Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Everything starts with a thought.
Thoughts are the foundation upon which you base your actions – if you’re worried it will rain, you make sure to bring an umbrella. If you believe sunshine will warm your skin all day long, you won’t bother to wear a jacket.
The same goes for motivation. If you only ever think the actions you’ll take will make you miserable and lead nowhere, how in the world can you motivate yourself to actually do them?
Nobody wants to take action and see no results.
There are, however, tasks that don’t deliver results immediately and that have an immensely positive long-term impact.
Lifting weights once will hardly do anything to improve your physique. Lifting weights three days a week for a year will completely transform how you look, feel, and think.
The secret of motivation lies in shifting your mindset so that you trick your brain into seeing even the tiniest results and embracing them. It lies in repetition, in identity integration, and in celebrating the journey itself.
Let’s break that down.
1: Celebrate Every Single Step You Take
Imagine you’ve won the lottery. Wow! I know, right? It feels amazing!
Now imagine you’ve invested one dollar. Yeah, that’s kind of underwhelming.
The difference between these two scenarios lies in long-term happiness. Research has found that major life events – just like winning the lottery – actually seldom have long-lasting effects on your well-being.
Regular boosts from minor daily activities, however, do make you happier in the long run. When you celebrate the small wins every day, you feel proud of your progress and automatically get a surge of motivation to keep going.
Achieving big life goals is great. Congratulating yourself on each step you take towards that goal, though… well, that is the key to actual happiness.
It’s always the journey that lasts the longest. It’s also the journey that has the biggest impact on your day-to-day happiness.
Make the most of it.
2: Make Your Actions a Part of Your Identity
If you tell yourself you’re a writer, you’re much more likely to sit down and write every day.
Why? Because if you identify as something, your brain will automatically try to stay consistent with it. According to a study from 2019:
“Individuals for whom habits are strongly related to feelings of identity show stronger cognitive self-integration, higher self-esteem, and a stronger striving toward an ideal self.”
There’s a world of difference in the behavior of someone who identifies as a procrastinator and someone who tells themselves they’re productive.
The first step to naturally becoming motivated is to stop pushing yourself into a box with a label that has negative connotations.
Mindset drives actions. If you break that box of limiting beliefs about who you are, you’ll be much more likely to change how you think.
Action will follow.
3: Generate Your Own Momentum
In physics, momentum is the multiplication of mass and velocity.
Momentum applies to the psychology of motivation, too. A psychotherapist Keith Fadelici LCSW talks about Behavioral Momentum Theory – a strategy used to help children co-operate when you want them to follow directions.
If you want your child to do their homework, make them do much simpler tasks in succession:
Please bring me that apple from the table.
Please get yourself a snack from the kitchen cupboard.
Please show me the drawing you did yesterday.
Then ask them to do their homework. The chances of their cooperating are much higher if you’ve established a certain momentum of actions.
The same can be applied to adults. If you’re struggling to make yourself do a certain task, follow the small steps preceding it.
Before you go for a run, for instance:
Put on your jogging outfit.
Tie your shoelaces.
Turn on the music in your headphones.
Open the door.
Once you break the task down into small steps, it won’t be so hard to follow through because the power of the momentum will get rid of your resistance.
The key to getting motivated is knowing how to trick your brain into cooperation.
If you celebrate each step, you take, integrate your actions into your identity, and break tasks into smaller steps to create momentum, your brain will have dopamine hits to latch on to and will do a little happy dance each day.
Still struggling? Come for part 3 and learn about the specific tricks to give yourself a motivation boost!