Wanted: sustained motivation

Hi there,

Today’s issue is one I first sent out last June, during the George Floyd protests. Kept thinking about it last week, as I worked to salvage my focus amid dramatic events unfolding in the world. Hope you’ll find it helpful this week and beyond.


Is your motivation sometimes – poof! – just gone?

Or maybe your focus and energy have evaporated, given everything going on right now? And all those digital reminders aren’t helping, and neither are calls with the people you usually turn to for pep talks. There’s no quick fix for the bind you’re in. You may need to dig a little deeper.

And even when you’re doing alright in the motivation department, digging a little deeper isn’t a bad idea.

Sustained motivation comes from within

As excited as I can get from using a new app or device, I know it likely won’t lead to sustained motivation or productivity. At most, I’ll see marginal improvements that temporarily boost my performance. One way to cope with that is to realize it from the start. Just because an app doesn’t offer permanent change doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it. You just have to adjust your expectations.

For more lasting effects, we have to look at where our intrinsic motivation comes from. If you can link your work to what you most deeply desire, it’s easier to get moving and to maintain your focus. Your core motivation is an island you can return to when seas get rough.

Ok, sounds idyllic. How does that work in concrete terms?

Write. It. Down

It starts with making time to write down what you think. Writing things down is never a bad idea when working towards sustained action. I’ll give you a couple of prompts to help in the next sections.

But – and this is essential – you have to ensure that you’ll look at what you’ve written as often as you can.

Hang it up someplace where you’ll run into it lots. Or write a letter to your future self. Here’s a great site for that. Me? I read through my notes on motivation every Friday, during my weekly recap. If you don’t do a Friday recap yet: reading what you’ve written down about what motivates you is a great way to get started. Add it to your calendar today.

What makes you angry?

If you find yourself getting upset, then you’ve hit on something important.

Witnessing gross unfairness or feeling powerless in the face of injustice can tap into a well of energy you didn’t know you had.

Anger and frustration are important signals. They indicate a situation that’s less than ideal, while showing you have the energy to do something about it. You’ve found your motivation. Now you just need to find a productive way to use it.

It may be that efforts to close yourself off from all the shocking and rage-inducing things the world has to offer at the moment means that you haven’t felt truly incensed in a while. That has all kinds of benefits, of course. But when you’re looking for what motivates you, dive in and don’t let the world leave you unaffected. Go on a journey. That may not be physically possible right now, but look for ways to let reality in, in all its rawness.

And face it head on.

Visualize your time on the planet

It may not be the first thing you want to think about on a Monday morning. But it’s important we all realize that our time here is limited. Whatever your convictions, your stay on this planet in this physical form will come to an end. One day you’ll die and the same is true of your loved ones.

What does reading that do to you? Do you push back mentally? Does it give you energy? Deflate you? Make you feel like you haven’t done enough?

Just as a deadline at work helps screen out unimportant matters, visualizing the limits of your time on the planet can help you focus on how you spend your life.

It’s not something you have to keep in mind every minute of every day. But when your motivation is flagging, an awareness of your own mortality can be an effective way to rediscover what’s important.

Finding what motivates you works. It’s a powerful driver. Perhaps you’re clear-eyed about the goal, but could use some more reminders to help you get there. Hope today’s tips help.

Good luck this week!

Rick