January is the month of new beginnings, new decisions, new choices. For many, the month of January, looking from the distance of December, feels like it’s going to be a fresh start, a blank page that will be filled with great choices we missed to make in the previous year. This time is going to be different. Right? But, with the year 2020 unfolding, it’s not uncommon that people struggle to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions. Somewhere along the way, they realize that sticking to their decisions is too difficult, or that those goals are not that important, or that “they just don’t feel like it”. What happens?
That strong urge for change that pushed us to make New Year’s resolutions – called motivation – faded away. This is not surprising – keeping high levels of motivation, in the long run, is tricky. Knowing a little bit more about how motivation works might help you achieve and keep your resolutions.
A Closer Look Into the Nature of Motivation
There are different definitions of motivation out there, but the majority basically boils down to this:
Motivation is a desire to act in pursuit of your goals. It pushes you to act, to behave in a certain way to get what you want or need.
You certainly felt this drive before, this urge to move and take action. It felt awesome, it pushed you toward reaching your goals, you felt energized and willing to engage – yes, in short, you felt motivated. But motivation is not easy to maintain. That initial spark fades away after some time and is, typically, not enough. That’s because motivation consists of three components:
- Activation – the initial decision to make things happen
- Persistence – the continued effort toward a goal despite the obstacles
- Intensity – how hard you work for your goal
Further, there are basically two types of motivation:
Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source – to get a reward or to avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside, from within us – we do something because we enjoy it.
Both types of motivation are important. However, it turns out that intrinsic motivation is more powerful.
What does this mean for you? Only knowing that something is good for you is not enough to push you to make a change; a considerable reward has to be in play. This can be something external, like social recognition, money, or approval for example, or internal, like a sense of purpose or the feeling of deep fulfilment that comes from acting in accordance with your core values. Ideally, both should be present, but even one can be enough to push you forward through all three above mentioned components of motivation.
Staying Motivated Throughout the Year – Action Plan
In terms of New Year’s resolutions, if you want them to stick, the first crucial step is to turn them from a wish/decision to a goal. But it’s not just any goal; to keep you motivated, your goal needs to be a certain way to enhance the energy you need to get to the destination:
- Optimally challenging – meaning you need to put the effort in, but it’s realistic and not too hard,
- Specific – meaning your energy is directed toward a particular outcome,
- Congruent with self – meaning your goal is in line with your values.
Once you have that set, you’ve established a strong foundation for working up toward the goal. Even if you slip up, it will be easier to bounce back from there.
Additionally, here are 4 additional hacks that can help you get and stay motivated throughout the year:
1. Find your why
Nothing drives us like a strong feeling of purpose. The question WHY we do something is crucial, and if the answer is in line with our personal values, it is a huge push forward. To find out what your personal core values are requires tapping into your deepest self and asking: “What kind of life do I want to live?”. If you can connect your work and goals to your core values, it becomes a powerful source of motivation.
2. Focus on who you want to become
People interpret situations and difficulties in accordance with how they perceive themselves, and choose actions that feel congruent with their identity. For example, if someone believes that they’re a “loser”, sometimes they will choose actions that will reinforce this belief, and not choose actions that are incongruent with this picture of themselves because “it’s not for people like me”.
Thus, for increasing motivation, it can be more effective to focus on the identity – who you want to become – than on the ability – what you want to achieve. If you want to, for example, start going to the gym more often, the reason: “Because I’m (becoming) an athlete/healthy/good looking person” might be more motivating than: “Because I need to exercise more/have a healthier lifestyle”.
3. Set small milestones
Sometimes, setting a goal can feel intimidating because it looks too big to achieve. A crucial thing to not crush your motivation down is to divide large tasks into small, manageable parts, and do one at a time. Your brain will get a hit of dopamine every time you tick one small task off of a list, which will keep you motivated.
4. “CHOOSE” instead of “MUST”
A slight shift in the language can make big changes in the mindset. Sometimes the things we’re not motivated to do and see as a chore are, if we stop and think about it, the things that we are grateful for. “I have to go to work” and “I get to go to work” sound very different, don’t they?
And don’t forget – motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to be reinforced day after day. As Zig Ziglar wisely said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
How do you keep yourself motivated? Share it with us in the comments. Additionally, if you like this post, please be free to share it with your friends and family.
