The following is a guest post from my friend, Robert Smith, author of 20,000 Days and Counting.
Do you ever feel tired, exhausted, depleted, drained—you know, one of those states where you absolutely do not feel motivated to do anything?
Most likely, if you’re the person behind the wheel of your household who is juggling kids, a spouse, work, planning, finances, etc…then the answer is absolutely a “YES.”
If you have multiple plates spinning, the reality is that those plates are probably not going to come to rest any time soon. In fact, when you get good at keeping them spinning, the overwhelming (but exciting) reality is that they don’t slow down—they create even more plates for you to spin!
If you think you’re busy now, how are you going to find the motivation to keep up the activity once those new plates start popping up? (And trust me—they’re coming.)
The answer is: You won’t. Sorry. If you’re going to start looking for motivation in order to stay on top of all you have going on, you simply will not find it. It does not exist.
Motivation, in terms of how we think about it, IS a myth. (click to tweet)
Here’s the truth—real motivation is the feeling that comes after action. Sure, you might feel motivated to start something, but unless you keep the action up, that initial “motivation” quickly dies.
We’ve been trained to think that productivity follows motivation, when motivation ACTUALLY follows productivity.
Think about it. When do you feel fired up and excited to do more? Before you do what you’re supposed to do…or after you do what you’re supposed to do? Before you start something you need to do there’s usually a bit of hesitancy, feelings of overwhelm, or nervousness.
We tell ourselves negative things like, Are people going to like this? Can I actually pull this off? What if it doesn’t work?
Once we get started though, the activity inspires us. Think about the last big, successful project you took on, whether it was launch a business from your home or finally planning a budget for your family. It probably started slow, but once things began to fall into place, it got exciting. You started seeing the benefits. You did a happy dance. And then you started doing more!
William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, has a quote that I come back to again and again every time I think about this:
“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.”
You don’t get things done because you are motivated; you are motivated because you get things done.
How to Start with No Motivation
OK, you’re probably thinking, so if motivation comes after I start, what’s the best way to get myself started in the first place?
I’ve noticed that we as human beings have an amazing ability to overestimate what we can do in the next year…while totally underestimating what we can do in the next 15 minutes!
To get started on anything big, all you need to do is, first of all, STOP thinking about the size of the project. Don’t think about the big end result. Don’t let negative thoughts creep inside your mind. With the project in mind, all you have to do is ask yourself two questions:
- What’s important now?
- What’s next?
The first question will tell you what you need to act on in the next 15 minutes, and the second question will tell you what comes after that. Start by focusing on the smallest thing you can think of that is necessary to make progress. It might be actually scheduling the time for you to work on the project. It might be clearing off a messy desk so you have a suitable workspace. It might be coming up with a title.
Once you know what you need to do, begin moving forward with massive action. Don’t worry about doing it wrong. Don’t worry about being unsure. Just move. A lot. Now move some more.
The real motivation is right around the corner. All you have to do is meet it halfway. I know you can do this. I know you will.
What do you do to find motivation? How do you get yourself to start a big project? (click to tweet)
Robert D. Smith is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting, a crash course in living every day with maximum purpose and intensity. He also writes about personal growth, entrepreneurship, and more at TheRobertD.com.
Robert is offering a giveaway of the book. FIVE readers will receive a copy. (click to tweet)
I have already had the privilege of reading the book (it’s a quick read!) and I highly recommend it. My husband and I both enjoyed it and gleaned from Robert’s wisdom.
To enter the giveaway just leave a comment. You have until Monday morning at noon CST. The winners will be contacted then.