That feeling like you'll never get out of the trenches.
Some of the most successful people in the world have gone through it.
These are the stories that are often ignored.
It’s not fun to talk about how Kobe Bryant used to wake up before the entire US Olympic team to shoot free throws hours before official practice started.
Here are a few shocking anecdotes of people who have been motivated enough to persevere and succeed:
- When Kobe Bryant went to his first basketball camp, he didn’t score a single point. Through consistent practice and spending extra hours at the gym after practice throughout his entire high school career, he became an NBA record holder and legend.
- Ever heard of Traf-O-Data? I didn’t think so. That was Bill Gates’ first business he started after dropping out of Harvard. Traf-O-Data didn’t go anywhere, but Microsoft sure did.
- Guess how many paintings the world renowned artist Vincent van Gogh sold while he was alive? One. But he kept on creating and following his passion and today his works are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
How in the world did these top performers keep on persisting even when the times were tough?
When things aren’t going your way….what do you do?
Do you throw your hands in the air and give up or do you keep on persevering until you get through life’s challenges?
If you’re an RMRS reader, then I already know that your answer is the latter.
Today, I’m going to share 4 actionable ways that you can stay motivated even when things aren’t going your way.
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. Sign up for a free three-video mini course called: How to Have Charismatic Conversations. It covers six secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations even if you’re super awkward.
When crappy things happen to you, it’s natural to feel like everything is out of control. And the truth of the matter is, in many unfortunate situations you truly aren’t in control.
If a family member gets sick or your company needs to cut expenses by laying people off, there wasn’t much you could have done to prevent it in the first place. This sense of hopelessness can lead to fear, anxiety, and desperation.
In an interesting excerpt from the book Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg studies an intense 13-week Marine boot camp where young men from all over the US are sent to get trained before going into service.
The climax of the boot camp is a 3-day, 50-mile obstacle course that challenges their decision making, physical fitness, and intellect. Stragglers who can’t complete the course risk being dropped from the Marines.
So how does the boot camp prepare these twenty-somethings to undergo and persevere through an intense obstacle course and even more dangerous and critical missions in service?
They force them to make decisions and think for themselves.
The first few days of boot camp consists of drill sergeants start giving the young trainees vague commands like “clean the kitchen.”
But the men aren’t exactly sure how to clean the kitchen, they don’t know even know where the supplies are! When they ask the sergeants, the sergeants refuse to give them any answers or direction
So they’re forced to start making decisions on their own. They start with mopping the floors and cleaning the dishes and just figure this out.
The drill sergeants continue doing this throughout boot camp. Feeling in control helps the cadets learn how to make decisions, take action and feel in control of a situation…which is exactly what Marines should be doing on the field.
The point I’m making here is that when you feel like you’re in control, you’re much more motivated to keep persevering. There are two ways of looking at control:
- Internal locus of control- this is the feeling that YOU directly affect your outcomes. This is linked to higher self-motivation, lower stress and depression and is the type of control that the boot camp is instilling in the young cadets
- External locus of control- this is the belief that things in your environment affect your outcomes, that situations and things outside of your control dictate what happens in your life. This is correlated with higher levels of stress and anxiety for obvious reasons
Action Step #1: Locate your internal locus of control
Studies have shown that when you make decisions you feel a sense of self-determination which improves motivation.
In order to start cultivating this yourself, identify at least one simple decision that you can make that would give you a better sense of control.
For example, if you recently gained weight and are unhappy with it, then make a choice about the way you want to lose weight. Perhaps it’s signing up for the cool new gym in your area or deciding that you want to start juicing to help you lose weight.
Another example would be if you just got laid off, you may not have much control over the fact that you’re not making a regular paycheck. But you can make a choice about the type of industry that you want to work in next.
Once you decide that, you can take the right action steps to move in that direction. You may search LinkedIn for a few connections to people that you have in the industry that you’re interested in and invite them to coffee.
Again the point here is to identify a minor decision that you can make that will compel you to action. Once you feel like you’re back in control, you’ll feel motivated to follow through on your goals.
Tip #2: Give yourself a good reason
Imagine you’re standing in line at Kinko’s, you have something to print out and a student tries to cut in front of you. Would you let them?
In a classic experiment by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, students did just that and tested whether giving a reason as to why they’re cutting would make any difference.
So here’s the result: when the student cut the line and simply asked saying “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% of people allowed her to cut.
In the next scenario, the student asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” By simply giving a reason for why she wanted to cut she was able to cut with a 94% success rate!
Although these numbers seem unbelievable, take a minute to think about why it worked.
