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Motivation can be elusive at the best of times. Even to the most successful people among us, it can be fleeting. One moment we’re filled with a surge of excitement and passion that will lead us to start on a path towards achieving greatness. But then all to quickly it fizzles out and we’re back on the couch with little-to-nothing to show for our efforts. But motivation doesn’t have to be hard to attain or momentary. If you have a vision, work hard and adopt the right habits, it will come naturally and almost effortlessly.

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1. Start with WHY

Instead of focusing solely on what it is you’re setting out to do, take a minute and ask WHY! If you understand the purpose behind what you’re doing and truly believe in the outcome, you’ll be much more motivated to actually accomplish it. Focusing on WHY acts as a kind of compass for decision making, making it considerably easier to identify the most prudent path forward. Instead of drifting around trying to figure out what to do, it helps you narrow in on what is truly important by keeping your scope limited to only doing things that align to the WHY. So next time you’re trying to motivate yourself or others, start with WHY, then figure out the HOW and WHAT!

For a great read, check out Simon Sinek’s book: Start With Why

Overview: “Start With Why shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.” – Amazon

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2. Set realistic goals

If you want to stay motivated and be successful, get in the habit of setting goals. Goals act as a barometer for success and with out them, measuring your achievements is nearly impossible. The best way to stay motivated is to set smaller, more achievable goals that gradually help move you towards the end-goal.

Here are the 5 basic rules of goal setting:

  1. Set goals that motivate you: Goals should be important to you and relevant in achieving the bigger picture. If you have no interest in the outcome of a goal then there is little to no chance of you actually accomplishing it.
  2. Set SMART goals: Design your goals to be simple and SMART – Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
  3. Write it all down: The physical act of writing down your goals makes them real. It forces you to take a potentially ambiguous concept and transform it into something tangible and meaningful.
  4. Make an action plan: Once you have your goals laid out, create an action plan with the steps required to achieve them. Create to-do lists and prioritize what you want to accomplish each day.
  5. Stick with it: Goal setting is a process, not a means to an end. Priorities can change and goals may need to need to as well.

For a great read, check out Brian Tracey’s book: Goals! How to Get Everything You Want

Overview: “Using the twenty-one strategies Tracy outlines, you’ll be able to accomplish any goal you set for yourself—no matter how big. You’ll discover how to determine your own strengths, what you truly value in life, and what you really want to accomplish in the years ahead.” – Amazon

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3. Create a plan

It’s a great first step to create some SMART goals, but then what? You’ll need to create a plan of action because without one, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Most people don’t merely stumble onto success, it takes hard work, dedication and a plan of action, all of which drives you towards your achievement. Having a plan will help you significantly improve time management and better prepare you for the uncertainties that lay ahead.

For a great read, check out Hal Shelton’s book: The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

Overview: “Using the twenty-one strategies Tracy outlines, you’ll be able to accomplish any goal you set for yourself—no matter how big. You’ll discover how to determine your own strengths, what you truly value in life, and what you really want to accomplish in the years ahead.” – Amazon

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4. Focus on the big picture

One of the most surefire ways to stay motivated is to stop sweating the small stuff and focus on the big picture. When you have a clear notion of the end-goal and you’re laser-focused on achieving it, work can be fun! The next time you’re about to start something new just ask yourself, does this bring me closer to accomplishing my mission? If not, skip it and move onto something more impactful.

For a great read, check out David Schwartz’s book: The Magic of Thinking Big

Overview: “The Magic of Thinking Big gives you useful methods, not empty promises. Dr. Schwartz presents a carefully designed program for getting the most out of your job, your marriage and family life, and your community. He proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction—but you do need to learn and understand the habit of thinking and behaving in ways that will get you there.” – Amazon

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5. Take action

Do you sit around all day and ponder about what could be, but never actually put pen to paper? Sorry to break it to you, but successful people don’t sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity to fall onto their laps; they are action-oriented! They act on the information at hand and the options currently available and trudge on forward. They don’t muddle themselves in the trappings of perfection. Most of the time, 75% is good enough (or as some might say, don’t let Great be the enemy of Good). So start acting and stop dreaming! Once you start taking action and get some momentum behind you, it becomes a lot easier to fend of procrastination and just get things done.

