Jun 1, 2006
How to Get Passionate About Taking Action
It’s easy to get passionate about setting goals. We all get excited about the things we want. But when it comes to taking consistent action on them on a daily basis until they are done … well, that’s another story. If this rings true for you (even a little bit), read on, because you’re about to find out how to get a lot more motivated to follow through on the everyday tasks required to get you to your goals (I touched on this topic in an earlier article, How to Get Exactly What You Want).
Why aren’t you more motivated?
When you set a significant goal – whether it’s starting a business, or cleaning the house top to bottom – it’s easy to start out strong and see the spark fizzle rather quickly. The excitement you had at the beginning fades and you find it harder and harder to take action as the enormity of the goal sets in.
Part of the reason the “spark fades” is because you’ve lost the perspective on the goal you had at the beginning. You were excited by the end result of the goal – that’s why you took action on it in the first place – but along the way you started focusing on the effort of progress rather than the satisfaction of the reward. Now, instead of a motivating project, it’s turned into … well, work.
That feeling can take your ability to take action and bleed it dry. Life’s too short to let that happen, so if this describes how you’re feeling about one of the tasks at hand, here are three things that can help you get that “spark” back so you can return to taking powerful, committed action.
Spark #1 – Remind yourself that this task matters because it gets you one step closer to the goal.
It’s easy to feel like whatever we need to work on is boring, dull, unmotivating, or basically just a hassle we don’t want to deal with. The truth of life is that on your way to your goals you’re probably going to have to a lot of things that don’t generate a whole lot of excitement when you think about them. So instead of thinking about the task you have to do, think of the step of the process you’re on instead.
Think about this – whatever your end goal is, there is a specific number of steps you’re going to have to take to get there. The journey isn’t never-ending – there’s going to be a point where it gets accomplished. So even if your motivation is flagging because you realize that you have a hundred more steps to take, consider the fact that after you do this one task, you’ll only have ninety-nine left. And while ninety-nine isn’t the most motivating number either, it’s still less than it was before. And less is good.
When you’re feeling completely unmotivated to take an action you know you need to, just hold on to this fact. Eventually you’re going to get there. You’re not there yet, but you can at least get one step closer. You can at least get one more task behind you.
You may feel like this is a little easier said than done, and you’re right. It’s not that easy to do at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Soon you make a powerful shift – you realize more and more that every action you take matters in the larger scale, even if seems like boring work in the present. And because of that, your motivation will increase. Completing a project becomes a numbers game, where you start out with a specific number of tasks to accomplish and see that number decrease day after day after day.
As I said, this is easier said than done – at first. To make this work, you have to commit to pushing yourself to put this mode of thinking into practice for a few weeks until it becomes established as a habit. And once you stop thinking of tasks as an enormous number of to-dos, and you start seeing them as a number that decreases (sometimes rapidly), work becomes more like play.
Spark #2 – Remind yourself that this task matters because it impacts other people.
We are often much more motivated to do something for someone else than we are for ourselves. So when you’re feeling stuck when it comes to motivation, it can really help to ask yourself how the task at hand (or the end result) matters to other people that you care about. How will they benefit from you following through? What ways are you improving their lives by doing this? Who will I inspire? Questions like these can infuse even the dullest of tasks with fresh, relevant meaning.
The flip side of this is to ask yourself more negative questions. What are the costs to other people if I don’t follow through? How will this negatively affect their lives? How will I damage the relationship I have with then if I don’t do this? Who will I disappoint? These questions can also give you that push to take action when you strongly associate negative emotions to the idea of failure.
Spark #3 – Remind yourself that this task matters because it strengthens you as a person.
No matter what the task at hand is, completing it has a compelling benefit – you become stronger for it. By completing a task, you reinforce the fact that you are strengthening you most important asset – your “follow through” muscle. Along the way, you may be strengthening other characteristics – you may be improving your courage, or your patience, or your optimism, or your technical skill … whatever it is, the task makes you stronger as a person.
If you don’t feel that way about a task, then you need to shift the way you’re looking at it. There are changes that will occur within you as a result of the process of following through. Don’t ignore any of them – instead, appreciate them. Look for as many as you can, and you’ll stack reason upon reason to follow through despite any obstacles.
The source of the spark
Ultimately, all three of these sparks come from one central concept – the idea that the task, no matter what it is, truly matters in the long run. If you lose the expectation that the task matters, then you lose the spark that fuels your motivation. So focus on these three sparks, and though it may be difficult at first, you’ll find your level of motivation steadily creeping up to a level you’ll call “unstoppable.” So focus on these three things now. You’ll thank yourself for it.