How does one achieve daily motivation? Is it an internal or an external process? Can it take just one tip or trick to make all the procrastination fall like a house of cards? Is it something that you’re born with or destined for? I pondered all of those questions during my first two years after college. The answers that I found were not cut and dry, but they guided me toward a new way of being. I can’t say I’m motivated every single day. I can say that understanding the answer to these questions has helped me become increasingly more motivated.
There are countless programs out there that talk about changing your thoughts to improve your life. These various methods such as Creative Visualization or Using Affirmations are meant to modify your think into that of a more positive, motivated, and happy person’s way of thinking. I have used similar ways of thought and they have improved my daily motivation. At least, for a little while.
Personally, like many people, I have trouble being internally focused. For me, the positive thinking that stems from these programs sometimes gives way to my hereditary anxiety issues. A full head of steam can be quickly derailed by a distraction or a large meal of cooked food. And trying to do any work after sex? Forget it!
These traits show that I am changed easily by the chemicals in my body. The anxiety, the food, and the hormones affect the way I think in a big way. A lot of people share the same issues but don’t realize it. They chalk it up to “feeling down," or “needing to let this food digest," or…um, “the post sex three hour nap." Often, there are only a couple of hours or less outside of work to complete your writing. You cannot afford to let yourself be controlled by internal chemicals with this small amount of time. To solve the problem, it all comes down to balance and awareness.
Before I pinpointed my anxiety issues, I assumed that I should only write if I felt like writing. I believed, it was more natural that way. Since that led to absolutely no writing, I tried to find a better way. I became aware of patterns that caused me to “feel down." A poor diet, a lack of exercise, and surrounding myself with jaded, negative people were a few potential causes. I began to balance my life. I started eating better, going to a gym and trying to meet more positive, motivated people. The anxious feelings didn’t go away, but they were cut nearly in half.
This kind of balance can be applied to other parts of your life as well. Splitting the big meal into several smaller meals; a half-hour post-coital nap instead of a three-hour one :). If you noticed that you don’t feel like writing from an internal source, try to pinpoint it. Once you become aware of it, you can try to balance your life more in that area. Hopefully, this will replace the negative feeling with a desire to get something done.
But daily motivation is not always an internal problem. There are a large amount of external factors that could be affecting you. I’ve already mentioned the type of people you surround yourself with. Some other stimuli that can motivate or sap you dry: the space you do work in, the distractions you leave yourself open to, and the weather.
There are those who cannot work in a messy, disorganized area. If those people are also poor at organization themselves (a la me :)) it can be difficult to get any writing done at home. My girlfriend has helped me improve in this area in a big way, but if you don’t have such a wonderful creature keeping you busy, you can learn organization yourself or work outside of the home. A café or a library can work wonders on external productivity.
I have created a list of distractions at home that can get in your way if you let them. The big rule is that if it can bug you during your writing time, turn it off, unplug it, or tell it/him/her that you will be busy for a fixed amount of time.
In my several years working in a coffee shop, I noticed that often when I asked a customer, “How’s it going?" they would reply, “Well, it’s cold," or “It’s nice out." It frustrated me to no end. I was asking about them, not the weather. Many people feel like the weather is an extension of themselves, an emotion of some kind.
Unless you have Seasonal Affect Disorder, you're just being trendy. The weather should not and can not affect the fact that you have writing to do. Get a heavy coat, a sun lamp, or an umbrella and get to work! Also, make sure to remove any language you have that equates the weather with how you feel. No point in reinforcing bad habits.
Tips and Tricks
For some people it takes one new idea or plan to make everything fall into place. One quote, one philosophy and they are seemingly set with daily motivation for life. Others of us are not quite as lucky.
When I stumbled on personal development a couple years ago, I believed I had found my cure-all solution. I started excitingly telling my friends about it (lost a few negative friends that way :)) and I read as many articles and listened to as many audio tracks as possible. And then…nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a little bit of improvement. I had expected a drastic change but instead I began a long and sometimes painful process. The important thing though is to notice that this tiny amount of change is still a step in the right direction. While I was a little discouraged, I kept on reading and learning. Several years later, I’m glad I did. I have traveled miles that couldn’t have happened without the first step.
You can still find world-changing, daily motivation giving advice every so often. In my article on self-sabotage, I talk about my experience with twenty-something guru Alexandra Robbins. The ideas she gave me about dealing with my fear completely changed my life. And yet, it still only got me part of the way to where I am. I still needed to work with the ideas in mind to become a stronger and more motivated person.
Absorb the ideas on this site and other sites, audio programs, books, and movies. Try to incorporate them and keep them as a part of your life if they're a fit for you. Don’t expect them to change you in a moment’s notice, but be pleasantly surprised if they do :).
Genetics and Destiny
There are certain things in your genetics that can affect your motivation, but I do not believe that you can be genetically unmotivated.
Like I spoke about earlier, I am very affected by chemical changes. I believe this is a genetic condition. Along with these other traits: I am a morning person, I am not affected by extreme temperatures, being on the computer or phone too long makes me feel overstimulated and out of touch, I love having a routine, and I’m a sucker for a girl with a pretty face.
I used to think that I was genetically unmotivated as well. But that didn’t quite make sense in context of my life up to that point. I was extremely motivated to succeed in high school and college. What I realized was that a lack of routine and a lack of focused goals were dragging me down, not some kind of genetic predisposition to laziness.
There is no force in your DNA that is making you unmotivated. There may, however, be other factors genetic factors. Once again, working on any issues will come down to awareness. Be aware of the way your DNA tends to make you act and plan accordingly. I limit my phone and computer time before writing because I know that my creativity will be affected. What can you do to compensate for your specific genetic issues?
To get a little more spiritual, you are also not destined to be unmotivated. I used to believe, in depressed self-deprecating times, that I was destined to waste my life and get nothing accomplished. When I was excited and feeling good, I proclaimed that I was meant for greater things. All of this seemed to be emotion talking. I don’t really know what my “destiny" is, but when I started working toward some big challenging goals in my life, it felt more right to me than just sitting around.
Go toward the scariest goal you could possibly achieve with no idea whatsoever how to tackle it. Chances are that goal is way closer to your destiny than catching up on old TV episodes. Destiny can only take you so far anyhow. The rest is up to good old-fashioned hard work. If you still feel like you’re destined to amount to nothing after reading this whole article…then prove yourself wrong. It’s a whole lot more exciting than proving your negativity right :).
Parts 2 through 5
This article is Part 1 in a 5 part series about daily motivation. In the following articles I will break down your day into sections via time. This will hopefully help the more procedure driven people figure out how to make every single day more motivated. For the rest of you, I will be sharing some helpful tips along the way. Until then, go do some writing, it might be your destiny! :)
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.