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How to get motivated when you can't...

How many things have you got in your life that you know you SHOULD be doing, but can't seem to get started - or finish - or generally: stick with? - A lot of the time, we're all 'should'ing all over ourselves... and end up feeling frustrated or worse: losing confidence in ourselves.

So here are some things to help you turn this around: How to get motivated when you can't... well: get motivated.

(It sounds like a paradox, I know. Get comfortable. A lot more paradoxical things exist than you might think - the reason a balloon rises is the same reason why a stone falls. - But I digress...)

Maybe you're even experiencing a lot MORE things you "should" get back to (or start) doing than ever before? - While here in New Zealand we're enjoying an effectively Covid-free life - most of the rest of the world are going from one lockdown to the next. For the vast majority of people in the world, their lives have changed DRAMATICALLY over the past year.

For many people this past year has provided an opportunity to get to know a side of themselves that they didn't know before. People who used to spend a lot of time surrounded by friends got to meet the version of themselves who is alone. People who used to do a lot of exercise got to meet the version of themselves that couldn't make it to the gym. People who used to enjoy daily interactions with their colleagues at work got to meet the version of themselves who works alone at a computer. People who used to drop their kids at school or daycare got to meet the version of themselves who is a full time parent. People who worked a lot and used to enjoy weekend holidays with their beloved got to meet the version of themselves who is around that beloved 24/7.

In the beginning this was rough, unfamiliar, pretty bumpy - but also kind of interesting. We got to try out new ways of doing things - or, in many cases, we also got to give ourselves 'a break'. A pandemic (and homeschooling!) is as good an excuse as any, right?!? So we let some things slide... our diet, our exercise, our yoga classes - and sometimes: work. Our grooming routing (hello shirt-on-top-and-pyjama-pants-zoom-call!)

But now, after all this time, the novelty has worn well off - and we're stuck for finding new ways of motivating ourselves. But somehow... we can't. Running alone is not the same as gym time with friends, working from home is not the same as being surrounded by people all looking so BUSY all the time, quality couple time is not the same when you're around each other ALL THE FUCKING TIME anyway. So how do you motivate yourself when all your old motivations no longer work (or even if they were never there in the first place?!)

Well... you redesign your motivation - deliberately this time!

The formula for motivation (or: getting it done!) is this: Pain + Pleasure + Urgency.

In order to actually get yourself to DO the thing you want to get yourself to do, you need to

a) link pain to NOT doing that thing PLUS

b) link pleasure to DOING that thing PLUS

c) make it urgent

So what does that mean?

Here's an example. For the longest time, I thought I 'should' do some yoga - but I couldn't get it to stick. I experienced

a) Pain (back pain from not moving enough) when I didn't do yoga

b) Pleasure (actually feeling much better) when I did

but c) I was lacking urgency (I can still do it tomorrow - right now I'm too tired)

The game changed when I decided to start using a habit tracker, ticking off each day of my yoga practice - and after only 3 days in a row it was my OCD that kept me going (specifically: the thought of having to put a 'red cross' on my day marker, breaking the BEAUTIFUL line of 'green ticks' - I just couldn't bear the thought!) This little tool added the URGENCY I'd been lacking. It really was that simple. I did 365 days of yoga in a row. Pleasure even INCREASED as I was starting to see permanent improvements in my wellbeing and it got easier and easier.

(I'll share with you the mistake I made, as well: I set myself a limit of 365 days - which meant: setting myself up to fail by already BUILDING INTO the system the idea that one day I was NOT going to be doing daily yoga - that a break in that line was going to be ok. Don't do that. If you're starting something, you're starting it for good - not for 30 days. And if you miss a day - you're committed to BEING the person who does this daily, so RE-START!!! Restarting is more important than perfection)

So if you have a habit that you USED to do but now find difficult maintaining, ask yourself

a) What PAIN was I avoiding when I used to do this? (e.g. gaining weight, physical pain etc)?

b) What PLEASURE did I experience when I DID? (e.g. looking and feeling better, having time with mates)

c) Why was it URGENT for me to do so? (E.g. I knew that another day at home meant I was going to lose muscle, I wasn't going to see my mates, my co-workers would notice...)

and then:

d) Which one of these has changed?

Once you have identified why you USED to do these things - you can figure out what specifically it is that changed in the new circumstances - and then get creative around recreating the missing elements.

Maybe your time at the gym was actually your social time - can you organize a video or phone call and exercise at home, but WITH your mates?

Of course, all these same principles apply to a habit that you have felt like starting for a while but haven't been able to motivate yourself to do in the first place (all without a pandemic to blame!)... meaning that, if you haven't succeeded 'sticking' to something, you've probably been missing one of the three elements. You haven't linked enough pain, pleasure and urgency to the matter.

Here are 20 questions to help you discover them:

  1. Why do I want to do this thing?

  2. What benefits will it give me?

  3. How will my life change for the better because of it?

  4. Where can I be a year from now if I do this consistently?

  5. Where can I be 5 years from now if I do this consistently?

  6. Where will I be 10 years from now if I do this consistently?

  7. What ULTIMATE GOAL is this helping me achieve?

  8. How will I feel if I never reach this goal because of putting this off?

  9. What will happen if I DON'T do this thing?

  10. Where will I be a year from now if I don't stick to this?

  11. Where will I be 5 years from now if I don't stick to this?

  12. Who will be affected if I continue to put this off?

  13. What am I modeling for my loved ones around me?

  14. How am I going to feel tomorrow / next week if I still didn't get this done?

  15. Where else is this pattern of putting stuff off and not following through showing up in my life?

  16. Where else am I negotiating with myself despite having made a decision? (How we do one thing, we do everything!)

  17. Where else am I tolerating not following through with a decision? What effect is this having?

  18. What is it I am valuing MORE than getting this done? Is this worth it?

  19. What am I still TOLERATING because of not following through?

  20. I am (insert your age) years old - how much time have I already let pass without following through?

Let me know which one of these spoke to you most!

More on creating and maintaining motivation coming up soon - but in the meantime: Join me on one of our community calls They are free coffee or tea sessions with a 10-15 min intro to a topic related to taking YOUR life to the next level, followed by some practice, sharing and community talk. Would be great to have you along!

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