I love to ride my bike, but sometimes the thought of riding seems daunting, especially those first few miles, when it’s cold outside and my legs are stiff and my heart has just started to pound. I pant and gasp and wonder why I’m on the stupid bike... but then something magical happens. Somehow my aversion to “hard” goes away once I break a sweat.
The endorphins kick in. My legs warm up. I feel proud that I can do something hard, and do it reasonably well. That rush of satisfaction I always feel? (That rush of satisfaction you always feel when you start doing something you’ve put off... and suddenly realize it wasn’t as daunting as you anticipated?) I know that feeling will come. I’ve trained myself to anticipate that natural “high.” Instead of thinking, “Ugh. This is going to be hard,” I’ve taught myself to think, “I can’t wait for that little high I’ll feel when I move from inactivity to activity. I can’t wait to feel that rush I know I’ll feel when I’m actually doing what I planned to do.”
The key is to enjoy the feeling of success that comes from improving in some small way... and then rinse and repeat, over and over again.
Why? Improving feels good. Improving breeds confidence. Improving creates a feeling of competence, and competence breeds self-confidence. Success — in your field or sometimes in any field — breeds motivation. It feels good to improve... so you naturally want to keep improving.
You’ve probably put off a task, finally gotten started... and then, once you got started, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off. It’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”
And here’s the thing: It never is.
Why? Because once you get started, once you get active and start doing something—doing not just anything but something you know will get you one step closer to your goal—the process gets easier. Motivation kicks in because you’ve gotten started. A really cool virtuous cycle—one we’ll look at in detail a little later—kicks in. You feel good because you’re engaged and involved.
You feel motivated because you took action. Motivation is a result, not a precondition. You don’t need motivation to break a sweat. Break a sweat and you’ll feel motivated.
Once you start, it’s easy to keep going. The act of getting out of the house to go for a jog is often harder than actually running the five miles you planned. The act of sitting down at your desk to start writing a proposal is often harder than putting together twenty pages of material. The act of picking up your phone is often harder than cold-calling twenty prospects.
Starting is hard because “motivation” doesn’t make it easy to start. Starting provides the motivation to finish.
Fire walks don’t provide lasting motivation. Breaking a sweat provides lasting motivation.
Speeches don’t provide lasting motivation. Progress provides lasting motivation.
Posters don’t provide lasting motivation. Success provides lasting motivation.
If you aren’t achieving your goals, a lack of motivation or confidence isn’t the problem. A lack of motivation or confidence is actually the means to a solution. When you accept your weak points, when you accept your flaws, when you accept your imperfections... that’s when you can motivate yourself to make changes and improve.
Hide from your weaknesses, and you’ll always be weak. Accept your weaknesses and work to improve them, and you’ll eventually be stronger—and more motivated to keep improving.
This is an extract from Jeff Haden's The Motivation Myth published by Portfolio