Motivation is like bathing, says Zig Ziglar — you need to do it every day. It’s a great analogy, but not if you want to be unstoppable. I’ll tell you why. First, though, let’s take stock.
Be Unstoppable: How to Keep the Motivation From Running Dry
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
The movie in your mind
Think back to a movie that gave you the chills. The main character displayed extreme courage, endurance or faith, and the story reminded you that there is more to life than you have been giving yourself. Perhaps, as you walked out of the theater, you even decided to make a change.
Your mind can make its own movies to inspire you. Pay attention to what lights that fire in your belly. Is it a certain memory or an affirmation, or motivational videos, or maybe even a song? This is precious material that will sustain you on the long road ahead.
Motivation is volatile
Now, think back to what happened after you left the theater. You’re talking to other people, but maybe they weren’t impressed by the film. Or you’re debating where to grab dinner. Sure, you are still thinking about the movie, but the feeling changed. It doesn’t seem as alive as before, but more like a memory, a memory that is well and truly relegated to the past by the time dinner is over. You are lucky if your thoughts circle back to the movie as you fall asleep.
So, let’s figure it out. What was the expiration date on the feeling you had? One evening, if we are being generous? So yes, motivation evaporates. Fast.
To be unstoppable, first you have to start. First thing in the morning preferably. Otherwise something or someone else will take over your mental resources and you’ll be too spun around to even notice. Starting means calling on your favorite memory or listening to that song, or whatever it takes — it doesn’t matter as long as you feel the energy rise in you. With enough practice, you will learn to work yourself up to a state where it gets hard to NOT act.
Combine the energy with a clear picture of what you need to do today and you are all set. Well, for about two hours.
The problem with once a day
The phenomenon you experienced with the film? It’s the same thing with your mental movies. Their effects fade away just as fast. Yes, acting on your goals immediately after your motivation session does help keep the fire going. It could even sustain you the whole day. But somehow, sometime, something’s going to happen. You get stuck on a sentence or your husband is being mean or you run out of toothpaste. If you’re still relying on the juice from this morning, you’re going to crash. Thankfully, eventually, you will go to sleep, wake up to a new motivation session, and hit reset.
Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a half-day or a quarter-day or any fraction of a day to waste until I can get back on track.
Putting fuel in the tank
By now, maybe you’ve guessed where I’m going with this. The solution is simple: the tank is empty, so refill it. Motivate yourself more often. Tut tut tut. Not so fast. The solution merely seems simple. The crux of the issue is contained right there in the analogy. When exactly do you refuel your car? You need fuel in your tank to get fuel in your tank, don’t you? Well, you need motivation to get motivation.
If you have already run out of motivation, the last thing you will want to do is be a cheerleader to yourself. By the time hopelessness is nibbling at you, the only place you’re heading is down the black hole of a bag of potato chips and a YouTube video. You need motivation to get motivation — that’s a conundrum worthy of Escher. But don’t worry. There is a solution.
Treat yourself like your car. You would not let your car run out of gas before refueling, right? So, don’t let yourself run out of motivation either. Yes, Zig Ziglar, motivation is not like bathing. Motivation is like fuel. However, I am not suggesting you go around with one eye on your motivation-gas-gauge at all times. How are you supposed to get any work done that way? And besides, it would be too risky, considering the number of distractions surrounding us.
On the hour
On the hour. That’s the sweet spot right there. Motivate yourself on the hour every hour. It’s a long enough gap for you to make headway on your projects, and it’s short enough that you can still rely on the motivation from the previous session to keep you going. The best part? You don’t even have to remember to do this. Just set a timer for one hour and go. When it rings, you can reset yourself and the clock at the same.
So there you are. Never get stranded again. Get into the habit of refueling and ride into the sunset.