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Motivate Your Mind:

How to Get Motivated When Your Self Motivation is Weak

In this article on motivation, we will explore what it takes to motivate your mind when you are really down in the dumps and feeling at your least creative. Self motivation is an essential skill for anyone working in creative fields, as you require a constant renewal of impetus to push forward to new ground. Learning to get motivated when and where you want to, rather than waiting for the muse to strike or enthusiasm to re-ignite, will put you in charge of your creative output. The motivated mind gets a lot more done, and what it creates is of a higher order than that which is produced under duress or slothfulness! So are you ready to get motivated? I know I am, so let's begin....

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First, a confession.

You know when Sir Isaac Newton was talking about his First Law of Motion, and he mentions 'a body at rest' and how it won't move unless it is acted upon by an outside force? I think he was talking about ME! For much of my life, I have been the least motivated of individuals. I waited for inspiration to strike. Or let my fate be largely determined by others. I was that body at rest. Only it wasn't really rest; it was inertia. I would slump to a standstill and wait for the next puff of wind to fill my sails again. When I was inspired and fired up, I would be bursting with energy and really purposeful. It was easy in that state to feel totally motivated and action orientated. However, once that energy had run it's course, or evaporated, or the purpose been achieved and completed, then all too frequently I would crash into the doldrums. Have you been there? It's not a fun place, is it?

We all get an initial high of energy when we start out on something new. Whether it's tackling those New Year's resolutions, deciding to go to the Gym, or launching a new business idea, there is plenty of energy in the initial thinking stages or even in the first few actions towards its achievement, but what happens when your energy and enthusiasm start to sag? First you get distracted and you forget your promise to yourself. Maybe you miss out on a couple of appointments at the gym, or fail to carry through on those essential marketing tasks to get your business up and running. A few days go by and then you remember what you are supposed to be doing. But this time, instead of it being a WANT-TO, it's become a SHOULD-DO! Uh-oh... now you're up against the wall. Now you are in desperate need of something to motivate you again.

What is motivation, anyway?

Get motivatedLet's look at this word motivation and give ourselves a clearer understanding of what it means. When I look at it, I immediately see the first three or four letters and it reminds me of 'motor' and 'motion'. The motor in motivation is the engine that drives you forward into motion. That 'va' in the middle there reminds me of Spanish for 'go' or 'goes', so again we have the sense that motivation gets you going. It's all about getting you out of that state of inertia and into motion.

Now, next I see the word 'motive' in motivation, and it reminds me of all those murder-mystery tv shows and movies that I have watched over the years. The detective is always trying to figure out what the murderer's motive was. Why did he do it? What reason drove him to that senseless act? So motive is all about our sense of purpose, the reason that motivates us into action.

Let's look at how an online dictionary defines the word: motivation :

~the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior; "we did not understand his motivation"; "he acted with the best of motives"

~ the act of motivating; providing incentive.

~ the condition of being motivated; "his motivation was at a high level."

So, from that we can appreciate that self motivation has to come from within. We need to find or create that 'psychological feature' which arouses us to action.


Looking at the Etymology of Motivation, we discover the following:

motion (n.) 
c.1374, from O.Fr. motion (13c.), from L. motionem (nom. motio) "a moving, an emotion," from motus, pp. of movere "to move" (see move). The verb sense in parliamentary procedure first recorded 1747; with meaning "to guide or direct by a sign, gesture, movement" it is attested from 1787.

1885, "to stimulate toward action," from motive (q.v.), perhaps modeled on Fr. motiver or Ger. motivieren. Motivation first recorded 1873; the psychological sense of "inner or social stimulus for an action" is from 1904.

1362, "something brought forward," from O.Fr. motif (n.), from motif (fem. motive), adj., "moving," from M.L. motivus "moving, impelling," from L. motus, pp. of movere "to move" (see move). Meaning "that which inwardly moves a person to behave a certain way" is from c.1412.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

Let's go back to Sir Isaac Newton again and his three laws of Motion. Here they are:

First law
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless an outside force acts upon them.

