Do you ever feel like the job is just too big?
Say you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape … or pay off your debts or repair a relationship. Maybe you want to start a new business, build a house, or overthrow the government (I kid!).
But sometimes it seems like the task is too much.
It will take too long. There are too many hassles and roadblocks. And you’re not sure exactly how to do it.
You worry that you don’t have the energy, willpower, tenacity, or drive.
Or maybe you think there is something intrinsically “off” with you, that makes the whole thing impossible anyway.
Yes, other people might have achieved the same goal, but down deep you think they’re somehow different than you in a way you can’t describe.
I have a motivation trick for you that isn’t really a trick, but a smart tool that actually began in the car industry.
First, though, here’s the truth: tackling big goals is hard work. It will be hard. But my firm, 100-percent belief is that if you’ve got a big goal in your head, it’s there for a reason.
And with some smart strategies, you can make it happen. You just have to figure it out why you want it.
How to Stay Motivated
It’s easy to get pumped up for a day or a week when it comes to tackling a big job or goal. We all do that from time to time.
In fact, one of the biggest “tells” for me when it comes to client success is the level of enthusiasm people throw at me during our first meeting.
If new clients come at me with a plan to work out several days a week, embrace a spartan ketogenic diet, and hit their goals at a rapid pace, I’m always cautious about a big crash-and-burn within a week or two (heck, even after a day or two).
Because you can’t push through on staying pumped or “getting tough.”
In fact, while an element of discipline and toughness is necessary, I actually think too much toughness is counterproductive.
Making big things happen in your life – changing the very shape of your body, or your bank account, or your interpersonal relationships, or the way you live – starts from the inside.
And if you’re covered in a shell of armor or toughness, you can’t penetrate it to make those deep changes.
True change requires reflection, thought, open-mindedness. It requires evaluation and course correction.
Plus, it’s scary.
And while, yes, making change does involve actually DOING things, it starts with some deep inquiry.
You Must Ask Why
I’m not talking about asking, “Whyyyyyy??!!!!” in a rending-of-the-clothes, beseeching God way. (Although sometimes …)
You have to ask yourself why in a curious, investigatory way. Usually asking the question “why?” five times is the magic number, because it lets you see your true motivation, rather than the shallow, “pumped-up” reason.
Now, this is not an original idea. If you google “5 whys” you will come up with lots of templates for how to do this. This method of inquiry was actually developed for the Toyota corporation to help with its manufacturing process. (1)
But it works incredibly well for pinpointing the root of nearly every problem.
Here’s a Sample ‘Why?’ Inquiry
- Why do I want to lose weight? So I feel better.
- Why do I want to feel better? My knees ache, and I just don’t have any energy when I get home from work.
- Why do I want more energy? I feel like I’m missing out on things. When I come home, all I want to do is sit on the couch.
- Why don’t I want to sit on the couch? I’m starting to feel disconnected from everyone, like life is passing me by.
- Why don’t I want to feel disconnected? Because I’m lonely and I’m starting to feel depressed. I am not having any fun lately because things seem like such a chore.
So, the reason for losing weight isn’t necessarily just to lose weight to feel better, it’s about not feeling so lonely.
Get a Little Uncomfortable
While it’s tempting to want to numb out that lonely/depressed feeling by sitting on the couch and bingeing on Netflix or playing video games, you’ve pointed out to yourself that ultimately, it’s just making you feel worse.
So every time you feel the lure of the couch, you can tell yourself: “Hey wait, this isn’t serving my goals. I need to do something else.”
But it’s kind of important to do that with some gentleness. Because ….
You Can’t Hate Your Way To Success
Let’s use education as an analogy here.
Say you decide to go to college to earn a bachelor’s degree because you need one to advance in your career.
Do you accept the fact that it’s going to take four years (or maybe slightly less if you go year-round) to attain your goal? Or do you immediately start hating on yourself because you’re not already there yet? Or maybe even because you weren’t somehow born already possession the degree?
Many years ago when I was in college, I couldn’t wait to get graduate. I have quite a history when it comes to school (another story for another day), but sitting through boring lectures was like a slow death to me. Seriously, I’d have actual anxiety in class, just waiting for it to be done.
I worked hard to go to (almost all) my classes till I reached the finish line because I wanted to get started on what I called my “real life.” That was my personal why – proving that I could actually see it through, and then being free to pursue “real life.”
And years later, when I decided to compete in a figure show, it wasn’t because I wanted to walk across the stage wearing a tiny bikini or felt that I was somehow lacking and needed to “get shredded” in order to shore up my self-worth.
In fact, I really wasn’t so pumped about wearing that tiny bikini, to be honest.
It was about wanting to feel strong and to prove to myself after surviving a few punishing years of losses, I could do hard (and scary) things on my own.
Honestly, if it had just been about having my physique judged, I wouldn’t have seen it through to the end because that doesn’t interest me so much.
What are YOUR Whys?
Once you have your “Whys” in place, then you can start with the actual nuts-and-bolts how-tos, and employ some of the get-tough philosophy to help keep you going when your willpower is flagging.
Watch motivational YouTube videos, read positive self-development literature, surround yourself with people who will make you feel better, so you can keep marching toward your goal.
But be sure you have your own strong underpinnings in place first – and that you revisit your “whys” often. Because otherwise, all that motivation can end up feeling a bit like an indictment if you’re not clear about why you’re doing all the work in the first place.