What do you do when motivation begins to make a descent?
Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation: you start off really strong, you work really hard, and a few days or weeks later, you realize you’ve slowed down–a lot. You don’t see the point anymore and you don’t want to do anything. It’s not that you’re lazy. It’s not that you’re uninterested. You’ve just lost confidence and motivation in what you were doing.
Wait, why am I doing this again?
Yes, that dreaded question that can stop anyone in their tracks. This question filters out the people who aren’t determined enough to make it work.
When chasing large ambitions, confidence and motivation are two things that naturally waver. Whether you’re starting something new or keeping something going, there’s bound to some level of difficulty involved in what you’re doing. It becomes difficult to see the end goal when you’ve been stuck in the grind for so long.
So how do you keep confidence and motivation consistently high so you can continue to function at optimum levels?
From my experience, I’ve found that confidence and motivation often decreased when I forgot to take care of myself. Self-care comes in various forms and, while it sounds like a sensitive topic, it’s important to be aware of the different aspects of self-care–otherwise your ambition may become your downfall.
Here are 10 ways to take care of yourself so you can continue to work at optimum levels.
1. Relax your mind. How you relax is up to you, just make sure you do it. And I mean truly relaxing. No worrying about how many likes your last Facebook status got or what people are adding to their Snapchat story. Take away the work and social media. Go watch Netflix, read a book, go for a walk or go to a bar with some friends. Unwind.
I had to force myself to relax. I used to be one of those people who had to be doing something. Whether it be reading a book or article or studying or taking a course or watching a TED talk or listening to a podcast. I had to be learning and consuming something. I would get restless if I wasn’t being productive. That meant my brain was always active and more prone to burn out.
I felt guilty about going out to a party or watching Netflix or taking a weekend trip.
So I forced myself to relax. I forced myself to binge watch Netflix. That’s right. Forced. I forced myself to pay attention to whatever show I put on. You might ask, how hard can that be? Well, I used to always have my laptop open and writing my next blog post or reading an article while watching Netflix. I was half-assing everything, including watching Netflix so I’d have to rewind and re-watch the parts I missed which wasted more time. Wtf!
Now I’m fully immersed in relaxing time. I hardly look at my phone. I haven’t gotten burnt out in a while. My mental health has been great.
2. Think about how you will feel when you reach your goal. Close your eyes and imagine how good you’ll feel when you reach your goal. Seriously. Do it right now. Think about the top 3-5 accomplishments you’ve had in your life, think about the emotions it took to do those things (I learned this from Peter Voogd). Ambition, courage, confidence, persistence. Those are the emotions you want to feel, so imagine how good it’s going to feel and work toward that moment.
3. Exercise at least three times a week. It’s obvious, and though there’s a trend toward a healthy lifestyle, more people can still be exercising. Various entrepreneurs have stated that the most important thing is exercise. It strengthens your body and keeps your mind sharp so you can better endure the troubles that life will inevitable throw at you.
Don’t worry about becoming a competing power lifter or getting the most stylish workout gear or having an Instagram feed of gym selfies. Just exercise for yourself.
I lift weights at least 3 times a week (take a look at my progress if you’re curious). Though sometimes my work out schedule gets inconsistent due to life, I always make sure to get back on it. The point isn’t to have a flawless gym schedule. The goal should be to stay as consistent as possible.
4. Eat well. You don’t have to start counting every calorie, weigh out all your portions and eat six times a day (honestly that’s too much work and we have other things to worry about). Just make sure you aren’t eating junk food three times a day. I’ve previously forgotten to eat when I’m neck deep in work and working on a project. You’ve got to care for your body.
Eating well requires baby steps and Nerd Fitness has a great beginner’s guide to healthy eating. It will definitely a change of mentality and it could be difficult, but it pays off in the long run when you have more energy and you avoid burn out.
5. Get more sleep. I’ve noticed it since college: sleep deprivation has become a status symbol. Because not having time to leep means you have a lot going on and that means you’re important and productive, right? Goodness, you must be working on stuff all the time, you successful person you!
As stated by Greg McKeown in Essentialism, you have to protect your asset–your brain. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impairs our ability to effectively make decisions, solve problems, effectively communicate and adapt to new situations.
Sure, you can function on four hours of sleep a night, but you won’t be working at optimum levels. If you aren’t working at optimum levels, you won’t be able to contribute your best work to the world.
6. Take a trip. I don’t mean go to Vegas and get blacked out drunk. I mean go somewhere that will stimulate your mind introduce you to new cultures and languages and force you outside your comfort zone. While this won’t necessarily relax your mind, you’ll create new synapses in your brain that will spur creativity and refresh your mind.
7. Spend time with loved ones. Self-care includes emotional health. Ambition can lead to depression an it’s important to make sure you’re emotionally in check. Your family, partner and close friends will remind you that your work isn’t your whole life. They’ll support you and keep your morale up when you’re losing motivation.
When I lost my job, I texted my friends to let them know that I would need some help and three of my closest friends (who were at work or school at the time) called me within one minute of texting them to make sure I was okay. Then they sent me job listings and opportunities they had heard about. While I didn’t pursue those opportunities, seeing how much they cared and how much they believed in me kept my morale up and got me out of the slump.
8. Meditate. While meditation doesn’t necessarily increase your confidence or motivation, it will help keep you from stressing about the miniscule things. Not sure how to meditate? It’s not difficult. And you don’t have to sit cross-legged in total silence for an hour. You can start with just 10 minutes a day.
9. Re-evalute your goals. It might sound counter intuitive. Why would you think about new goals when you’re losing motivation for your current goals? Reframing your goals may be the refresher you need to push forward. Maybe you’ve lost motivation because you feel that you aren’t getting any closer to your goal. So reflect on them.
Why are you working toward that goal in the first place? Are you working toward something different? What’s the purpose? What do you expect to come out of it? Is there another approach you can take?
Your goals will continue to change and old goals will become irrelevant as you move forward in life.
10. Journal and reflect. It’s difficult to see how far you’re come without looking back. Take a moment to pause and reflect at the end of each week. Look at how far you’ve come and imagine what’s possible if you continue moving forward. It’s about being content while also looking forward.
Journaling has allowed me to review what I’ve accomplished and have a clear look at what I’ve done and what I can improve on. When I see what I’ve been able to do, it gets me excited to think about what I’m capable of.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of how to stay mentally refreshed, confident and motivated, these few things have helped me maintain motivation even through tough times. I’ve been able to bounce back from dark moments–including depression, getting fired, and plain old life frustrations–using these simple tactics.
What’s one thing you will do to keep yourself motivated?