21-tips-to-stay-motivated-a-quick-guide-to-motivation
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21 Tips for better motivation

Introduction

New Year New Me! Happy 2020 everyone! It’s that time of the year where everybody is excited for the things to come. What will the new year bring? Who will you meet? What can you achieve? What challenges will you face?
This list could go on forever and trying to look into the future imagining the good, bad, fun and ugly things life will offer us is very exciting and thrilling.
 
Many use the new year to begin a new life, making resolutions to change. Some things little, some things big.
The real challenge, though, lies within the list we have in our heads with all these topics that we want to check off.
 
Save more money to invest. Eat less to look and feel great for the summer. Be more open. Meet new people more often. Get a new job. Say to your boss what you really think. Start a side hustle. Learn an instrument. Learn a new language. Again, this list can go on forever and there are as many different things we want to change as there are people.
 
But do you ever work on any of these? At least for longer than the couple weeks which are fueled by your initial excitement? Accomplishment is mostly a question of motivation. And to kick-off this important topic I like to share with you one of my favorite quotes:
 

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” —Jim Rohn

 
So, today’s topic is motivation. I’ll tackle a little bit of background before we get to the actions you can do to stay motivated and work on your goals. The tips I want to share can be used on any kind of goal you want to work on, but because we are here on LPM I will give you a few tricks that are geared towards diet and fitness related goals.
 

Why self-motivation is so hard

The two kinds of motivation: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

These two fancy words describe whether you work on goals from an inside force coming from within you (intrinsic) or from an outer force (extrinsic). 

 

Examples for intrinsic motivation:
  • Go running because it make you feel energetic.
  • Read a book because you want to learn something or enjoy the story.
  • Keeping your house tidy because you like things to be clean.
 
Examples for extrinsic motivation:
  • Go running to loose weight.
  • Read a book to study for a test at school.
  • Clean the house because your parents come over for coffee.
 
Both can lead to fulfillment, but intrinsic motivation is often related to passion and will feel less like a hustle. Whereas extrinsic motivation is related to circumstances that we do not favor, come from “outside” , are “put on our shoulders” or simply because some gives us something.
 
You might have guessed it already. Intrinsic motivation is less of a problem we need to solve. It’s your natural desire to do things. But don’t see both as a good or bad thing and don’t get discouraged if the things you desire take real work to accomplish. Even the most motivated person in the world has hard and easy days. 
 
The key to success is to find ways to motivate yourself, when you have low days and lack the energy or will power to stay internally motivated.
 
It’s important to find ways which keep us going, because we know that good things will happen once we do the work, although we don’t feel like it.
 

"Why do we stop when things get hard?"

That’s a question you read way too often. You start something, super excited, everything’s cool and easy, but when work gets hard motivation suffers and progress comes to an halt. Months later you forgot about what you even started in the first place.
 

Reason #1

One reason can be that you went over the first emotionally driven excitement and start to realize that the needed effort will be hard to sustain. You’re not seeing a real end any time soon and you question your decision to start in the first place.
 

Reason #2

Another reason is you have to build-up a pain tolerance. Walking up four stories every day for the next years feels intimidating and just picturing yourself huffing and coughing does not work into your favor.

But after a couple of days things get easier. After weeks it’s normal and after years you run the stairs up while talking to someone on the phone.
This holds true for mental-toughness as well.
 

Reason #3

A third reason can be found in how habits work and is related to instant rewards vs delayed rewards.

I will get to this point later.
 
For now let’s have a closer look at habits and how they function.

Habits

That’s the automated behavior we do on autopilot once a certain situation shows up. Habits are a powerful tools that can help you change your life.
 
They are often called habit-loops and follow this pattern: When a certain cue shows up a routine is fulfilled. This routine is then rewarded by any kind of treat. When this loop is repeated many times we – and other animals – begin to anticipate the reward when the cue shows up even before we do the routine. This anticipation is called a “craving” and basically what we want to reach as the craving is highly motivating. We know that there will be a treat and we want it. Now.
 
“Treats” do not necessarily have to be something we eat or drink, just anything that provides us with joy.
The good smell after we cleaned a room, the foaming and mint flavor of toothpaste or taking some time to listen to music are just a few examples.
 

