A lot of clients come to me asking for advice on how to get more motivated.
And this is hardly surprising. No matter what you’re trying to get done, it certainly gets easier when you have that nice feeling of motivation fueling your efforts.
But please note that’s exactly what motivation is. It’s a FEELING. And the thing about feelings is that they fluctuate.
No one is motivated all the time. So, when you rely on this feeling to take action, you’re essentially leaving your most desired outcomes up to chance. Not a good plan.
So, what should you do instead?
Just Show Up & Get to Work
Painter Chuck Close claims he’s never had a ‘painter’s block’ in his whole life. In an interview for Inside the Painter’s Studio (1), Close said:
Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.
And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will – through work – bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art [idea].’
And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you [did] today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.
The “just show up and get to work” motto is a great creed to live by in all areas of life. No matter what you want to get good at, you won’t get there by ‘getting motivated’, but by showing up and doing the work every single day.
I know this from my own experience because when I was relying on motivation and inspiration to write, I’d publish less than an article a month. But ever since I committed to writing a certain amount of words every day no matter what, I consistently publish at least one article per week while at the same time making good progress on several other writing projects.
Very rarely do I feel deeply motivated when I sit down to write. But that doesn’t matter because I’ve trained myself to sit down and do it every day anyway.
And no matter what you’re trying to achieve, you can do it too. All you need to do is put a system in place that makes it second nature for you to show up and do the work.
How to Create Your Own System
There are plenty of strategies you can implement into your system. Here are the most powerful ones I’ve come across:
- Create a trigger to remind you to show up every day. For example, implementation intentions or scheduling.
- Start ridiculously easy. Make your initial efforts so small you can’t say no. Do not increase your daily effort until you’re consistently showing up every day.
- Track your progress. Measure everything you do and compete with yourself to always get better.
- Reward yourself for making progress. Celebrate even the smallest wins to reinforce your good efforts.
- Shape your environment. Make your desired behaviors easy to do and competing behaviors harder to do.
- Surround yourself with the right people. We adopt the goals, emotions and attitudes of the people we spend the most time with. Choose your social circles wisely.
- Get accountability. Start a mastermind group, join a team or club, hire a coach, or team up with an accountability partner.
- Plan for failure. Conduct a weekly review to track your efforts and readjust as needed. Adopt the view that setbacks are valuable data rather than failures.
All of these strategies are very powerful in general, but you’re going to have to experiment to find out which ones are most effective for you.
Change Your Identity, Change Your Life
I hope I’ve convinced you that relying on motivation is a bad strategy and that creating a system that supports you is a much more reliable way to reach your goals.
The reason this works is because a system helps you show up every day. And when you do that, soon you’ll have some momentum going. Once you’ve got momentum going, you’ll begin to create lasting change. And when you’ve successfully created lasting change, you’ll start to reshape your perception of yourself.
Now, you’re no longer the kind of person who needs motivation to make things happen. Instead, you’re the kind of person who, no matter what, just shows up and gets to work every day. And once you’re in that place, you can make anything happen.