How this applies to self-motivation:  There's an old saying in England, 'If you want something done, ask a busy man.' Someone who is already busily in motion, finds it easier to tackle a new job than someone who is static and doing nothing. This means that once you do get yourself going, it will take less effort to keep yourself going than it will to get yourself going from a standing start. When you are motivated, you need to keep giving yourself little pushes, little reminders to keep it up, to keep on going. It's like spinning a plate balanced on a pole. To begin with you have to spin it many times to get it going, then you can just spin it once every few seconds to keep it in motion. If you don't give it a spin every now and then, it will start to slow down, wobble and fall off.

Now if you are the object at rest, you have to understand that it will take a big push to get yourself or your project going, but once it is going, it will be a lot easier to maintain the momentum if you keep 'tickling' it along. So to get motivated just get into motion! Do something! Anything! Do something that takes you a baby step towards your target, and then take another baby step, and another, and you'll find that you get faster and start taking bigger steps. Stir yourself, get yourself revved up with emotion, excitement, enthusiasm, determination and act! act! act! That is the key to self motivation: get going.

Second law
The rate of change of the momentum of a body is directly proportional to the net force acting on it, and the direction of the change in momentum takes place in the direction of the net force.

How this applies to getting motivated:  The 'net force' here is your motive, your reasons for doing what you want to do. The stonger your reason for doing something, the more power and energy you will bring towards doing it. Your purpose is what you are aiming for, and all the energy of your motive will move you towards what you are aiming for. Often the secret of motivating yourself is simply to remind yourself WHY you were interested in pursuing this course of action in the first place. Once you get back in touch with your motives and reasons for doing something, you will be back in touch with the energy and impetus to do it. The more reasons for doing something that you can come up with, the more motiv-ational power you will have to draw upon.

Third law
To every action (force applied) there is an equal and opposite reaction (equal force applied in the opposite direction).

How this applies to motivating yourself on a consistent basis:  I'm not sure if it is just a generational thing but, as a society, we are getting lazier by inclination. We want everything to be easy, instant, comfortable and without any problems whatsoever. We are sold on the instant fame of reality TV, the instant riches of the Lottery and so, for many of us, we are just not 'braced' for hard work and overcoming resistance. But Newton's third law of motion tells us that when we want to get something going and get it into motion, there will be an equal and opposite force resisting us. So, what that means is that you are going to have to push hard, and then push even harder, and then harder still to get your project (or yourself) into motion. And you will have to keep pushing regularly to keep it in motion because if you let it coast, the forces of resistance will slow it's progress down and eventually cause it to stop. And we don't want that, do we?

Now you are probably picturing this never-ending slog ahead of you now, and feeling even less motivated than before. Let me reassure you that, in pragmatic terms, although you do have to battle to get the ball rolling, once things are in motion you can often reach a breakthrough moment where the resistance seems to disappear. This is the 'rolling stone gathers no moss' moment where your momentum, and your maintainance 'tickling', acquires a kind of effortlessness. Sure you are still doing stuff but it seems easier. People start responding to your offers, the money rolls in, and you feel like you have clicked into your niche. Somehow you have crossed the threshold. The Universe seems to sit up and take notice and say, "This gal is serious!" and begins to help you in extraordinary ways. What a terrific moment this is! But when you reach this stage, ignore the tendency to think that you've arrived and that you're done... because that is a sure way to crash and burn like so many celebrities and companies who hit the big time and then fall off the chart. You have to adjust your targets when it gets easier and start aiming even higher again. The resistance becomes your ally.