Here is a habit-loop in detail:

Many people go the gym, do their workout and enjoy a post workout protein shake. By packing your gym bag  (cue) you signal your brain that a workout will happen (routine), it [the brain] then anticipates (craves) the shake (reward) which you get at the end. Without really noticing you will get excited about the fact that the workout is coming up soon so you can have a tasty smooth protein shake.
http://www.meghanfay.com/blog/2016/brain-hack-make-exercise-habit

To make habits stick they have to be repeated over and over again. There are numbers floating around, after how many days a habit has formed. But don’t expect them to automatically appear, it takes work and repetition. A habit that is as old as you are won’t be changed or broken after 30 days. BTW: Those habits need to be avoided by avoiding their initial cues.

“The process can be boring/ repetitive”

This is true for so many task. Cooking, cleaning, weighing food, packing containers. Not very exciting. I get that!
 
That’s part of the game. And getting really good at “not caring” is also what separates those who are successful from those who aren’t. The people who find ways, to either deal with it or make things more entertaining, are usually those, who will succeed in the long run.
 
Really, don’t think too much about how boring stuff can be. Just get it done.
 
Switching techniques, trying new hacks and tricks can work wonders. Especially when you lack basic skills to do certain task efficiently. Learning new skills is always wisely invested time!
 
But more often than not we already do the work in the most effective way. It just gets boring over time to do repetition over repetition, again and again.
 
Suck it up and try to make things more fun. Music, singing, dancing all work if doable. (Dancing is NOT advised while chopping up food!)
All the successful people found ways to make the boring stuff (more) fun. Maybe you find a zen-like mentality towards certain tasks and use it as way to relax. Two birds, one stone.
 

Immediate vs. delayed reward

 

Our brains are marvelous organs with different areas that do specific tasks. As we evolved as humans new areas in our brains grew “around” the existing ones. That means in the center of the brain are the primal and instinctive areas that control basic bodily functions like breathing, pumping of the heart, the feeling of hunger, thirst and so on. 
 
These areas are connected very tightly to the reward system of the brain. Eating something gives you a reward. Drinking water gives you a reward. Having sex gives you a reward.
 
These rewards are very immediate.
 
Because these mechanisms are wired into us so deeply they will be very prominent in our thoughts and behavior. Resisting those signals takes a lot of effort.
 
The outer regions are “younger” and do all the cool stuff that differentiate us from animals. It took a lot of evolution to create parts of the brain that can, for example, imagine a future outcome. Planting seeds and taking care of them to grow food. Watch animals move during different seasons so you know when you get to hunt again. This is powerful stuff.
 
But the reward is delayed.
 
And that is a big problem for our motivation. We are lacking an immediate reward. We know we will get one. But right now, we have a task to do with no apparent reward in near sight. Problem is, the brain needs an instant reward to remember a certain behavior as beneficial.
 

Instant reward = wrong teacher

Because we are wired to look for short term joy, we learn to do things that feel good right away. For the motivation and learning to do things now that your future-you will benefit from is a little bit hard to comprehend for the simpler parts of our brain.
 
The “older” parts are now fighting with the “younger” parts on who gets to decide what’s next. In psychology they are called the “Id”, the “Ego” and the “Super-Ego”. The Ego, is balancing the realistic view we have of the world with the joy and pain we experience as the Id.
 
Be aware that for long term success an instant reward of something that’s hindering you from making progress now is the teacher of bad habits. Avoid as much as possible.

Ways to stay motivated

21 unique ways to get and stay motivated.

The following points are in no particular order. Some will fit better to you and your individual situation than others. As a rule of thumb: The less you want to do some of this the higher the chances that they will actually work for you and bring you closer to your goal.
 

The mind is a lazy little bastard that tries to sabotage you whenever possible. Even in the face of a solution to your problem it will always gravitate towards the least hard and painful.

 

#1 Tell (many) significant people about your goals

Social pressure is a strong agent. Telling people about our goals makes them real. It brings them from the realm of our thoughts to reality. 
 

Talk to people who are important to you about your goals and do it to many. The pressure of failure is a potent motivator and helped many reach their goals.