For a great read, check out this book by Leonard Schlesinger and Charles Kiefer: Just Start! Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future

Overview: “Just Start distills for you the very essence of what makes people successful in today’s volatile environment. This book is your guide to achieving your goals—whether your project is professional or personal, or somewhere in between.” – Amazon

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6. Be Positive

Positivity breeds success! Motivated people tend to be optimistic, are clear about what they want and what their goals are, and are constantly looking for ways to achieve them. Having a positive outlook might seem elusive for some, but it is all about training your mind so that you get into the habit of it. Here are a some tips to help you be a more positive person:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people
  2. Read inspirational books (stop reading negative news)
  3. Exercise daily
  4. Show gratitude to those around you
  5. Don’t dwell on your failures, learn from them
  6. Stop worrying about what is outside of your scope of control
  7. Celebrate your achievements (both big and small)

For a great read, check out Norman Vincent Peale’s book: The Power of Positive Thinking

Overview: “In this phenomenal bestseller, “written with the sole objective of helping the reader achieve a happy, satisfying, and worthwhile life,” Dr. Peale demonstrates the power of faith in action. With the practical techniques outlined in this book, you can energize your life—and give yourself the initiative needed to carry out your ambitions and hopes.” – Amazon

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7. Don’t be afraid to fail

A good many people never achieve success because they are too afraid of failure. Let’s face it, no one likes to fail but you should never let it prevent you from achieving your goals. Instead, learn to embrace it and thrive off of it. Learning to cope with failure is a valuable skill that will only help set you up for even greater success in the future. Setbacks should be reflected on and viewed as learning experiences and opportunities for improvement. Failure, ironically enough, can actually be one of the greatest sources of inspiration. So next time you stumble and fall, don’t let it cripple you, instead let it free you to do even better next time.

For a great read, check out Tim Harford’s book: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure

Overview: “Adapt … looks at how and why innovation really comes about, extolling the value of trial and error and arguing that we should learn to embrace failure. Above all, Adapt applies hard-won lessons learned in the field, from a spaceport in the Mojave Desert to the street of Iraq, from a blazing offshore drilling rig to the frozen tundra of Siberia. The book shows that it’s up to individuals – us – to change the world.” – Amazon

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8. Stay in the zone and avoid distractions

In today’s world, there are certainly no shortage of distractions. From social media to digital entertainment, most distractions are merely a click away, providing us with a near effortless way to procrastinate and stray from the task at hand. To help fend off these distractions, plan your day ahead of time. Write down a schedule with all of your work-related tasks while also setting some time aside for regular breaks, and then stick to it! Avoid multi-tasking wherever possible so you can put all your effort towards just one task at a time. Make sure that your workspace is clutter-free and that all of your devices are turned-off or put away when it is time to put your head down and get some work done!

For a great read, check out Brian Tracy’s book: Eat That Frog

Overview: “There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re done with the worst thing you’ll have to do all day. For Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task—but also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. Eat That Frog! shows you how to organize each day so you can zero in on these critical tasks and accomplish them efficiently and effectively.” – Amazon

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9. Surround yourself with the right people

A crucial, but less-talked about, factor of success is who we surround ourselves with each and every day. Our relationships fundamentally shape who we are. If you choose to immerse yourself in a group of lazy, uninspiring and low-achievement individuals, you’re bound to become one of them. Instead, say goodbye to negativity and surround yourself with positive people who are eager for life. Seek out those who are smarter than you. If it seems like you’re the dumbest one in the room, you’re in the right place! Whenever possible, spend time with people who have a list of accomplishments under their belt and who can provide a wealth of inspiration for you and your endeavours.

For a great read, check out Brian Tracy’s book: The Power of Peers

Overview: “The Power of Peers features stories of business leaders from a range of industries to illustrate the five essential factors for peer advantage, how it impacts personal growth and why it has proven so effective in helping leaders identify future opportunities and challenges. It’s what top, growth-oriented executives have relied upon for decades to be successful in business and in life.” – Amazon

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10. Take Breaks

In today’s relentlessly competitive work environment it can seem like the only way to get ahead and get noticed is to work non-stop 24/7. But we’re not all Elon Musk here! Taking breaks are a much needed part of staying focused and boosting productivity. Down-time helps you de-stress and re-charge while also helping you process and retain information. It will also afford you the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing against the bigger picture. So start taking your lunch break and try to step away from your work (or at least switch things up) every 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Where possible, incorporate a bit of physical activity and fresh air so that you come back to work you’re refreshed and energized.

For a great read, check out James Clear’s book: Atomic Habits

Overview:Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits–whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.” – Amazon

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Bonus Tip: Stay fit and healthy

Staying fit and healthy are the cornerstone of productivity and success. A regular workout routine will clear your head, improve your mood and boost motivation, and it can be as simple as a 30 minute walk, bike ride or jog. But burning calories isn’t the only pillar of a healthy lifestyle, the calories you consume matter as well. A lot of what we eat is habitual, and unfortunately a lot of those habits are bad for you. Get rid of all those processed fast-foods and fill your pantry with healthier whole food options. Lastly, take some time out of every day and focus inwards on yourself. Stress is arguably a bigger killer than fast food or lack of exercise. So go meditate, take a bath, or read a book. Anything that will take your mind off of the daily grind and help you de-stress will do wonders for your mental health.