Get motivated

Get Motivated, Flex Your Mind

Okay, let's return to the focus of the article, how YOU can get motivated when you feel about as purposeful as a sack of doo-doo. Low motivation creeps up on you when you are not looking, doesn't it? One minute you were firing on all cylinders, the next you are stalled on the hard shoulder with a smoking engine. What happened? You took your eye off the ball, you forgot to stay in motion, you didn't do what you needed to do to keep your plate spinning in the air. (God, listen to me mangling metaphors! But you get the picture, right?)

When you get distracted or lose focus, that's when you stall. To get motivated, you need to get sharply back in focus, get your eyes on the prize, get back in tune with your purpose and mission.

For me, low motivation is experienced as laziness, procrastination, confusion, anxiety, guilt (hey, I should be working, right?!). And most of my low motivation is down to poor decision making regarding my goals, wants and aims --- and this results in a lack of clarity and I kind of whirr off into a frenzied anxiety attack that eventually defaults into a kind of low energy, depressed state. I wouldn't say I become a total zombie, but I might as well be one for all I achieve of worth in that state. And that semi-vegetative state alternating with anxious maddening thinking persists until...

...I give myself a big psychic kick in the butt!!!

Really, it's just common sense, if your mind has strayed off the path, you shout and boss it back onto the path again! It's called self-discipline. And if you are in a whiney state of mind right now, I know that you will read the words 'self-discipline' and flinch from it like it's a bell-wearing leper! But inject some steel into your soul right now, and decide to get serious. Get organised with your thinking. You need to adopt a kind of 'clip-boardy' officiousness for a while, just so you can sort your thinking out and get some clarity back in your mind. Boot out the whiney, weak, tired voice in your head.

The thoughts in your head, right now, determine the 'frame' or filter through which you view the world. Change the thoughts and you change the frame. Now, there is a difference between the thoughts that you think consciously and deliberately, and those thoughts which you just allow the stream of consciousness (from the non-conscious aspects of your mind) to carry into your mind space. When you default to laziness, the thought stream just does its own thing, and if you are regularly exposed to a lot of negative media (tv news, newspapers and magazines, hollywood movies, tv shows) you will end up with a polluted thought stream of negativity. And this will keep you down, until some starburst of inspiration fires you up again. (...Hope springs eternal!)

But you don't have to accept this negative state. You can start to think consciously. Deliberately. Organising your mind and actions. Immediately you do this you will start to feel more motivated. You will remember your projects, those great ideas that you wanted to initiate. And you will get back on track. You will get motivated.

Naffirmations ...Updated, Modernised, New!

One of the tools you can use to get motivated is to repeat or write afirmations. Now affirmations have taken quite a bashing lately and are kind of poo-pooed by those with in-depth knowledge of how the mind works. That said, many people throughout history have derived benefits from them. I think of them as a focusing tool to deliberately steer your wayward mind back onto the path that you want it to follow. To get maximum benefit from them I like to use affirmations that create pictures in your mind. Repeating a phrase over and over is not going to change your life, but if that phrase triggers a picture in your mind over and over, that will provide much greater impetus to making changes. It just gives you a mental map to focus on and immediately you can begin to see yourself in a different way.

For example:

Creaky, old style affirmation: I am highly motivated

Super-duper affirmation: I can see myself taking dynamic action, in a purposeful, powerful way.

Rusting hulk, ye olde worlde affirmation: I am committed to getting this project finished.

Truly-scrumptious updated affirmation: Wow! I can see myself loving this project and joyfully working on it and celebrating getting it finished.

The key to creating these kind of imagery based powerthoughts is to MAKE SURE YOU DO PICTURE YOURSELF doing whatever the affirmation is about. If you would like to read more about why this is so effective, please refer to the classic book, PyschoCybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, Chapter 3, Imagination -- The First Key To Your Success Mechanism.

Motivating on many levels!

Motivating On Many Levels

While my personal wrestling match with motivation involves lack of clarity, many people get perfectly clear on their goals but still can't summon enough vital motivation force to get off their butts and really move towards their goals. Here are some additional reasons then, why you may be suffering from a lack of motivation and what you can do to get yourself motivated again....