Happy new beginnings!
Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). Armstrong’s handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
Hockenbury, D. H., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2010). Discovering psychology. Macmillan.
Do you feel like the same situations keep happening to you over and over again? Do you keep attracting partners that don’t fulfill your needs or you face the same problems in different relationships? Are you struggling with the same stresses and conflicts at work, or you keep losing your jobs? It’s like you’re a magnet for people who hurt you, or embarrassing situations, or bullies at work, etc.
I am sure that, at least once in your life, you have said or thought something like: “Why this keeps happening to me all the time?”. And really, why? Is it some kind of a mystic cosmic power that brings these experiences to your life? Fortunately, psychology has a more realistic explanation to why you keep entering the same unpleasant situations all over again. Let’s explore what actually happens.
Frameworks You Live By
From the moment you are born, you are in a survival mode. During your childhood, your little mind is programmed to absorb everything that is happening around you in order to learn and adapt to your environment. You pull in the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideals of those around you. By interacting with your parents or primary caregivers, you form certain beliefs about yourself, other people, and life in general. These beliefs are the product of the way you interpreted behaviours of your important adults and how they treated your needs, as well as things they were telling you about other people, rules, and life in general.
Of course, not all parents are the same. Thus, some will be convinced that life is a fight, you are not allowed to make mistakes and need to be perfect in order to succeed or be loved and appreciated. For others, life will be a scary and dangerous place full of people waiting to hurt you, so you need to be careful who you trust and never let your guard down. Some will, on the other hand, believe that life is easy and fun, that people usually have good intentions and that, whatever you do, everything will be okay in the end.
These belief systems become the frameworks we live by. They are like colored glasses that affect how we see everything unfolding in our lives. More importantly, these beliefs direct our decision making, condition our behaviour and, ultimately, affect how others react to our behaviours and how they treat us.
Now, imagine a situation that you’re going to a party where you don’t know almost anyone.
Version 1: You’re afraid nobody will talk to you because believe you’re boring or not good with new people. Consequentially, you will probably feel self-conscious and anxious, and enter the party acting awkward, standoffish and not so friendly. As a result, people will not be encouraged to come to you and start a conversation, which will only, in turn, reinforce beliefs you already had.
Version 2: You strongly believe that you’re an interesting person and others will be open to meet you. You think: “This party is going to be great”. People will probably be drawn by your openness and outgoing attitude and come talk to you, which also proves you were right in your beliefs in the first place.
This effect is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a term coined by famous sociologist, Robert Merton.
Merton noticed that sometimes a belief brings about consequences that cause reality to match the belief. He defined self-fulfilling prophecy as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1968).
In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief or expectation that we hold about a future event that manifests because we hold it. Our expectations and predictions of what will happen impact our behaviour, which shapes how others see us and how they act toward us. In turn, they provide feedback we set ourselves to get in the first place, which serves to reinforce the original belief. Generally, this process is unintentional – we are not aware that our beliefs cause the consequences we expect or fear. And that’s exactly why it’s so difficult to tackle them down and start changing them.
Breaking the Cycle Can Be Hard…
Breaking the cycle of entering the same situations over and over again can be tricky, in the first place because we don’t see our fundamental beliefs as beliefs but as actual facts about the world. Subconsciously, it’s important for us to prove that our beliefs about how life works are “right” because it gives us a sense of security. If we “know” the rules by which the world functions, we feel like we can prepare and know what to expect. That’s why we filter information so they can fit our belief system. We rate experiences that are in line with our beliefs as an important “proof” that our frameworks are actually true, while we label those opposite to our frameworks as unimportant coincidences that won’t impact the way we see the world.
Over time, these patterns of thought and behaviour become our automatic response, a sort of a habitual reaction to circumstances. Researchers believe we have neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced by habit. The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger your neural pathway for that behaviour becomes, and the easier it triggers the next time.
It’s like a forest dirt road – the more you walk on it, the more well-established it becomes. You have an automatic impulse to walk down that well-worn path, rather than on the grassy part. However, this dirt road often leads to the same destination. To break the cycle, you need to consciously resist the urge to stay on the road you know and start walking on the grass to a different direction. Over time, as you repeat taking the same route on the grass, another path will form and it will be easier to walk on.