 

#2 Make a contract (with your future-self or someone significant)

Taking things a step further you could also make a contract with the people of your inner circle.
This can be the spoken word or even a real paper contract that you both will sign.
Put in any conditions that help, like regular weigh-ins that show you progress, numbers of work-outs, setting a deadline.
 
For a little extra pressure or thrill add a penalty if you fail on the agreements of the contract
It might appear drastic but it’s highly motivating to stick to your diet and workout plan in the face of having to eat a whole can of dog food.
 

Make it as pro as possible, put in all the details and have both of you sign off the deal.

 

#3 Find and repeat your “Why”

As mentioned in the beginning an intrinsic motivation will always cause less friction on the process. But sometimes we have to remind ourselves why we want to accomplish a goal.

Look deep and find your real “why” and repeat it often. Constantly remember why you need to do 10 more push ups although your body screams for rest.

 

#4 Build habits

I gave the little introduction on habit-loops at the top of this article. Here I like to add another point about short term vs. delayed rewards. Often it’s the little tasks that will ultimately lead to our goal in the long run. The problem is the delayed reward. The brain can not really connect an action with the reward when there is too much going on in-between. That makes it hard to form a habit as it requires an immediate reward.
 
You can trick your mind to do those little tasks by giving yourself a little treat every time you do what’s necessary.
 
You know you should floss so give yourself something that you enjoy when you’re finished.
 
When I was between jobs I was looking for interesting positions and writing applications daily.
This is rather sobering and boring but I wanted a new job that I knew would benefit me in the future.

So, after every research and writing session I patted myself on the shoulder, smiled and gave myself some time to make music.

 

#5 Write down your goals daily

Do this in the morning hours or the night before. Make a plan and make it specific.
“I will eat less today.” is a good start but writing down the goal of “hitting 1800 kcals” works way better.
“Today is leg-day and I will crush 100kg for 10 reps.”

Get a little excited and be as specific as needed/ possible.

 

#6 Make progress visual

Put your progress up on the wall. Mark off a calendar or create a journal. By making your progress visual you can build momentum. “See that row of crosses? I don’t want to break that! I want to keep going!”
Once the crosses start to pile up it’s an amazing feeling and you should see some great results then, too!
 

You can find an example journal here in this article about the 90/10-Rule.

 

#7 Make small steps, get better just 1% forever

Often we see the big picture and imagine all the work necessary to get there. That can feel overwhelming and scare us before we even get started.
Many accomplished people, though, learned about the beauty of little incremental steps. Just a little bit every day will get you very far over time. And once you learned how easy those little steps are, why not bump it up a notch? You can do that. The little bit feels easy now!
And without really noticing you increased your game so much that you’re suddenly on a level you never thought of being possible.
 

#8 Allow yourself failure. But: get up, shake it off, work harder and keep going

Just want to get this out there: It’s okay to be human! Fail, make mistakes, but don’t let that keep you from greatness. Learn from what went wrong and figure out how to be better tomorrow.

Good things will come to those who constantly improve.

 

#9 Get a coach

This serves two mechanisms. 1) You pay for it. This alone can be a great motivation. Make appointments, work out together. Not showing up will be a real burden then. And if you’re not aware of it: If you don’t show up you have wasted the coaches money! He could have given that spot to someone more dedicated who will actually show up. Keep that in mind. 2) Coaches lead with a good example. They are where you want to be. Also they have great tips and programs that work. They can push you when you really don’t want to and help get you to new levels.

 

#10 Take a course

Online courses are all the rage now and for a good reason: They provide stream-lined information, programs and real actionable tips from people just like you. With real life’s, who struggled in similar manners but found ways to overcome their problems.
Another great advantage is they are “on-demand” and you can take them whenever it suits you.
 

A real world-coach can of course push you, but if you need a jump-start and want to do things right at the beginning a course can be a real shortcut. An example would be a course about cooking, meal prep, weight training and cardio.

#11 Daydream about your new self

Sounding a bit hippy, but it’s actually very powerful to daydream about your journey. Imagine everything as vibrant and colorful as possible. Imagine every feeling, how you look, how you talk, how people perceive you.
The brain has a hard time distinguishing between imagination and reality. Thinking of something as detailed as possible will feel very real. This desire to be in this situation will somewhat manifest its self inside your mind.
 
