How to find Motivation 

 September 3, 2020

One of the most common things I hear from clients in my clinical practice is the challenge of finding and sustaining motivation. It is a personal challenge as well. The sunshine can wax and wane and so our motivation is always ebbing and flowing. Sometimes motivation is intense, disciplined, and determined, other times it is something else, tired, exhausted, and lacking. When we are mindful of our present moment we are able to better monitor and self-assess various aspects of our being in the present moment, mood, thoughts, feelings, motivation, etc. Motivation is fueled by emotion.

Discover and know your Why! In learning how to cultivate motivation one has to consider their personal core values, attitudes, and beliefs about themselves and how they see life. In my mindfulness classes I usually share the idea that there is wisdom in silence, as often many are fearful of silence when they are alone and observing the thoughts and feelings in their mind. When one sits in silence in the still waters of mediation this is usually the space where valuable insights can originate. Awareness is key.

Cultivating MINDFULNESS increases AWARENESS, in which we can derive INSIGHT. 

It is a place where we can be more free from the delusions of our thinking mind and ego. When these conditions are met whether through meditation or some other method of deliberate self observation, consideration, and reflection we can discover and explore the truth and essence about what inspires us and that we find meaningful in life. So if you have not already done so or maybe it has been some time check back in with yourself. What is your why? What inspires you? Who are you? 

It is difficult to set a goal when you don’t know your why, or where you are going. Your why should be pleasant, positive, contain a healthy balance of emotions and be interesting and fun, otherwise you will procrastinate and find something better to distract yourself with. It is very important to know that your thoughts have energy. How you think about yourself, others, and the world around you matters a great deal. 

Our military instills the valuable stoic philosophy to its officers to develop mental toughness and think optimistically, because failure inevitably happens. Failure itself is a temporary condition, event, phase, and one that can be responded to creatively when you realize you have a choice. This is mental toughness and separates winners from those that choose to acquiesce to failure and  give up. Other than a condition of death, there is no failure as I recently heard from Jocko Willink, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and author of several books on leadership. Not everyone has an optimistic mindset to work with. 

One does not need to look far when their favorite sports team gets behind in a big game. Take a look at this year’s Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs, who won after coming from behind in each of their playoff games including the Super Bowl to secure the championship. If you watched the MVP of the Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes, he looked cool and confident under pressure while playing in the biggest football game in the world. I would suggest he has an optimistic performance story. You can have a pessimistic performance story and perform at a high level when things are good, it is just that things may not always be good, competitive athletes will know this experience well. How do you talk to yourself when you get down? What does your inner critic say to you? It is usually not pretty and not very helpful. This is why it is important to develop an inner compassionate coach to counter the negativity and increase resilience. 

Sounds simple enough but it has to be learned and practiced. When you take time to analyze your thoughts and feelings around setbacks you are better prepared to handle future challenges. A failure is temporary, and is simply an opportunity to learn. We all fail in life and face adversity, it is a defining feature of our common humanity.  

When I lost a tournament or playoff as a competitive golfer I would be hot, furious, and full of anger. I did not always handle that well, and my best friend’s father, the late Don Kovarcik, who was the junior golf director at our country club, rightly pointed out to me while witnessing me tantrum and curse on the golf course that I was not helping myself or improving my game.. 

However, by channeling that frustration and anger in a more healthy way I eventually learned to utilize that energy to renew my focus on practicing and preparation, which was more productive. Heck just showing up at the range the next day was progress, it was one step closer. I did not acknowledge these wins to myself at the time but the process has been scientifically researched by Harvard Business School’s Dr. Teresa Amabile and Dr. Steven Kramer in their book The Progress Principle, which highlights how celebrating “small wins” consistently leads to improved creativity, performance, productivity, and better relationships. 

One technique that I have found particularly helpful is HEAL from psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson in his book Hardwiring Happiness. It goes like this:

H- Have a positive experience. Yes, they actually happen, but you’ll need to notice them which is crucial. 

E- Enrich it. When you have a pleasant event be aware of it, curious, enjoy it! Life is fun when you get out of your own way. 

A- Absorb it. Put the cookie in your cookie jar as David Goggins might say. Acknowledge it. Let it sink in. Savor it. 

L- Link positive and Negative Material. This can be a challenge but the intention is to link the pleasant experience, event, to other negative experiences that are already wired in your brain so that the next time something happens you have planted the memory of the pleasant experience, which is key. Since our minds are hardwired to constantly detect threats this does not come naturally. I missed the game winning shot in the past, however, I just hit the game winning shot today, so when the next pressure shot is needed the mind has both experiences implanted in the brain. Hence hard wired. 

By using some of these strategies you can help fuel and sustain your motivation and boost your performance, and enjoyment living in the present moment, right now. 

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