The last few months have been the most stressful of my life. I’m just finishing my second to last semester of college, and I’ve had almost no time to work on my personal goals outside of that. Thus, motivating myself has been a problem since my most pressing tasks have seemed somewhat distant from my ultimate goals. If you search around online, there are myriad tips that may or may not work to help motivate you. That’s not what I’m going to talk about here; no, in this article, I’m going to talk about the crucial albeit more abstract things to consider when you are struggling with motivation.
Ask yourself: are these goals really worthwhile?
I recently wrote an article on the sunk cost fallacy, which you can read here. The problem is that we sometimes torture rather than motivate ourselves; it’s unproductive, and the stress that can result makes the whole process a net negative. So, the first thing to ask is whether your goals are really important to you, or whether they are only obstacles keeping you from something else you may want. It’s also possible that both of these are the case; that is, you may genuinely want to learn a skill or attain a career, but it may be so costly that it still keeps you from other things you desire. In this case, I have little advice to offer other than that you should not be dismissive of the possibilities you give up, which leads me to my next point:
It sounds trivial, but it’s crucial. It’s crucial because an important part of any undertaking is being flexible. When you’re stressed for any long period of time because you’re struggling with motivation, it can be very difficult to stop and adjust your plan. As I said, it’s important not to dismiss the little things that you sacrifice for your goals, and taking the time to relax allows you to look at these things with a sober eye.
When you begin any endeavor, you have to acknowledge those who have been more successful than you. Deciding whether or not you are interested in competing with those people is a great way to determine whether it’s really something you really care about. Many in our society are competition-averse, and you can often identify them by their lack of success. That problem begins early with the way that kids are discouraged from comparing themselves to others, but it’s been shown that peer pressure actually makes them better adjusted. Embracing competition is also a great way to gauge your success as your immediate competitors change.
Spend time with others.
Like relaxing, this may sound trivial to someone who is hyper-serious about their goals; but, if you’re so serious and still struggle with motivation, you’re doing something wrong. Spending time with friends has numerous benefits. Obviously, it’s one way to relax your mind. But it can also improve your motivation more directly; hearing how others are doing can allow for friendly competition, or it can just help you see how motivation is functioning in another person. Finally, friends and family are important to most of us, so it can help to remind yourself that the goals you are working toward are only a small part of a complete life.
Pay attention to the little successes.
The hyper-serious often ignore the minor victories that lead up to any major accomplishment. I think that is a mistake because it actually makes you less likely to get those little successes. Whereas, when you pay close attention to the steps you take toward your goal, those successes will keep coming until something major has been attained. Of course, keeping your focus on attainable goals which lead to something larger is also a great way to avoid unnecessary stress along the way, while still being more productive.