What motivates us to act? And if you could generate the daily motivation necessary to achieve your goals, how would your life be different?

Motivation is a tricky thing and it can sometimes seem impossible to maintain, but if you hope to accomplish your goals it’s important to learn how to generate real motivation that lasts, not the kind that dies off within an hour. Without the ability to generate and maintain your motivation, you’ll lack consistency and the necessary energy to face down challenges in your life.

But what then is the secret or “source” of motivation? And how can we tap into a more resilient, long-lasting motivation to help us move more consistently and steadfastly towards our goals and dreams?

How to Build and Sustain Motivation in Your Daily Life

How to Sustain Motivation for Your Goals in Your Daily Life

The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.

– Tony Robbins

In the classic book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of Edwin C. Barnes, the man who would eventually become a long-time business partner of Thomas Edison.

Barnes gave up everything for a chance to partner with Edison and left his life at the time behind for a chance to get close to the famous inventor. Over the course of years and through sheer dedication, Barnes eventually inked an incredibly lucrative business relationship with Edison that made him both wealthy and fulfilled, having accomplished his one burning desire.

That kind of dedication is rare, and maintaining the motivation necessary to pursue such a goal can seem quite difficult. So, what’s the secret? The book suggests that there’s magic in having a burning desire and that, in order to cultivate that you need to get crystal clear on your goal by writing it down, being specific, and reading it daily. However, I’d argue that there’s a missing layer to that which is critical to maintaining the motivation necessary to achieve any long-term goal.

What motivates us (and why we lose it)

At the heart of motivation exists the desire to do something. If it weren’t for the desire to do something, there would be no need for motivation. This is why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you “need” motivation in the first place.

It goes without saying, then, that you need to get clear on why you want what you want. If you can get clear on why you’re doing something, why you want something, and remind yourself daily, you’ll clear away much of the resistance you have towards taking action. The opposite is true as well. If you stop reminding yourself why you’re taking action, what your goals are, and why they’re important? You lose your motivation.

However, this is just a mechanism to help get us to act, it’s not usually enough to spur us to action, especially when you’re already lacking motivation. For that, we need to know why we act one way vs. another in the first place. Why do you reach for those M&Ms when you should be making yourself a salad? Why do you sleep in instead of getting up to exercise? And why don’t you just walk into your boss’s office to ask for a raise?

If you’re familiar with Tony Robbins’ work, you’ll recognize the phrase pain and pleasure. Robbins talks about it often (and he got it from Freud), and it’s the key to understanding why we do what we do. You might be very clear on what you want to accomplish, but if the pain (in your mind) associated with taking action on that goal is greater than the pleasure of accomplishing it, then you won’t take action.

If you can get good at generating empowering–pleasurable–emotions and connect them to accomplishing your long-term goal, you can use them at will to override the immediate pain of the negative emotions associated with taking action now (be it the fear of “what will my boss say to me,” or the discomfort of forcing yourself up in the morning and feeling tired). And you’ll be far more likely to take action.

sustaining motivation requires clear goals and daily reinforcement

Exercise: Pure motivation

The following exercise is intended to help you begin generating a more resilient, pure motivation utilizing what we’ve talked about thus far, with empowering emotions and the play between pain and pleasure. The more you use it, the more powerful it is, so make it a point to stick to it for a few weeks straight to grow accustomed to doing it daily:

1. Write down your goal (Get crystal clear)

It’s important to be crystal clear and very specific about your goal (or goals) when you write it down. If your goal is to exercise more:

  • How many days a week?
  • How long is each session?
  • From what date to what date? (even if you plan on continuing past the date, set something so your goal is more specific)

2. Write down how the goal makes you feel

Take the time to sit down for a few minutes and engross yourself in your goal. Think about it deeply and imagine what it would be like if you had already accomplished it. Not what your life would look like, though. Imagine how you would feel. Wonder, amazement, relief, even a phrase like “I can breathe finally” associated with a financial independence goal or similar is great.

Pay attention to whatever emotions arise and jot them down. Once you’re done doing this, write down, in a sentence or two, how thinking about your goal makes you feel. Make sure the description is as strong and emotionally compelling as it can possibly be.

3. Read daily

Whether you keep your goal on a piece of paper in your pocket or on the wall above your desk, make sure to read it daily. As you read over your goal, along with your description of how it makes you feel, really try to engross yourself in the empowering emotions associated with it.

Use that same practice of visualization that you used before, even if only for a few seconds. The idea is that you should feel energized after reading your goals and be able to use that energy to overcome the pain of taking action (be it fear, discomfort, or other).

By utilizing this simple exercise, you’ll be able to consistently generate a more pure, resilient motivation for your long-term goals that helps you overcome the immediate pain of taking action in your daily life — whether it’s the fear of what someone will say or think of you, or stepping outside your comfort zone.