One thing you can do to make the first step toward exiting the circle of “attracting” the same problems is to, for starters, let go of certainty. It’s important to understand that much of what you think you know about yourself, other people, and life, is more probably a belief and less probably a fact. It is a product of your upbringing and your past experiences. But the good news is that we can choose our beliefs and, therefore, change them.
You can start off by choosing a pattern that you want to break out of. Then, write down the past five times when it happened. List all the details about those situations – how did it happened, what led to it, why you think it happened. Now, try to find commonalities across these situations. In the end, try to find what part you play in these situations? Are there any behaviours that might have led you to the common outcome?
Here is a list of questions that might be helpful in discovering a pattern and your part in it:
- What keeps happening over and over again?
- How does it start?
- What happens next?
- And then what happens?
- How does it end?
- How do you feel after it ends? (John James, 1973)
This process is crucial for changing your patterns. It gives the opportunity to tackle down the reason you might have taken up a particular role and contributed to the outcome that keeps happening. From there, you can set up a goal – what you want to change and what results to get – and then map out a different path from the one you’re taking now.
It’s absolutely okay if you’re not able to identify the reason behind the same situations repeating in your life by yourself. A good therapist can help you figure out where you’re standing and how to proceed.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the topic down below in the comments, it’s always amazing to hear it! Also, don’t forget to share this post on your social media.
How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.
Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?
For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.
Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.
“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”
So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.
How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?
Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.
✔️ Keep your weekend plans realistic
You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.
If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.
Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.
✔️ Active leisure time
About 75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.
One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.
One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.
✔️ Schedule something you look forward to for the working week
You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.
However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favorite book on Monday night will do just fine.
✔️ Ask the right questions
Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition with your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.
If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.
If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.
How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below! ?
Chances are, at least once in your life, you firmly decided that you’re going to get disciplined and change your behaviour or a habit. You’re going to get up at 5AM and go for a run every day, or workout five times a week, or read daily, or quit smoking, or write a book… And chances are, after a few days, you failed. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, it happens most of the time. There are two reasons for this:
1. You relied on your motivation rather than on self-discipline; and
2. Building self-discipline is, simply, difficult. It doesn’t come naturally to us as humans.
Clash of the Titans: Motivation vs. Discipline
But I don’t feel like it!
I know. Me too. Bill Gates also doesn’t feel like it either. Yet, self-discipline is not about how you feel – it’s about what you do despite how you feel.
On the other hand, motivation is emotionally driven – it’s a desire to do something. When you’re motivated, doing the thing comes easy. The problem is, however, that we often expect our motivation to last forever and to be the force that will always draw us toward success – which is unrealistic. When you rely on motivation to change a behaviour or build a habit, you’re standing on the very unstable ground with its chances of collapsing changing by the day. In contrast, self-discipline helps you don’t fall off the path. It is driven by reason and therefore makes you do the right thing for your long-term benefit despite the fact you may want to do something else.
To reach your goals, you need both self-control and motivation. Motivation is your “why” behind the goal, and it is a very powerful engine to keep you going… on a good day. On days this engine is not so active, which happen to everyone, you need self-discipline to continue doing the thing that brings you closer to success. Utilizing only one will get you nowhere.
Why Is Self-Discipline So Hard?
We, as human beings, are evolutionarily built to experience pleasure and avoid discomfort. We are also adapted to respond to immediate events, like a threat or a current problem, or immediate pleasure, and have an emotional reaction to them, which are essential for our survival. But when it comes to long-term planning, we’re not so good, or at least behaviours that follow from it are not as strong because they’re not wired to our emotions. We naturally go towards pleasure and away from pain. That’s why we fall to the temptation of doing the pleasant thing even when we know it’s not the smartest choice for us in the long run – the emotions overpower our reason. So, it’s not you, it’s your brain. 🙂
However, your instant-gratification monkey-mind is not particularly useful in modern society. Learning to do things even when they are boring, hard, or frustrating, is absolutely necessary for success. Now read that again – I said learning. Self-discipline is not a trait but a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned. If practiced on a regular basis, like any skill, it becomes easier and you become better at it. Additionally, research found that people with higher levels of self-control are happier over both short and long run. Sounds like a skill worth developing, right?
How to Push Past Yourself And Get It Done
Okay, let’s equip you with some tricks that will help you become more efficient.
