Six Ways To Keep Going When You Don’t Want To

Do you realize how much easier it is to quit than to keep going?  It’s not even close.  How many times have you passed up on what could be an exciting experience because the drive is too far?  Hell me and my wife admitted to each other we likely wouldn’t be together today had one of us lived on the West Side of New York City instead of both of us living only 20 blocks away on the East Side.  And going to a restaurant that’s too far away is just one tiny example.  What about something bigger?  What about saving your marriage?  What about fighting to keep your struggling business alive?  What about going to the gym on that day you really don’t feel like it?  I wish I could say that some switch could turn on and all of a sudden you’re motivated.  But the truth is, it’s just not that simple.  Some of us are wired differently than others and persistence is easier for some.  But all is not lost on those who are unmotivated.   To me, it’s a combination of a number of things that can propel one to “keep going.”  At first, it’s “manual” as in a conscious effort to do so.  But if you can get past the initial stages, you might actually become a more motivated person in the long run. For some help getting past those initial stages, here are six way to keep going when you don’t want to.

1. Using the takeaway method

One of the ways people suggest to motivate oneself usually has something to do with reaching goals.  In other words, “if you do this for x period of time, you’ll get that.”  So people get motivated because they’ll think to themselves, “OK, if I lose 20 lbs then I’ll look the way I want” or “If I save up enough money I can get my dream house.”  It’s the thought that some kind of “prize” awaits you in the distance.  I happen to be a goal setter and I definitely believe in this as a kind of motivational tactic.  However, sometimes it’s just the opposite that can get you off your ass to keep trying at something you might be slacking in.  Instead of thinking of the things you’ll have, think of the things you won’t have if you don’t adhere to your plan.  For example, “if I continue eating all of these fats, I’ll get heart disease and die.”  It may sound morbid but fear is a hell of a motivator.  But really take it seriously and take it far.  Extend out the scenarios so that one small action can have catastrophic consequences.  “If I don’t put in the work today that’s one less day of saving money.  If I don’t save that money I’m stuck in this apartment.  The longer I’m stuck in this apartment the more stress I’ll have and pissed off I’ll get.  I’ll be that much further from living a life I want.”  If you can tie in small actions to your greater goals, it just might motivate you to do the things you need to do in the moments you need to do them in.

2. Musical aids

When you’re looking at something in the more immediate term, I find that music can be incredibly motivating.  Think about stuff like working out.  Or how about that last 30 minutes of annoying busy work that you need to do?  When I’m in really deep concentration I need complete silence.  However, if I know I have to bang out something that’ll take me an hour?  I just have a Youtube video playing in the background of an entire album of some sort. Working out?  Forget it.  I have an obscene playlist I can always count on.  However, if I really want to lift a couple of extra pounds it’s always going to be the Rocky IV soundtrack.

3. Visual Aids

Visual aids are also something of a more “immediate term” kind of motivation. To me there are two kids of visual aids when it comes to motivation: physical and mental.  Physical visual aids are actual pictures or things to look at.   Is your dream to own a Ferrari?  You might want to keep a picture of a Ferrari lying around so that you can refer to it once in a while.  Or better yet, go test drive one every once in a while to remind you of what you’re trying to achieve.  On the flipside you’ve got mental visual aids i.e. daydreaming.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to visualize that life you want to lead, that house you want to buy, that business you want to build, and so forth.  Meditation, yoga, and plenty of other relaxation techniques involve visualization.  Many people find that when they practice breathing, meditation, yoga, etc etc for 20-30 minutes a day that after that session they feel more “clear.” Clarity leads to less stress, more focus and thus prepares you to be way more motivated.

4. Outside Help

If you’re having trouble getting motivated, never, ever be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone.  Never be afraid to seek outside help either.  I’ve been in a good mental place for years now but I still see a therapist once a month.  My career’s going great but I still sought out a life coach to improve things further.  The minute we think we are alone with all of our problems, things become that much more difficult to deal with.  When you don’t feel alone and have someone to confide it, it makes the whole process more relatable and manageable.  As you start to feel better, the motivation most definitely kicks in.

5. Take those necessary breaks

I could go on and on about this one.  So what’s a necessary break?  How about sleep for one?  Even watching TV can be a necessary break.  Sometimes we’re simply too overloaded and need a break.  Some people aspire to the working 24/7 culture which I happen to think is absolutely absurd.  I’ve found that in many cases when I’ve taken a necessary break, I come back to the table refreshed and ready to go.  Often times spending an hour or two doing something after having taken a necessary break and twice as productive as that hour or two had you not taken a necessary breather.  Breaks are underrated.  Just don’t take advantage of said break and cheat yourself by taking too much time off.

6. Celebrate those small victories

And finally, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back once in a while.  Along the same lines as taking a necessary break, celebrating a small victory is a great way of getting to the larger victory.  Break it down into small parts and when each small part is done?  Reward yourself.  Doesn’t have to be a big reward.  Like when you try to change your nutritional lifestyle but once in a while you treat yourself to a nice dinner eating foods that you know you shouldn’t be eating.  It’s OK to indulge once in a while.  In fact I’ll argue that it’s a necessary evil.  Never forget the bigger goal, but appreciate when you are making progress.

Remember, it’s a muscle that needs building

So earlier on in this article I mentioned that the process of motivation requires some manual effort before it becomes a bigger part of who you are.   Think of it this way: if you’ve never gone to the gym before, are you going to go 7 days a week?  No chance.  If you went to the gym 7 days in a row having never gone before, it’ll take you a year to get back in there.  But let’s say you start off by going once a week for just a half an hour.  And then the next week you up it to once a week for an hour.  Then after that you try another day, and so forth.  Before you know it, 5 days a week isn’t such a far fetched idea anymore.  The same goes for building motivation in oneself if that’s something you don’t currently possess.  It takes a bunch of small steps, repeating those steps, and keeping it consistent.  Then all of a sudden it’s not motivating yourself, it’s just a part of who you are.  Good luck.

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