Why Motivation Might Be Killing Your Progress
What if I told you that motivation is actually what's holding you back?
So many people go on and on about motivation. Heck, there is an entire industry surrounding it that people collectively pay millions of millions of dollars each year hiring and listening to motivational speakers. Don't get me wrong, there are so many brilliant people such as Eric Thomas, Les Brown, or Tony Robbins that have helped push people to step out of their comfort zone and achieve their dreams, but at the foundation of their success it isn't motivation. It's something much less esoteric; this foundation is consistency.
Motivation will ebb and flow throughout the day, let alone week by week; so why would we base our productivity on something so volatile? Sure, it can be a powerful tool, but it shouldn't be the driving factor behind trying to achieve success.
Consistency can be defined as the continuous conformity to a specific value, task, or belief free from variation or contradiction. Applying this to achieving our goals can be simple in theory, but is bound to be harder in reality.
In practicality, consistency is a rigid, unwavering execution of the tasks at hand that will help you reach your goals.
Focus on the task
In today's day and age there are so many distractions in our lives, making it very easy to stray away from what we need to do and shift our focus to wasting time on pointless things. Aimlessly scrolling through social media, or staying up too late for no reason are things we can all be guilty of from time to time, but it can have a bigger effect on productivity than you might notice at first glance.
Learning to minimize your focus on distractions while working on a project or task will not only create a better product or workout; it will also cut down time required and free up that time for other things.
Our habits define us, be it professionally or personally. Forming positive habits will be one of the most valuable assets we have towards reaching our goals, while bad habits can do just the opposite. Habits are very powerful; they are also very difficult to make or to break. When you can control your habits -- both the good and the bad -- you can use them to form the person you want to be.
However, it is easier said than done to gain control over your habits. There are people who go their entire lives without thinking about creating the habits they need to succeed, or breaking the habits that are holding them back. There is no shortcut to mastering control over your habits; it's something that must be earned through hard work and discipline. The one principle that will give you a greater chance for success though, is the foundation of this article: consistency.
Making healthy habits that last
Think of your current daily ritual. It likely consists at a minimum of brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and putting on clothes. These are all things that you don't naturally just do when you're born, they are learned. Yes, those are very basic things that you would likely find ridicule over if you didn't do, but it doesn't make them anything more than a formed habit. Healthy habits are tough to form, but they're well worth the effort most of the time. Whether the habit you want to create is eating healthy, regularly working out or running, reading every day, or staying up to date with what's new in your industry, positive habits can lead you to a happier, healthier, and productive life. Unfortunately, the work required to create those habits will likely be disruptive to your existing routine, making the whole process tougher than it really should be.
A good strategy is to start small and work up. An example of this would be to not drink alcohol during the week, and limit it to a drink or two on the weekend rather than cutting out all alcohol. Another would be to start eating a healthy meal for breakfast and lunch, but giving yourself dinner to eat a little less healthy. Once you have gotten used to the new change, you can further your current habits, dig deeper into adding in other areas, or add a list to complete a certain number of items each day.
Daily task list
Creating a task list with 5-6 items that are most important to you will help keep you focused, increase your chance of success, and keep you honest about your productivity. The goal of this list is to complete 4-5 items from the list each day. If you ever fail to do enough items on your list for the day, it doesn't mean you double up the next day, though. Stay the course and in time it will become natural.
An example of this could be:
- 45-min workout
- Meal prep for the day
- Drink water only
- 1 chapter from a book
- 30-min run
Breaking bad habits for good
Breaking bad habits can be done using the same process we described for forming good habits. If you have a habit of eating a late night snack every night or aimlessly scrolling through social media, the first thing you're going to want to do is break the frequency into a specified amount. For some people, quitting cold turkey is what works best for them. For most people, weaning off will be the most sustainable option though, by reducing the frequency or intensity of the habit over time.
When you first start on your bad habit-breaking endeavor, you're going to follow your plan as closely and consistently as possible. If you follow this plan it will soon become automatic, but if you catch yourself slipping up you'll find that you take it as more of a suggestion rather than a change in lifestyle.
Another useful strategy when breaking a habit is to have a new positive habit take its place. As you reduce the effect of your bad habits, you can gradually add in a new, positive habit. An example of this is replacing the time spent aimlessly browsing social media could be replaced with reading a book you've wanted to read or learning about an interesting topic you've been thinking about.
It isn't an easy process to make and break habits, but it doesn't have to be complex either. Understanding that consistency is the key to success in anything will give your journey a deeper purpose and will create a routine which will drive you to push through on the hard days where motivation is no where to be found.