Living Somebody Else's Dream
Are your goals your own? Or have your goals and dreams been manufactured for you by your parents or well-meaning but misguided teachers? There are so many people out there trying to live up to their parents ideals. But if you are by nature a scientist, interested in hard facts and data, and your hippy parents want you to become a fantasy artist... you are not going to be naturally motivated to paint fairies and pixies. In the book, The DNA of Success, author Jack Zufelt, points you towards what he calls your CORE DESIRES -- those things in life for which you have "an intense, unwavering, and deeply felt need." These Core Desires are often submerged and buried beneath layers of false desires and goals. Once you uncover them, you discover you have an endless source of real and natural motivation power. You don't have to force yourself to do things to achieve the goal. You don't have to manufacture motivation. It's just there driving you powerfully forward towards the achievement of your goal.

The media also fosters false dreams and illusory goals upon us. By constant exposure to the repetition of standard images of what success is, we all come to believe that we want to be popstars, movie stars, models, business titans or sports idols. And these are false dreams. If you hadn't been exposed to them via TV and movies, would these be important to you? Would you still be hankering after the illusion that you could be the best and greatest singer in the world? Would you still be waiting to be discovered by a Hollywood director? Or would you be more in touch with your natural inclination to learn about designing clothes, making clocks, looking after and training horses ... or whatever your particular gift might have been if you hadn't ignored it in favor of the idea of becoming the richest man in the world by this time next Thursday!

To counter false dreams, examine your life and the goals you have. Expose them to the cruel light of reality. Are you just riding a media bandwagon, sold on an illusion of instant fame and fortune? Are you living your life to please your parents and be a good girl? Isn't it time you grew out of those kind of attitudes and limitations. Allow yourself to explore what is really in your core. What do you really want? What do you really love doing? If you don't know, start trying different things and see where they lead you. Go ballroom dancing, abseiling, yachting, enroll in a web design course, try your hand at macrame or online poker.

Blockages and Barriers to Motivation
If your life is full of people who thwart your efforts, or cluttered with too many things, or filled with obligations, you may feel blocked at every turn. You may break free every so often when inspiration is strongest, but your little flame is quickly smothered. In this instance, you need to create space. First of all, have a clear out. Get rid of your physical clutter. Give it away to charity shops, or throw it away if it's pure junk. Think of it like this. You are creating space so that you have more oxygen for your flame of inspiration to burn brighter. You are creating more room and light to grow into. You are creating a sense of space so that you can feel organised. As you are clearing your space, a strange alchemy occurs on the inside too. You will feel more energised and more motivated to work and achieve your targets.

You may need to clear out old relationships too if those people are really blocking your progress. However, it is amazing how people seem to change when we take responsibility for changing ourselves.

You may be carrying a lot of inner baggage and psychic clutter accumulated over a lifetime. To release all that blocked energy, you would do well to practice the Sedona Method of releasing. This is a very subtle and very effective technique for letting go of trapped energy. You basically identify the feeling you want to release and ask yourself a short series of questions that prepare your mind, draw the trapped energy into awareness and bring it into focus before releasing and letting go of the energy that you had been psychically holding onto in your energy body (or subsconscious mind). To explore this further, refer to the Sedona Method website:

Low Physical Energy Equals Low Motivation
If you are stuffing your face full of junk food, pouring alcohol and coca cola into your blood stream, or abusing yourself in any one of a myriad of ways, it's not surprising that you suffer from a motivation issue. You are poisoning yourself! You are shooting yourself in the foot before you've even left the starting line! Get a grip, get an idea, and start to take better care of yourself! Healthy, organic, natural foods are like high octane fuel for the high performance vehicle (your body) that you occupy for your lifetime. There are so many studies on this that you can take it as read that changing and improving your diet will have significant effects on your health, levels of energy, mental ability, and your 'get up and go!'

