How would you like to learn the secret to overcoming any struggle, no matter how tough?
It’s mile 23, you have 3 more left and your leg starts cramping or you just quit your job, started your own business and suddenly you can’t find any clients. What do you do?
Any worthy endeavor requires struggle and hardship. Whether you strive for athletic mastery or professional success or you are just looking for that perfect partner, there will be moments in your journey when you want to quit. Those are the moments that shape character and separate successful people from failures.
Zig Ziglar once said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Motivation is the fuel that keeps our inner fire shining bright. It keeps us pushing through those moments when all seems lost.
Follow these eight steps and you will never again be beaten by circumstance. These eight steps will allow you to generate motivation at will and define the path to your destiny.
1. Exercise Daily
When Sir Richard Branson was asked about his secret to productivity, his response was working out. And he runs a multi-billion dollar empire, so he probably knows what he is talking about.
Researchers have also found that when people start exercising, even if it’s just once a week, they start improving habits in other areas of lives as well. They start eating better, they get more done at work and they show more patience in their relationships. James Prochaska, a a researcher at the University of Rhode Island says “ exercise spills over. There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”
Regular exercise is the quickest way to build confidence and increase motivation.
To get started on an exercise routine, find a local race, sign up for it and start training. It could be a 5k, a triathlon, a half marathon or a bike race. It does not matter what the race is, but by signing up for an event, you have a clear target to aim toward, you commit to it by paying the event fees and it is a great way to meet other driven, motivated people like yourself, which will help you with step 8 as well.
2. Practice stillness
In his research, Dr. Andrew Newberg found that those that engage in some form of meditation have greater activity in the parts of the brain associated with focus and attention than those that do not.
Meditation acts like a gym for the brain. It works out the conscious, thinking parts of the brain and reduces activity in the emotional parts of our brain out of our control. Bestselling author Jack Canfield attributes meditation to be the most important factor in his success.
Ever since I began a daily meditation practice, I have been able to stay focused on creating the life I want no matter how many times the struggles of entrepreneurship present themselves. Meditation allows me to stay centered and silence the chaos that runs through my mind about all the things I want to do in my business and my life.
At first, the practice might be difficult, especially since we are so conditioned to constant distractions. To get started, for at least 10 minutes a day, close your eyes, breathe in for four seconds and breathe out for four seconds. With no external distractions, just focus your mind on your breathe. If your mind wanders, that is okay. It is to be expected at first. If that happens, notice where your mind goes and bring it back to your breathing. Your breath serves as an anchor for you to direct your mind.
After a few days of meditation, you may not notice any changes in your life. But rest assured, in time, this exercise will produce noticeable benefits in your focus, drive and motivation.
3. Appreciate everything, everywhere
I do not like going into New York City. Nothing against the city, I just don’t like densely packed crowded areas. Probably a side effect of my experience in Iraq with the US Marines.
Nonetheless, I have now found a way to enjoy the city by appreciating every little thing about it. I tell myself things like “I appreciate the effort and the risk the people who built this building must have taken,” or “I appreciate the planning and hard work that went into organizing the streets in this massive city.”
By appreciating everything around me, I generate value from an experience that otherwise provided none. This keeps me inspired and motivated throughout my day in the city.
To build your appreciation muscles, at the end of every day, write down 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things you accomplished and why they are of value to you.
Dr. Martin Seligman found that after six months this simple exercise led to reduced depression, increased happiness and an overall improvement in the quality of life for those that did this every day.
4. Change your physiology
Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling when practiced over time actually reduces depression.
Smiling then is not just a reflection of joy, it is an act that creates joy as well.
In her research, social psychologist Amy Cuddy discovered that practicing a “power pose,” which is nothing more than standing tall with chin held high and arms and elbows out, for just 120 seconds is enough to create a 20 percent increase in testosterone and a 25 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
The next time you feel your motivation waning, stand tall and proud. Despite what might be going through your mind, shape your body in a manner that reflects someone who is unstoppable. Act like you are all powerful and your mind will believe it to be so.
5. Choose an empowering meaning to your experience
Any experience of life has no inherent meaning. We assign meanings to our experiences and those meanings shape our quality of life.
In the bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist Victor Frankl documents his experiences in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Within the depths of hell, Victor Frankl chose to find meaning to his suffering. He wrote of his experience, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”
As a result of the meaning he gave to his experience, he not only survived the horrors of a concentration camp, he lived a full life after he got out as well.
The next time you go through any kind of struggle and feel defeated by it, assign a label to your emotional state, then ask yourself what is the meaning you are assigning to the experience that has led to that state. Once you are clear on the meaning you are choosing, refocus your mind on the future you want to create, the future that lies on the other side of the struggle. Feel the emotion that this future produces in you. From that place, ask yourself what else can I make this mean.
Motivation is nothing more than a state of mind. By shifting the meaning you assign to experiences, you will be able to generate the state of mind of your choice no matter what circumstances present themselves around you.
6. Get immense clarity on what you want to create
Without clarity, our conscious brain gets confused by the paradox of choice. When it doesn’t know what to do, it will do nothing. Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman states “that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”
Having immense clarity of purpose, mission, vision and goals gives you a clear target to strive toward.
To develop that clarity, know exactly what you want and by when you want it. Don’t set a goal like I want more money. How much more do you want and by what day do you want it?
Get clear on all the visions for your life so you have a reason to stay motivated when you experience struggle.
7. Create systems using preemptive strikes
Systems prevent the lazy part of our brain from sabotaging us. They turn motivation and success itself into an automatic act that you no longer need to consciously generate.
In a hospital in Scotland, a British psychologist gave a group of elderly patients recovering from hip or knee surgery a notepad detailing their rehabilitation schedule. In the last section of the notepad, there were thirteen pages that instructed the patients to write down their goals for the week with exact details of what they were going to do and when.
In three months, the researcher discovered that the patients who planned out their week with specific details were walking twice as fast as the ones that did not. They were moving in and out of their chairs without assistance three times faster than those that did not.
When the psychologist examined the notebooks, he found that the patients that healed the fastest had written down how they would handle obstacles they knew would come up. One patient knew that getting up from the couch would be a painful experience, so he wrote out in detail a plan to manage that pain ahead of time, such as taking the first step right away to resist the desire to sit down.
Whatever goals you have in your life, write out a detailed plan for how you intend to go about accomplishing them. If you know you get lazy after work and don’t feel like going to the gym, put your gym clothes right in front of the door so that you almost trip over them when you walk into the home. Have your wife or husband unplug the TV. Write down exactly what exercise you will and what time you will do it. The key is to make it as easy as possible to act in the face of resistance without letting your brain come in the way.
By doing this, motivation will no longer be an act of the will, it will be nothing more than a natural part of your day.
8. Surround yourself with other driven people
Jim Rohn once said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Your environment plays a significant role in shaping your destiny. Imagine if you wanted to run a marathon and everyone around you, your neighbor, your spouse, your family and your friends were training for a marathon as well, how much easier would it be for you to train for one?
As I mentioned in step 1, find ways to network and be around people with similar passions, dreams and desires. Success is a team sport, no one does it alone. Build your team and work together to keep each other motivated during those moments of struggle.
That’s it. Eight steps practiced repeatedly and success will turn from un-uncertainty to an inevitability.
If you got any value from this post, share in the comments below one thing you are struggling with in terms of generating motivation and one tip you have for others to stay motivated when times are tough.
Akshay Nanavati is a business productivity coach that helps his clients start and grow a business in the shortest amount of time.
* Unleash the power within you to conquer any obstacle with The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday – a practical guide to transform adversity into opportunity.