day, even when they might not feel like it. But they also have to market or network. If this is something they hate, they hire someone to do it for them. But they can’t hire someone to do the painting for them (not really anyway). The successful writer writes; the successful doctor, doctors. If you want to be successful at something, do it. Live it. You will succeed. But you have to make the choice to show up and do the thing.
How do you find success?
Successful People Are Not Smarter Than You
Many people get blocked by thinking that someone is better than them, smarter than them, or any other comparison they can make. The truth is, successful people aren’t smarter. Without exception, they are simply people who do their craft or job every day. They are doing it, not thinking about doing it, and not dreaming of doing it. Success comes from repetitive actions.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Learn about the acronym S.M.A.R.T. which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Every goal you set should meet that standard. After all, if you cannot be specific enough about what you want so that it can be measured and you can act on it in a realistic manner in a specific time frame, it’s not really a goal. It’s a dream – perhaps a pipe dream.
It’s the difference between saying, “I want to be a millionaire” and saying, “I want to earn $20,000 to pay for my kid’s college.” The second one has a built-in timeframe. When is your kid off to college? It’s also specific and measurable. Whether or not it’s a realistic goal is for you to decide. That leads to actionable—How are you going to achieve that goal?
I’m not saying that you can’t make a goal to be a millionaire, but you better make sure it’s realistic and you can develop a plan to get you there.
Some people think vision boards are too woo-woo but the truth is, being able to truly visualize yourself experiencing success will help you actually create that success in your life. There are people who are good at seeing it in their mind and believing it, but others need more.
Try making a vision board to see your dream down on paper so that you can then decide how to make your S.M.A.R.T. goals. Vision boards are a constant reminder of what our dreams are, what life we really want looks like. It keeps these ideas in front of you and can act as the inspiration you’re looking for.
Follow a Schedule
It can’t be stated enough. Doers do. Successful people do. Making a to-do list isn’t going to cut it; you need to make a schedule and stick to it. If you want to complete a project, you need to start at the endpoint, then work your way back to today making a schedule that is realistic and that you can follow. Then let nothing stop you.
For example, let’s say you want to knit a blanket for a friend’s baby. Your friend’s due date is in 3 months. You need to decide how big the blanket will be, and how long it will take for you to knit. Then, you need to break that into doable chunks of daily activity. Otherwise, you will spend the next 2 and a half months staring at skeins of yarn thinking, “I should really get started on that blanket.”
For people who struggle with executive functions, schedules are imperative. I have my clients schedule everything. They have reminder alarms to keep them on track, from brushing their teeth to eating regular meals to getting homework done. Habits start with building routines. Schedules tend to be hard to get started, but they work wonders because they lead to my next point…
I often talk about easy wins with my clients. So many of them have felt like failures for so long, they don’t remember what it’s like to succeed. So we look for an easy win. Set some smaller goals so that you can feel what success is like. If you’ve never stuck to anything, you can’t know what success feels like, so there’s nothing to keep you going. People who experience success like to experience it again, and the more success you experience, the more you’re going to realize that you can. It’s self-fulfilling.
Finally, keep doing it over and over again. With anything you want to achieve, set the goal, track your success, and do something every single day toward achieving that goal. Again and again. It really is that simple.
Notice, I said simple, not easy. If you’ve been struggling with executive functioning, setting up routines and schedules will be difficult. You’ll probably flop at some point. The system or routine will fall apart. What’s important is that you do not give up. Look for another easy win to keep you going.
Motivation is a figment of the imagination, and not something that most people have. Most people get up in the morning by hitting the snooze button a few times, and most people do not feel especially happy about doing certain things. What they feel happy about is the end result, the deliverable. Place your focus there and you will not need any motivation because you will be successful.