More Tips To Get Yourself Motivated

Put the pain behind you
You've got to shift and adjust the way you are setting up your goals and motivational forces. If you aren't motivated to do what you know you have to do, ought to do or should do, then you are putting the pain out ahead of you and avoiding it for short term pleasures. You need to put the pain at your back, where it can drive you on. You need something with some sting to it, to whip you on --- you need to be running forward towards the relief of your goals and away from the ferocious beast biting at your bottom! So what can you do to achieve that?

Once upon a time, my wife and I decided to give up chocolate for a year. We'd got a bit addicted to it. Initially we found it hard to stick with our decision. It was all too easy just to give up and buy that bar when it was sitting there at the counter. So we came up with a deal. We would have to give the other £50 if we succumbed to eating chocolate. Well, £50 seemed like a lot of money and the idea of paying out that much for a stupid piece of chocolate... well, that put the pain right there at our heels and was sufficent motivation to keep up to our deal throughout the year.

What punishment can you put at your back, to drive you forwards even when you feel like quitting?

Here are some ideas for painful motivational tools:

  • financial (you get a fine / deduction in allowance / or have to give money to someone you don't like!)
  • humiliation (you will have to carry out some embarassing or mortifying activity if you don't carry though)
  • disgusting (you wanna eat that ice cream? Then you'll have to eat this raw onion on its own -- first!)
  • social shame (your quitting will be publicised to all and sundry!)
  • time (if you give yourself a time limit, you create deadline pressure and pain. Make it so that if you don't do it in this time, you will never ever get to do it at any other time, no matter what.)
  • inconvenience (you put your remote control in the loft; you can only 'walk' to the store for ice cream; you have to defrost your credit card from the block of ice before you can go online shopping!)

Life is a one time opportunity. Look at the 'amount of lifetime' chart on: Creative Fun and Games With The Grim Reaper! How to use DEATH to inspire creative living!! It's a great tool for seeing and feeling the pain of lost time and missed opportunity, and rediscovering your self motivation.

Expand your duties: make habits of success
You look for motivation when you are resisting doing the things you know you should do. But there are certain things you do in life without having to 'make yourself' do them, aren't there? You go to the toilet. You brush your teeth at least morning and night. You feed your kids. You mow the lawn. You do the things that are your daily duties, your daily habits, without hardly thinking about them. But once upon a time, you didn't do those things as a force of habit. You were taught to use the toilet. You were brought to the bathroom sink and had your teeth brushed until you got used to it. When you were a teenager you probably resented the idea of taking out the trash, doing the washing up, or making someone dinner. But as an adult, you realise those things need doing and that you are the one who needs to do them, and you accept that and do it. It's just what you do. So what we need is a way of getting these goals and targets that you are procrastinating on, and getting them as part of your daily duties so you stop fighting against them and avoiding them. You need to take the actions that will take you to these goals, and make them into habits -- habits of success.

Now the way we do that is that you need to stand up. Okay, are you standing up? Make sure you stand up. Humour me...

Okay, so you are standing up, and now I will wave my magic wand and turn all those actions you need to take into habits that you just do without thinking about it.

Abracadabra, allacazam! There now that's fixed, isn't it? No, of course it isn't. I'm sorry, there is no special technique to this, other than the ones you manufacture for yourself to make this easier in your mind.... You just have to do the actions, and do them again, and do them again, until you get in the habit of doing them every day. Let's say you want to write a book. But you have been stalling big time. It seems you get distracted at every turn. You just can't muster the determination to start. You need to just do it. Decide that you will get up at 5AM and write for an hour. Everyday. That's it. The decision is in stone. It's now part of your life, and it's a duty that you just carry out, because it's what you do, it's who you are. And you do it today. You do it tomorrow. And you keep on doing it everyday, just as you brush your teeth every day, and feed your dog every day. It's just something you do everyday. Once you click into this mindset, motivation becomes effortless. You've accepted the tasks and have no resistance against them.

