If you have ever attended a motivational seminar or workshop, you might have experienced that rush of energy that comes with believing that you can achieve your goals, if you only just believe! And then, just a few days later, that buzz has evaporated, like so much air from a punctured beach ball.
Each New Year we are motivated to make a change, to do things differently. Maybe you should motivate yourself to get fit, get a promotion or start your own business. Or perhaps you need to motivate your team to strive towards ambitious goals.
If you don’t want to end up like that punctured beach ball, then you will need to understand how to create sustainable motivation and lasting change; so let us look at the lies we have been told about Motivation.
Myth 1: Motivation is not a thing
Motivation is not a thing, it has no substance; you cannot directly measure it. Motivation is a process that is linked to behavior. If a person says that they are motivated to get fit, but take no action, you would seriously doubt their motivation.
“There is no motivation without movement!”
Myth 2: Goals don’t motivate people
Goals give direction to actions, they let us know which way to move, but on their own they do not motivate. In fact if goals are not correctly set, they can create fear, negativity and procrastination. For people to take effective action, they must understand, ‘why’ the goal is important to them. Only when people truly feel the importance of the goal are they likely to commit to take the actions required.
“Emotion is required for motivation”
Myth 3: Setbacks are De-Motivating
Set-backs are disappointing and frustrating, but they are also inevitable and can have useful payoffs. If the goal is well-set, the individual can take feedback from set-back and be motivated to adjust their behaviors to achieve the success that they desire. Hollywood’s motivational movies love the story of where an individual or team faced as set-back and then doubled their commitment to achieve the goal.
“There is no failure – only feedback for improvement”
Myth 4: Telling people how to do something will motivate them
Quite the opposite. People really don’t like being told how to do something, especially if they already know how. People need to know why a goal or action is important and then they enjoy figuring out how to get it done. This doesn’t mean you can’t give feedback, or discuss how people are going and offering support and input along the way. I think you will discover that advice delivered in the form of a question rather than a statement will be more effective. “What options do you have to achieve this?” Is much more encouraging than, “You should do it this way.”
“Isn’t it better to ask than tell?”
Myth 5: You just need to believe
You do need to believe that the goal is important and achievable, but believing alone will not get it done. Of course, negative beliefs or self-talk will surely sabotage the result; so celebrating even the smallest movement towards the goal can maintain the motivation.
“Belief without action is impotent.”
Secrets of Lasting Change
With the motivation lies exposed, we can now use Self-leadership to plan for sustainable change.
Planning is the key. Firstly define the goal you want to achieve in terms of why it is important and how difficult it will be to achieve it. The ‘why’ gives us intentionality and keeps us moving in the right direction. The specificity of the goal and its difficulty lead to greater commitment, because the more difficult, the greater sense of achievement.
Plan how long it will take to achieve the goal or make the change allows you to set milestones for feedback and celebration. Sometimes a goal can seem far off, but if we look back at how far we have come, we can affirm our actions, and build our self-belief and self-esteem. So keep track of your progress, and put visual reminders up to remind you of why the goal is important.
It is a fact that can only be as successful as your self-esteem and so it is imperative that you protect and build on this during the change required to achieve your goal. If set-backs occur, don’t take them personally, but do take the feedback so that you can adjust your behavior accordingly.
Do plan to visualize yourself, achieving the goal. The large frontal cortex of our homo-sapien brain is developed for scenario planning and goal achievement. When you imagine yourself, meeting a sales target or achieving your healthy weight, then this triggers your motor cortex to prepare your muscles to take the actions required to be successful.
And finally, procrastinate to procrastinate, by which I mean put off the putting off. If you find yourself stalling or avoiding taking actions towards the goal, then ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feel about the action I am putting off?
- What are the advantages of starting right now?
- What are the disadvantages of putting it off until later?
- What excuses am I making?
- Could I do just a few minutes of the action?
- What reward can I give myself for finishing the next step?
Zig Ziglar, a hero of mine, and a famous motivational speaker was fond of saying, “Motivation is like taking a bath; the effect is not permanent!”
Zig is right, motivation evaporates if we don’t take action. What will you do today that will move you closer to your goal?