1. Don’t think about it too far ahead.
Thinking about all 15 tasks that need to be done today or this week can be overwhelming. When you think about them all at once, they can seem like a scary mountain you don’t want to climb on. This illusion eventually leads you to give up or, if you don’t, to stress out ahead. What happens here is a cognitive distortion – all those responsibilities piled up all at once in your mind make you believe you’ll have to deal with them altogether at the same time, while in reality you’ll complete these tasks one after another, in small chunks, which is much easier. You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.
So, instead of ruminating about all the things that need to be done, try to concentrate only on the first task in front of you. Just begin the first thing like it’s the only thing you have to do today, and do it mindfully. For example, if you’re in the gym, concentrate only on the movements you’re doing. Don’t think about the report that waits for you when you get home or the sink full of dishes. That will only stress you out and make it seem like a whole lot of work. The report and the sink will be there whether you stress about them or not. So, choose not.
2. “Only 5 minutes” trick
Similar to the previous one, if you think about hours and hours of work you have to put in to achieve something, chances are you’ll procrastinate. A good way to trick your brain is to pick the first task and tell yourself you’ll do it only for 5 minutes. No more, no less. And yes, after these 5 minutes you have to stop. But the magic that happens in most cases after these 5 minutes is that your energy and momentum will start to flow. You might even won’t want to stop and end up getting involved in the activity. The best thing about this 5-minute-trick is that you realize doing the thing isn’t that painful after all. The hardest thing was to start.
3. Remind yourself of your big WHY every day
When things become difficult, we can easily forget our big goal behind all our efforts. It’s human nature – remember how our brains are wired to respond to immediate problems rather than to long-term goals? Because of this, it’s important that you keep your reason easily accessible to your brain. One way to do it is to remind yourself of the end result you want to achieve every day. Morning journaling about your goal and reasons for achieving it might be helpful. Or you can place a photo of your goal result in front of your bed or on your screensaver. This will help your brain not lose sight of the long-term result. Thus, you’ll get a stronger stand against temptation more easily and actually persist in doing what brings you closer to success.
Self-Discipline Through Self-Acceptance
I think the word discipline got a bad reputation over time. We somehow started associating it with punishment when it’s really all about something very different. It’s about self-love and self-respect.
Too often we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A discipline is a student, not a recipient of behavioural consequences. – Dr. Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child.
Self-discipline is a form of self-love. It means you are committed to doing something good for yourself. It shows that you want to build a meaningful and valuable life for yourself. That’s amazing!
When you look at self-discipline from this perspective, as a way of loving and appreciating yourself, it becomes a little easier to do what you know is best for yourself even when you don’t feel like it.
And remember – nobody is disciplined all the time. You’ll make mistakes; it’s completely natural. When this happens, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and not fall to self-criticism. Self-compassion will help you get back on track faster and move forward. This “moving forward” after a failure is a crucial trait for the self-disciplined and one that is required for success.
Yorkville University has written a featured post on Registered Psychotherapist, Ashley Kreze. Read more here: http://www.yorkvilleu.ca/news/blog/macp-alumna-ashley-kreze-runs-private-practice-hosts-tv-talk-show/
“Personal leadership is the self-confident ability to crystalize your thinking so that you are able to establish an exact direction for your own life, to commit yourself to moving in that direction and then to take determined action to acquire, accomplish, or become whatever that goal demands.”
-Paul J. Meyer
Personal leadership is not something we’re born with. It’s something you develop through experience, effort, and practice. It’s something you work on every day. But why would I do that, you ask?
Benefits of Strong Personal Leadership
First of all, personal leadership is crucial to achieving your long-term goals and to your career success. As you develop it, you’ll learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can work on developing different skills and using your strengths more efficiently, which will lead to learning how to work smart and effective to get to the future you want for yourself.
Having strong personal leadership means you’re getting to know yourself. Thus, you’ll be more aware of the things you truly want and the things you maybe thought you want, but actually, that wish wasn’t authentic. It was rather driven by outer factors, such as expectations or other people’s wishes. With getting to know yourself and acquiring knowledge about the world, which are both parts of developing personal leadership, comes wisdom.
Here is a nice article about essential skills you should be working on in order to become a strong personal leader: https://kaylenemathews.com/9-essential-personal-leadership-skills/
So, what have you done to improve your personal leadership today?