The motivating power of perspective
Your ability to motivate yourself is largely based on the size, clarity and detail of the pictures in your head. The perspective you have on something determines the way you feel about it. If you open your eyes and you find that there is this sandy colored hair, just millimetres in front of your eyeballs, you may not feel too alarmed. However, if you move back 2 metres, your perspective changes and you see that the sandy colored hair is actually covering a wild male lion. Now your motivation is to run the hell out of there! Now if you are a mile away and looking at the lion through binoculars, your perspective is different again, and you can regard the lion with interest, rather than the terror you felt when you were 6 feet from it's fangs! You can plan to go around it at a safe distance.

Much of the time we live our lives, 'millimetres from the sandy hair' oblivious to the lions in our lives. We cling to a myopic attachment to immediate gratification which is tantamount to delighting in the softness of the fur. And we ignore the big meaty-breathed beast ('the future') that could turn round and gobble us up at any moment.

But when you change the perspective, and look at the big picture, you can spot the lions and you'll take appropriate action (like plotting a route that goes away from the lions or around them, or buying something to scare them away).

The power of perspective enables you to see:

  • that you will grow up
  • that one day you will be 30, 40, 50, 60, 70...
  • that you may well be a parent too
  • that you will have to earn or make money to survive
  • that you, your friends, family members and the people you love the most will get sick if they don't look after themselves
  • that you will die eventually
  • that your loved ones will die by accident, disease, warfare, crime or old age
  • that the unexpected happens when you least expect it, so prepare now as best you can

As previously stated, life is a limited amount of time and opportunity. This day once gone will never ever exist again. Use the power of perspective to motivate yourself and create strong motivating intention to do what you must do.

The fog of dreams versus the light of reality
Motivating yourself to achieve some goal or dream requires a shift from the ambiguous "someday" of dreams. Those ill-formed wishes and hopes need to be exposed to real planning. Often we carry around these dreams in our head and they exist 'out there' in our minds, in the realm of Someday I'll.... These dreams are parasitic in that, until we actually move them from possibility into action, they just drain mental and emotional energy. Let's say you have a job but you really would like to have your own online publishing business selling ebooks that you have created. You dream of being financially independent and working from home. You think of the satisfaction you would feel if you could make enough money to live on and actually grow your personal wealth. It's a great dream... but you do nothing. And 3 years later, you still have that dream and you are no closer to it. But it has occupied your thoughts, hopes and wishes. And now you just feel frustrated. You still want it. But it all just seems too big and overwhelming as it billows there in the front of your imagination, in your 'future space'.

In this sort of situation, you need to get on top of the dream. You need to actually go to the end result, the completed vision, and ask yourself, "What would I have to have done to reach here?" And you work backwards from there figuring out all the steps you would have taken. What was the step just before you achieved this completed vision? What was the step before that and before that? And you create a written step-by-step plan that leads back to this moment now. And then you have something real and tangible, that you know that you can start on today. You have your first step. And if that first step seems too big, you break it down into a series of smaller steps. But you start today, you get moving on it, and you push yourself hard until the momentum of it starts to carry you along. Then the motor in your motivation will be purring along on all cylinders!

Rate this article: I'd love to hear from YOU! Email me: wily[at]wilywalnut.com

Motivation Resources

The Zufelt Experience: Jack Zufelt's extraordinary seminars on unlocking your motivation for peak performance.

Motivation 123: "Motivation techniques & tips for your happiness and success." A great site devoted entirely to the topic of motivation.

Motivation: Wickipedia's take on the subject.

Motivation Tool Chest: Promises to help you develop productive skills through self-discovery. Works to the premise that the source of motivation is found through discovering and developing your natural talent.

Motivation for smart people: Steve Pavlina's personal development articles are always right on the ball and full of wisdom, insight and practical ideas. Here he tackles motivation (without chest pounding!).

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