At first glance, self-motivation seems simple. Just buckle down and get the things you need to do done. Cultivate iron willpower and use it unfailingly. And, if you still end up with lists of things to do, beat yourself up until you see the error of your procrastinating ways. Sounds simple, right?
Yeah, not so much. See, the problem I have with this is that I don't have iron strong willpower. To be honest, I have to force myself to get things done and even then, I'm not real good at sticking to it. Don't get me wrong, I have the best of intentions. It's just that I see something shiny or get distracted and before long, I have a huge pile of things to do and, since I spent all of that energy beating myself up, I'm fresh out of new strength to accomplish anything.
The good news is that there's a better way. So what if you don't have much willpower. We can't all be strong, right? If you have trouble getting motivated, there are a few ways that you can teach yourself to "just do it". Here are the steps:
Accept that you have a problem - The first step in working on your self-motivation is accepting the fact that you have a problem. It's easy to live in denial (it's really nice there), but you can't effectively make change if you don't think you really need to. It's natural to procrastinate, and if it is negatively affecting your life, it's something you should work on. From this place of acceptance, you can put all the energy that you would typically use to beat yourself up into making changes instead. Trust me, it's much more effective.
Stop avoiding the elephant - If you're like me, there's probably one thing on your list that you really don't want to do. For me, it's also typically the thing that is the most important. When I am avoiding doing that thing, I will find all sorts of things that I really need to do instead. The best way to cope with this is to just do that one thing. No matter how unpleasant it is, just do it. It's like having an elephant in the room and constantly working around it. It doesn't work. Just tackle the elephant and suddenly, the other things on your list become much easier.
Face your fear - It's embarrassing to admit, but I often put off doing things I need to do because I'm afraid. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'm afraid of, but I come up with all sorts of ways to avoid having to deal with whatever it is. Maybe it's a fear of change or a fear of success or the unknown. When that fear hits, it's almost easier to do nothing, fail and then say "of course!". The truth here is that all of the worry and stress could have been avoided by just announcing to yourself and the world that you aren't going to do it. If you don't want to do that, then just face your fear. The reality has to be less painful and exhausting than the mental gymnastics that putting it off requires.
Small steps - There is no shame in taking things in little, tiny steps. It's the way we learn best. If you think about it, in school, you didn't start out with a big test right away. You were taught in small steps, each lesson preparing you for the next. If you are feeling overwhelmed and lacking motivation to accomplish what seems to be a huge task, break it down into small, clearly defined tasks. For example, if I need to clean my living room, but feel overwhelmed, I can set a goal to just get rid of all the clutter. Once the clutter is gone, I will feel accomplished and have more motivation to move on to the next step. In your career, you can apply this same logic and break down your goals into small things.
Reconsider - If you find yourself feeling un-motivated most of the time and struggle to get things done, maybe your problem isn't just a lack of willpower. It might be time to consider if you are on the right path in your life. Maybe there is something else you could be doing. It might not be an indication that you need to change everything, but maybe you are stuck in a rut and your lack of motivation is an indication of just that. If your life feels like endless drudgery, then it's probably time to find something to be passionate about.