For a great read, check out Dr. Michael Greger’ book: How Not to Die

Overview: “In addition to showing what to eat to help treat the top fifteen causes of death, How Not to Die includes Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen -a checklist of the twelve foods we should consume every day.Full of practical, actionable advice and surprising, cutting edge nutritional science, these doctor’s orders are just what we need to live longer, healthier lives.” – Amazon

62 Comments »

  1. I realize we are all different, most of my life I’ve struggled to be productive and right now I am productive, so I’m going to offer some alternative perspective to add to the discussion.
    1. Start with WHY > for me I prefer to start with “why not?” right now I’ve been exercising for 7 days, for no reason, I don’t have a why, I’m just enjoying the ride, I didn’t analyze if it’s for health or motivation or stress reduction, I just do it, I spend the energy just working out rather than analyzing it – which for me is draining.
    2. Set realistic goals > I like to set impossible goals and realistic daily quotas. I’d rather set the goal of create world peace, or end racism, and then set my daily goal to be open minded towards other people or treat people based on character today. The impossible dreams inspire me.
    3. Create a plan > If I waited to have a plan, I would never act, I find ideas while doing, I write first and when ideas come I take them, I focus on flow and daily practice without a traditional “plan” but I do nail down all the small details of the practice. Ex I know what exercise clothes I will wear, a tank top and shorts, I know when I will exercise 10 AM, possible 11 AM. So I have that kind of a plan, but nothing like run a marathon in 6 months ext.
    4. Focus on the big picture > I like to focus on the small picture instead of worrying about if I can get six pack abs, by when and if it even matters I focus on every minute of the work out today, I live in the moment for 25 minutes a day and let that be enough. I save the focus to cope with life and to gift my loved ones with presence, because thought I work on goals, I live for the loves in my life. I’m relationship focused not goal focused, but I do have goals and check on them, it’s just that they are my servants not my masters.
    5. Take action, this one is the master of all the others in my opinion, I’ve never accomplished anything without taking action (even if it’s passive action like not yelling at the kids), counter intuitively walking, running or actually taking action boosts thinking, so it’s not better to think about it forever before acting, it’s better to take some action, learn through failure, improve, think along the way and keep going. Brain Rules by John Medina explains why our brains actually think better if we are outside or moving, not when we are sitting down at an indoor desk…
    6. Be Positive > I work when I’m positive and I work when I’m negative, I use the energy of anger to let me know I need different boundaries, I use sadness to find meaning and humanity, I challenge myself to unmask the lie that I can’t work when I’m tired, sad, angry, ext and thus far I always have been able to keep going without needing to be positive, though I do take sick leave sometimes.
    7. Don’t be afraid to fail > This one is very essential. “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” – Theodore Roosevelt
    8. Stay in the zone and avoid distractions > I don’t struggle with this one, I just take a note, if I remember I need to browse for replacement socks, I allow myself to take a quick note, if I realize I want to read email I make a time for it (the morning for me), I allow myself whatever I find I want to pursue, but I have a set time for that and a set time for say writing 7-8 AM, exercise 10-11 AM, email 6 – 7 AM, my daughter 2 – 3 PM, I’m a bit flexible, but I find when everything you do want has a time you don’t rob time from other things, or at least me…
    9. Surround yourself with the right people > I became the only person supporting me, my husband is a hater, but I don’t want to abandon him just because he isn’t a cheerleader, I became my own cheerleader, I take opportunities to be around uplifting people if they come, but I don’t use other people as an excuse to not succeed myself.
    10. Take Breaks > It sounds like a smart idea, but actually I’ve done okay without it, really taking action and being afraid to fail will stand alone and if you can add more that may upgrade productivity, but you can be productive with only a few changes that are mostly mental, it’s mostly our fear that imprisons us, even if you are afraid of failure, if you take action imperfectly, nothing will stop you.
    Bonus Tip: Stay fit and healthy > This totally helps me, but I have been able to stand without it. If Randy Pausch had worked only when healthy the world wouldn’t have the Last Lecture, which is largely what inspired me to stop waiting for the perfect plan or the perfect moment or the perfect opportunity to take action and just start living my best life now.

    I’ve noticed different things work for different people, so this is what has worked for me and I wanted to share it in case anyone kept trying and failing to use the tips, there are different roads out there and different ways to travel the same ones. 🛣️

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