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Monday, November 29, 2010

When the Motivation is Gone

You've been working on a project or goal. You've done all kinds of things to get to that final point, but it just never quite works, so now you've lost your motivation and you're on the verge of giving up.

Losing motivation can be numbing, because it's as though you've lost your way and you no longer know what your next step is. Not knowing what your next step is, stops you in your tracks and it seems you can no longer see the forest for the trees.

So you have several choices:

  • You can either stay in the place your lack of motivation has brought you to
  • or you can figure out how to get your motivation back
If you decide to take that latter alternative, you might first take a look at some notable failures in history, who nevertheless kept going on and on:
  • Thomas Edison who discovered 1000 ways not to make a lightbulb until he finally succeeded
  • Abraham Lincoln, President of the USA, failed over and over and over again to achieve his goals (see also The Difference Between Success and Failure), consistently picked himself up and continued going, believing in himself, his goals, and the reasons why they were important. He said: I never had a policy, I just tried to do my best every day.
  • Gary Cooper, the actor whose career culminated in the classic High Noon, but before he made it big, he was fired and rehired by the studios seven times.
  • Neil Diamond, the singer (Sweet Caroline), dropped out in his senior year to take a songwriting job with a music-publishing company. "It was a chance to step into my career," he explains. The job lasted only four months. Eventually, he was fired by five other music publishers. After eight years of knocking around and bringing songs to publishers and still being basically nowhere, he met two very successful producers and writers who liked the way he sang. And only then did he begin his real climb to fame and success.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert: this epic science-fiction tale was rejected by 13 publishers with comments like "too slow," "confusing and irritating," "too long," and "issues too clear-cut and old fashioned." But the persistence of Herbert and his agent, Lurton Blassingame, finally paid off. Dune won the two highest awards in the science-fiction writing and has sold millions of copies, and the movie rights to the novel.
  • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.
So ask yourself: even though I have lost my motivation, is it possible for me - just for today - to do my very best?

Here is a wonderful analogy I read in a book by Tom Venuto, pertaining to flying. Imagine a plane taking off from London. Its destination is New York, and along the way it veers slightly off course, or from its pre-determined flight path, and it does this over and over and over again. Clearly the instruments constantly make minor adjustments and re-adjustments during the flight in order to actually be able to reach New York.

This is such a pertinent analogy for us, as we move along the path towards our goals. We have to realize that when we lose our motivation, it is partially because we have not yet seen our dreams realized. Therefore, and in order to become re-motivated, we need to do the same as the plane - we need to re-adjust (as did Edison each time he invented another of the 1000 lightbulbs that did not work, as did Lincoln each time he was not successful in standing for public office).

And then, we need to keep on re-adjusting as often as necessary.
  • this technique didn't work? Try a different one.
  • that advertising program didn't work? Try a different one.
In order to do this, you may need to re-visit your original goals:
  • what did you write down when you first conceptualized them?
  • maybe you didn't write them down ... do so now!
  • maybe you weren't specific enough ... so do it now!
  • write down your main goals as specifically as possible. Let's say you have a 5-year goal.
  • so now sub-divide it or chunk it down into yearly goals, i.e., where you should be at the 4-year mark, the 3 year, the 2 year, and the 1 year mark
  • from the one year mark, chunk it down, by going back by month
  • the 12-month mark
  • the 11-month mark, etc.
  • and when you get to the 1-month mark, chunk it down by going back by weeks
  • the 4-week mark
  • the 3-week mark
  • and when you are at the 1-week mark, write specifically what you can be doing each and every day this week.
  • think of it a bit like the 12 steps in AA - while you are working on getting your motivation back, take it one day at a time, and do what you've written as your tasks and goals for this day. Paul McKenna calls action the great equalizer.
  • help yourself get back on track by continually reading books or listening to CD's by authors who motivate you, such as Brian Tracy, Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Denis Waitley, Zig Ziglar, Vic Conant, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, John deMartini, Napoleon Hill, and many more.

When you were in grade school, and you attended a class of spelling and another one of math, what happens?
  • you're tired
  • your fingers are stiff from holding the pencil
  • you're looking longingly out the window at the sky - the blue, blue sky - because you want to be out there playing, rather than working
Wheb you're not motivated, you may need a break. Perhaps a walk, or a visit to the gym, maybe a catnap, o a cup of tea, but more importantly than that, you may need to take stock of your emotions.

You've lost your motivation in the past because what you've been doing - trying to reach your goal - has not yet given you the results you sought.

But the other part of your loss of motivation has to do with the thoughts and feelings you've been having about the subject. They have probably been negative, contrary, with a concentration on failure as their mainstay. Here is where you need to swivel, or pivot, as Abraham calls it.

As a child you may have stood on the heel of one foot and swivelled or pivoted in such a way that you were looking in a totally new direction, you had turned 180 degrees by the act of pivoting. You can do this in your mind when your motivation has gone down the tube. Pivot to something - in your thoughts - that makes you feel good ... whatever that may be. Imagine something that gives you a sense of joy, pleasure, etc., you will notice the tingling inside of you, and use that good feeling to get back on track. In other words, if you first make yourself feel good, you will find it much easier to get back on track and motivate yourself, than if you try doing this from a low place. More about this in future posts.

Photo: Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River in Cordoba, Spain

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