The next time you’re about to make a bad decision or leaning more towards the comforting stuff rather than the stuff you know you should do, remember that your imagination will not come true.
 

Motivation Tricks for Diet & Fitness

#12 Old picture of thin you near fridge

If you have an old picture of yourself in which you are thin and fit, hang that up next to the fridge. That’s your goal, that’s how you want to look like again! This constant reminder will help you judge about the next meal, the portion size or the second plate you think about eating.

 

#13 Wear you tightest pant and sit at table 

Next time you think about the second plate go and put on the tightest pant you have. Now sit down at the table, lift your shirt or sit there top-less (watch out for nosy neighbors!) and look at your tummy. This will hopefully change your view on the necessity of that second plate that you were about to grab.

 

#14 Take picture of you sitting at the table

If you really want to motivate yourself with that kind of stuff go ahead and take a picture of you sitting at the table and look at it every time things start to go out of hand.

 

#15 Put yourself into an uncomfortable situation

Apply for modeling contest, a body building show, a test to get a certain certificate and then work your ass off to get there. Or you can agree on going on a beach vacation and blow everybody away with how great you look now. It takes some courage but some might need this kind of pressure to get the work done.

 

#16 Be aware that weight-loss is not linear

Dieting or hitting certain numbers in the gym will take time. It’s a process that requires you to do the work.
Also it’s not going to be linear. The weight on the scale will sometimes go down nice and evenly only to jump up suddenly, then sit there for a week before it finally makes the jump down you were waiting for.
 

Just be aware of that those processes take time. Trust the process. If you’re doing everything you can and know you’re doing things right, give it some time. And if you need to up your game make changes one by one so you know what worked.

 

#17 Celebrate regularly (also works for any other goal)

Be proud of your progress and enjoy what you’re accomplishing. Take yourself out to the movies, buy a nice dress, dance, whatever. Feel great about how well you’re doing. The work is paying and you should celebrate!

Bring people along and tell them about your progress. It’s a huge feeling when people compliment you and reinforces the good things you’re doing now.

 

#18 Don’t beat yourself up

Of course if things don’t work out as well as planned be cool about that. Failure happens, life gets into the way of your goals. I am not asking not to care, but beating yourself will only do damage. Learning is what we’re after.

 

#19 Planned breaks

Knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel can be huge relieve when things get ugly. It’s not uncommon to plan them out and push really hard in-between. It’s a mental break but also helps the body recover for the next round.

On a physiological level it’s a very smart move to give the body rest for recovery, too. Diet breaks, where you eat at maintenance calories for a week will off-set some of the adaptations like lowered metabolism and increased hunger that occur on while dieting.
 

#20 Make a habit of asking yourself if this is helping or hurting

“The goal is to keep the goal” by Dan John. Another favorite quote of mine. Make sure everything you do is helping not hurting. If you’re unsure, ask someone qualified: yourself.

Some coaches offer such a service as well. But do you really need someone to tell you that burger and pizza, although tasty, are not helping to loose those 20kg of fat?

 

#21 Buy a piece of clothing that you want to fit in and hang it fully visual into your bedroom 

Similar to the old picture next to the fridge hanging a dress that you want to fit in into your bedroom is a visual cue to remind you what your goals are.
This trick works great for both directions: If you want to pack on muscle get a XL t-shirt from a body building supplier and hang that up in your bedroom. These shirts are big, but also fit the physique of fit person not a fat person.
 
Also try to put the dress or t-shirt on from time to time. Feeling that you fit better and better as weeks pass by is an amazing feeling! And tell the world. People who care will celebrate with you.

Conclusion

The mind is an incredible machine but also a total mess. Motivation for the most part is a question of your “why” and how bad you want something. Some people find it easy to work on goals and keep going through internal motivation. But even those with incredible willpower have bad days and need an outside motivation.
Understand that it’s totally fine to have those bad days, but learn and find ways to still keep going.
In the end it’s a question of how many time you could motivate yourself vs how often you let yourself down.
 
Use the tips and tricks from this article to help you stay on path. But also the rather unconventional tricks like contracts or applying for a show will have you find new ways to motivate yourself.
 
Keep up the good work and let me know what you think! Do you have interesting ways to motivate yourself that you like to share with others? Use the comments below so we can all learn from each other.
 
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