When Neil Gaiman, author of short fiction, novels, and comic books, was once asked where he got his brilliant story ideas from, his answer was threefold: desperation, deadlines, and daydreaming. Professional creators know that if they always waited for inspiration to strike, they could very well wait forever.
Motivation can be a fickle thing just as much––it’s here one minute and evaporates in another. This is why the muse favors the ones who are willing to sit their bum down, put in the hours, and invest their best effort in their work. We create our inspiration and we are responsible for our motivation.
First things first
Your infinite drive, passion, that urge that keeps you up at night––these are all incarnations of intrinsic motivation, i.e. reasons for doing something that are born within you, as opposed to external stimuli, rules imposed on you by someone or something else.
Whoever you want to be and whatever you aim to do with your life, intrinsic motivation can get you through doors that would otherwise be sealed shut. This internal pull makes you unstoppable, therefore, what you need to do is find your unique desire that will generate this motivational force in your heart.
And this is where journaling comes in. Stream of consciousness writing is a solid technique for obtaining clarity. Whether you want to get started or get unstuck, one word at a time you’ll build a path in front of you so tempting to tread that pondering whether you’re properly motivated will not even cross your mind.
The 'Do Something' principle
Sometimes taking the first step is easier than we think. Instead of overwhelming yourself with thoughts of spectacular results and projections of grand finales, do something way smaller. No need to run five miles on day one of your training for a marathon. Start by running for ten minutes. Want to switch to a healthier diet? Add a single vegetable to one of your daily meals. No matter how big the success, it always starts at the lowest level.
This baby steps approach is what Mark Manson calls the Do Something Principle. In his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, he argues that action creates motivation, not the other way round. Therefore, if you’re willing to perform the smallest possible action that can move you towards reaching your goal, you will generate momentum and ride the wave. One minute you’re opening a Word document to write the first, and only, sentence of your new project, then, before you know it, you’re looking at a whole paragraph on the page.
Falling in love with the process is… a process. What is the smallest viable action you could take to trigger the mechanisms of your vehicle to success? Here’s a thought––journal. Grab a notebook and make a list of tiny beginnings, 2-minute incentives to move you forward. By specifying those, you’ll narrow whatever is holding you back down to doable and effortless activities so that your brain can focus on getting started without overwhelming your inner circuits. And yes, this list-making exercise qualifies as the first bit of progress, too.
“One day or day one. You decide.”
– Paulo Coelho
Picking up speed
If you still need a push, we recommend a bit of soul-searching. Think back to when your big dream was born. Write about your circumstances when it first crystallized in your heart. Do you remember your excitement? Whether you were 10, 20, or 40 at the time, we bet you couldn’t sit still. Why, then, do you seem to have lost that initial spark?
The pages in your notebook will help you answer this question. Analyze what derailed you from the right track. Dig into your memories and critically evaluate your path so far. Was it useless criticism coming for a person you loved and trusted? Or limiting beliefs you carried out of school? Or maybe financial issues? Whatever the inhibitor, detail it in your journal. Understanding what is blocking your motivation to act will break the barrier.
And now do your best to remember why. Why did you dream the dream? What was it about that particular destination that felt alluring to you? What would be the shape of your life if you reached it? Would you be proud of the person you could become in the process? Reflect on all your whys behind taking action. Journaling reconnects you with your authenticity, effectively preventing you from giving up on yourself.
Pro tip: include lyrics to your favorite songs, drawings that mean something to you, old photos, and other memorabilia to further fuel your determination. Looking back helps to move forward.
Align your stars
If there’s something you care about doing, chances are there may be complicated feelings involved, especially the fear of failure. Sooner or later, you’ll face a choice to either accept and process all your feelings, or abandon ship. But then you’ll never sail to your glory. Since you’re still reading this article, you must have opted for sucking it up and braving the storm. We tip our hat to you!
Life is a package deal of ups and downs but we can still manipulate our emotional responses to what happens to us. The obstacle is the way. If you can look in the eye of the storm and venture through it knowing it might bend you in more ways than one, you’ll come out the other side wiser and tougher than the tough times. Not to mention, motivation to repeat this success will never be an issue again as you now know what you are capable of withstanding. Everything is a lesson.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
So how do you gaze into the abyss and find the courage to dive in? One solution is to affirm it in writing. Let us set the record straight first, this ain’t no magic. Affirmations are no juju or enchantments, but statements of strength and optimism capable of rewiring your brain. They are one of the means to becoming your own cheerleader.
Imagine a coach of a football team speaking to players before an important game, surely you’ve seen such scenes in movies. Leaders like those speak to their teams with 100% certainty that they are going to win because only then can an entire room of people internalize that same belief. There’s no room for hesitation and that’s highly encouraging.
Put pen to paper and build yourself up. You are the coach here, the player, and your very own cheerleader. You can absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, bulldoze through your lack of motivation to reach for the stars and align them to your own liking. Because if you let someone else do that for you, your life will never be fully yours.
In leaps and bounds
Never write your dreams in the margins. Write them in bold capital letters, in poems and manifestos. The only way out of a rut is through it and journaling will help you turn small steps into quantum leaps. On the other side of your lack of motivation, a life on your terms awaits. You have both the tools and the power to write it into existence.