Humans love reasons, we love rationalizing things. That’s why giving a simple reason when making a request can increase compliance of that request.
Similar studies like this have been proven in organizational settings as well. Good managers don’t just ask their direct report to do something, they ask them to do something with a reason as to why it should be done or will tell the direct report the outcome they’re affecting by doing a task.
When it comes to motivation, identify a good reason to keep on trudging forward.
Action Step #2: Find your reason
When things aren’t going your way, channel back to your goal. Make it something important and worthwhile. Although the experiment showed that any reason will do, you want it to be something that keeps you excited when times are tough.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to identify your reason for persisting:
- What would this mean to myself, my family or loved ones if I can get through this?
- What will my life be like once I accomplish this goal?
- How am I helping others by accomplishing this goal?
- Is there a reason bigger or better than just pleasing myself that will occur if I reach this goal?
Tip #3: Don’t Take it Personal
When there’s a life challenge you’re facing, it’s easy to blame yourself. It usually goes something like this: “I just made a bad investment and lost money, I’m so stupid.”
When you link mistakes or challenges to who you are, the challenges seem much bigger than they actually are.
In order to stay motivated, you have to de-personalize mistakes or obstacles.
So rather than blaming your stupidity on a bad investment change that to:
“Sure, I made a bad investment. That was a bad decision, but I’ve learned from that mistake and I won’t do something like that again.”
Do you notice what I did there?
Instead of linking that bad investment to my stupidity, I linked it to a mistake that will not happen again. I transferred the guilt.
By de-personalizing the mistake and blaming the instance of the mistake I can get out of the negative self-talk habit and into action. I can then begin to plan how I’m going to make that money back whether it’s getting a part-time job or taking it as a lesson learned and learning more about personal finance.
Action Step #3: De-personalize your challenges
If you want to stay motivated, you have to be self-compassionate. Only you can get you ahead, only you can keep yourself motivated.
In order to do that, you have to de-personalize challenges into things that happened rather than as being part of yourself. Isn’t it easier to fix a mistake than to fix a serious character flaw like being stupid or absent-minded (when you actually aren’t those things)?
Once you transfer the guilt, the next step is to ask yourself what you're going to do about it.
What is one small action step that you can make today that will make this better? In the example of a bad investment, perhaps the next step is buying a book on personal finance or signing up for an online course about how to manage money.
When you have a clear path about how to achieve your goals, you’re much more likely to stay motivated because you’re focused and know exactly how to get what you want.
Tip #4: Achieve Small Wins
Staying motivated is really hard, especially when you’re reaching for lofty goals. It can take years or even decades to get where you want to be, and that’s okay! But staying motivated for years, especially when the times get tough can be really challenging.
In order to keep you motivated and propelling towards success, reach for small wins.
How do you define small wins? You break down your big goals into smaller chunks.
Let’s suppose your big goal is to buy a home, then your small wins could be something like saving an extra $300/month. Rather than focusing on the goal of buying a home which can be vague and lengthy, you have something more achievable in front of you.
Small wins have the following characteristics:
- Achievable- the idea here is “small” wins, meaning is this something that’s realistically achievable with the resources that you have now?
- Time-based- set a deadline for yourself so your goals aren’t lingering
- Specific- be super specific about what your “small win” is, if it’s not specific you won’t know how to get there or if you’ve achieved it after you’ve tried
Action Step #4: Achieve one small win this week
Staying motivated means constantly achieving small wins to make you feel like you’re making progress towards something.
Take the following steps to start defining your small wins:
- Define your big goal
- Identify how can you take that big goal and create 2-4 sub-goals that are smaller but will help you get to your big goal? Get specific, what are the action items within each of these sub-goals?
- What time period do you want to achieve those sub-goals by?
- What is one thing that you can do today towards your first subgoal? (this is a small win)
- What is one thing that you can do in the next 30 days? (this is a small win)
- What is one thing that you can do in the next 60 days? (this is a small win)
- What is one thing that you can do in the next 90 days? (this is a small win)
By chunking down your goals you can have more success more often! This will keep you motivated and focused. Track down your goals, write them down and reflect on them so you can really internalize the success you’ve made.
Conclusion & free mini-course
Staying motivated when things aren’t going your way can be really difficult, but by exercising control, giving yourself a good reason to press on, de-personalizing your challenges and achieving small wins you can constantly stay motivated.
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, communication coach and founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. If you liked this article, visit her site to sign up for a free three-video mini course called: How to Shut Up that Inner Voice & Beat Awkward Conversations. It covers six secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations…even if you’re super awkward.