The first step is the hardest, so they say! Well, if you are struggling with motivation, the first step is certainly the most important. What will it take to get started? Simple, get up and move. Take a physical and literal step away from the couch, the bed, the TV, the mobile and start doing something else. Do something, anything to get moving. You may not want to, but you will remain in the “blank” zone where you are comfortable and happily lazy without movement. So, when you make that all-important decision to move, how long will you last?
That’s right, do it for five minutes and see how you feel. Then, tell yourself, “it’s only for five minutes,” so it will not seem too threatening. After five minutes are up, pause and ask yourself: Do you feel better? Worse? Can you continue, or do you need another laydown? The thing is, once you have started, you will hopefully feel better about yourself and have built up a little momentum. Maybe enough momentum to do another five minutes, and then another.
Find The Next Step
Once you get into the grove, you can try to focus on the next immediate step. How much do I think I can achieve before I need to stop? Is there a small target or goal I can set myself?
Do Something You Enjoy
Something you enjoy, or even love, may be the catalyst to get moving, even for only five minutes. For example, for so many years, I have loved long-distance running. I was good at it. Not fast, but very determined. The feeling of being capable of running for three, even four hours was intoxicating and motivated me to keep doing it week after week. However, work and life sometimes get in the way, and we get out of the habit of doing things we love and become demotivated.
I remember how a long run would clear my mind from pressures and stress, and I would return feeling totally relaxed, calm, and at peace with the world.
These days, sadly, I run very little and spend most of my day on the laptop, chasing deadline after deadline. I may have more purpose in life and more money, but am I happier? Probably not. I now need to find the motivation to start running again and to step away from the laptop. Maybe tomorrow, I will try for just five minutes…
Move To Music
I have always found listening to music motivating and sometimes inspiring. It improves my mood, stimulates my thinking, and changes my attitude. It helps me to block out the negative thoughts and my self-limiting beliefs and provides me with the energy to move. I have completed ten full marathons listening to music, and the miles just slipped away. However, many years ago, I remember a three-hour training run, and I had a CD Walkman in those days. I realized after half an hour that I only had one CD with me and so had to listen to the same CD repeatedly. Even now, twenty years later, I haven’t listened to it again. Thank goodness for online music!
Keep it Simple
Sometimes getting started seems like a massive step. When you have an end goal, the desire is to achieve it as quickly as possible. Then, because it seems such a big thing to achieve, we find excuses not to start. For example, if I wish to rerun a marathon, I realize I would need to train every other day for at least six months, slowly building up my strength and resilience. Therefore, I plan to start with a simple five, ten, maybe even twenty minutes (with headphones, of course). Remember not to overcomplicate it and take it one step at a time. Small is good.
Before you allow yourself to fall asleep, take time to reflect on your day and how it felt to either start something or procrastinate again. Which did you do? How do you feel about it? Will you do the same tomorrow or the opposite?
Could you do it again tomorrow? Build on the previous day’s success, however, limited it may have been. Do something for longer or better. Do it simultaneously, with the same music, in the same manner, so that you start to build a routine. Once you establish a routine, you can develop a pattern, a habit, a new normal, an obligation to yourself to keep active and achieve whatever you want to do. A routine can be motivating because of the feeling of guilt we feel when we skip our obligations.
Rather than wasting energy asking yourself, “why am I bothering?”, focus on the benefits and rewarding feelings of actually doing something positive will make it more appealing and easier to maintain.
Try and isolate the single most important excuse you make for not doing something to remember what it is that stops you. Is it apathy, tiredness, boredom, restlessness, or some other emotional upheaval? In my case, I feel it is a lack of time, or at least that is the excuse I give myself. Honestly, to be as good as I once was seemed an impossibility, but even now, writing this article, I do know I could try for five minutes and see how it feels.
The danger rests with a level of accomplishment and satisfaction at what you have managed to do. Then the feeling of skipping a session takes over. Be aware of this danger. One skipped session for whatever reason soon becomes two, and then three. Before long, your newly found levels of motivation seem a distant memory, and you are back to square one, on the couch, in bed, in front of the TV, or on the mobile. Once you have your routines, it is so important not to let them slide away.