“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” ~Robert H. Schuller
For the entirety of my life I have had an external source of structure.
I’ve very much thrived when both guided and held accountable by others. You could say that I'm a “systems” friendly person and have always felt safe and secure when I can simply follow the guidelines or instructions and then arrive at the intended destination.
The only problem is that I didn’t always create the “intended” destination. In fact, it usually wasn’t even where I wanted to be. It was where I thought I should be. So I decided to change all that.
Since starting my own business I have both felt the power of freedom, control, and expression as well as experienced the terrorizing fear of … freedom, control, and expression!
Nobody is telling me what my schedule should look like anymore. No one is checking in on me to make sure I'm staying proactive in marketing myself.
After being a corporate “yes” man for years I have finally obtained the independence that I have always wanted, and yet I swear that many times I would just prefer my old boss tell me what to do and crack the whip when I am slacking.
Parents, school, sports, work—the structure has always been built in for me and now I struggle daily to find the motivation from within. In response, I have worked hard to identify four of the biggest motivation killers out there.
1. Fear of Failure
For all the perfectionists struggling with procrastination, it’s actually pretty straightforward what the underlying road block here is: the crushing weight of expectations, the proverbial gun to the head mentality.
How many times have you been defeated before even taking on a task or challenge because of the overwhelming unknown of whether or not it’s going to be executed to your (or someone else’s) high level of expectations?
I can justify putting off just about any chore or task by telling myself that I don't have the time or resources to get it done right.
This mindset leaves me feeling paralyzed. I have found that it’s better (more often than not) to take the jump, regardless of whether or not circumstances are optimal. Regardless of whether or not rejection is a possible outcome. Regardless of whether or not other people will appreciate or understand your actions.
I'm not saying you shouldn't put your best foot forward, but you do have to realize that at some point you’ll need to start taking steps forward.
Even though missing the mark is uncomfortable at times, most happy and successful people that I've interviewed or read about have all gotten okay with taking shot after shot until they finally hit their target.
2. Lack of Clear Goals
We can mitigate the overwhelming fear of failure by focusing on rewarding, enjoyable, and achievable goals.
Now, ultimately, living out a productive, inspired, and motivated life requires us to make choices. We simply can’t have it all. But sometimes we get so caught up comparing our own situation to that of others (what others have and where others are in life) that we sabotage any chance we have of making the choices we really need to make to get to where we really want to be.
And worse, whenever we feel that our hand is forced in our journey, our intrinsic motivation is killed. Dreaming about what you want and then actually believing that you can achieve it (even during times of adversity) is the only way to really find motivation from within.
While big picture goals are important in order to understand where it is that you ultimately want to go, overcoming inertia (remember that heavy weight of expectation?) and making movement by knocking out a smaller plan of attack is a perfectly viable option when you are moving at zero miles per hour.
Whether it is by creating your to-do list and schedule the night before or creating a flow chart of how to get from point A to B, it’s remarkably more fun, effective, and rewarding to create and implement daily strategies to get what you want out of life.
Without more tangible realizations of your dreams, wants, and goals (no matter how big or small) you are going to struggle knowing where to start.
3. Ignoring Your Health
As a personal trainer, this is more my area of expertise and yet I still struggle to follow my own advice at times. And much like depression, physical neglect will rob you of feeling pleasure for any activity.
One of the biggest battles I have on a regular basis is getting enough sleep. If I consume caffeine too late in the day, or decide to reflect on life at 10pm, there is a good chance I'm going to toss and turn till 2am, leaving me with little time to mentally rest and physically heal by the time my 5:30am training rolls around.
The entire next two days I will be tired, so I choose to consume even more caffeine to stay peppy for clients, thus creating a vicious cycle and yet all the while wondering why I'm so lethargic!
Poor hydration, lack of exercise, and large amounts of insulin in the body (primarily from overconsumption of carbohydrates) will also leave you riding the motivation roller coaster (with mostly drops) thus killing self-esteem, leading to depression, and in turn creating a whole new vicious cycle of negative thoughts and negative energy levels.
You need to stop the cycle at some point. Recognize this and get off this ride immediately!
4. Loss of Core Identity
How can you possibly handle any of the above three challenges effectively, let alone find the intrinsic motivation to even try, if you do not know in your heart who you are? Or more importantly, who do you want to be?
I’ll never forget my first private therapy session as an “adult” and how shocking it was to fail to articulate an answer to the above questions. At the conclusion of our first meeting all I could dejectedly muster was “I don’t know even know who I am.”
It took (and still takes) a lot of work to uncover and stay true to my answers to these questions.
If there has been one best practice I would advise anyone to perform it would be journaling. There’s rarely a moment after being truly honest and fair with myself that I haven’t been able to dial up some immediate intrinsic motivation and be okay with “doing me.”
Because for me, having a stronger sense of self, combined with re-committing to loving, humble, and honorable principles has kept my world from collapsing when something doesn’t go my way.
This is such an empowering feeling and makes risk taking so much more exciting, goal planning more identity congruent, and proactive health care a worthy and top priority.
All four of these productivity and happiness assassins seem to work together in an effort to kill my momentum. Sometimes they still win. But more and more these days I realize that I’m in control over them. It’s been the battle of my life, and it may be yours. But our lives are worth fighting for.
Photo by Hatwig HKD