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Finding Motivation Through Your Inner Monologue - Pt. 2

First published on LinkedIn, 28th January 2018

I wrote a post earlier this week about how your inner monologue can be a great source of motivation. For some of you this will not be news. For some of you it may well be a revelation. Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself on, and it can fluctuate, here are 11 pieces of advice I've collated that might make it easier for you to generate your own momentum.

For these steps, I'll assume you have a Big Taxing Chore in mind; that horrible thing you have to do every day. Mark Twain said that you should "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day". Consider your Big Taxing Chore (or BiTCh) the frog - once you get it out of the way, you're on your way to getting it done!

  1. Start Simple - Albert Einstein stated "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler". It's tempting to spend a lot of time looking for shortcuts or building a process that can do more, perform more efficiently or do whatever it is you want to do faster. In reality, starting at the most simple level can put your BiTCh into sharper focus.

  2. Stop Overthinking - Does your internal monologue remind you of what you can't do? Do you hear a voice that fills your head with doubt? Of course you do, you're (probably) a human being. The easiest way to deal with the voice is either to ignore it if you are strong-willed or answer back with a 'why?' Why can't I do it? What evidence has there been? Pose that question, let doubt creep into the original doubting statement and you'll quickly undermine any argument against your own ability. Then, just get on with it. Time thinking too much about why you can't achieve something is time wasted. Time thinking about how to do it better is fine - within reason. Abraham Lincoln said "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe" - you may or may not agree with the ratio of time but he did set himself a time limit and you should to.

  3. Create Small, Bite-Sized Goals - Restaurateur Nelson Wang suggests the following "Make sure you break down that goal into bite-sized, consumable goals. This way you'll feel like you're making progress on your journey". He compares these goals to doughnut middles - they are a really moreish snack and very quickly you can have eaten an entire bag full! Just like accomplishing smaller portions of your BiTCh, once you complete two or three that quickly become five or seven or ten and then you've finished the whole thing!

  4. Track Your Goals - Why do you think fitness tracker sales have grown in Western Europe from 4m units in 2014 to 7.1m in 2015? Perhaps 75% more people are exercising but the likelihood is that those of us who would like to be fitter would like to measure our progress. If you have a goal - your BiTCh may be a specific weight loss target - you need to a) understand where you are 'At this moment' and b) identify your 'Belief of success'. Crucially, the third step, (c)), is 'Continual tracking of progress'. That's the ABCs...

  5. Celebrate Wins - Do you pat yourself on the back when you get to work on time? Do you high-five anyone for signing a new client? Do you pop champagne for bringing homemade lunch in to work? These things may seem like how things should be but if you string together a sequence of these small successes, you deserve to be rewarded. Don't feel guilty about it either - being dedicated to the small wins over time will make the BiTCh not seem so daunting. You might remember the phrase 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves'.

  6. Stop Caring About Things That Don't Matter - Nick C Miller, a San Francisco based blogger on all things Motivational argues that "You will stay more consistently motivated if you're working on activities that are inherently meaningful or are part of a larger mission". I absolutely agree with him but the toughest part is maintaining a level of 'editorship' over your inner monologue. That voice will divert you from your BiTCh by reminding you of that great show you Sky Plussed that you have to watch now, the Spotify playlist idea you just have to compile, or a million other tiny distractions. The strong-willed among you will dismiss these temptations but the rest of us have to either remind ourselves of the importance of the BiTCh at hand or negotiate; rewarding yourself with the luxury of distraction is an acceptable way to commit to accomplishing a chunk of that BiTCh. (PS - 'Don't Sweat The Small Stuff' is a good mantra - although the book can tend to go a bit too far...)

  7. Don't Confuse It For Hard Work - Imagine the person you will become once that BiTCh is beaten. Imagine how you will feel - Relief? Pride? Satisfaction? The tiny steps taken that will get you there are just that; tiny. Anything tiny (except mosquitos or venereal disease) is inherently fun! Pugs, engagement rings, Smarties, GoPros, shots, dice, crisps, all fun things! If taking these tiny steps help make you into the person you want to become, that vision of the new you should motivate you more than anything.

  8. Know Yourself - Don't expect to be able to beat your BiTCh overnight if you've not done so before. Look at it this way, if you were managing a kids' football team who lost 7-0, 9-0, 6-0, 10-0, 7-0, would you be upset if they didn't win their next game? If you keep the defeat to 4-0, that's progress you can be proud of. When those average scorelines are down to 1-0 or 2-0 or if your kids score two and lose 4-2, that's a success! You need to know your immediate capability before setting unrealistic expectations. You can beat your BiTCh but you need to do so in a way that doesn't make you despondent from the off.

  9. Set a Quit Time - You are not a robot. Motivation is a finite resource which will run out if you use it up. Fortunately, it can replenish in simple ways. However, to help yourself complete those bite-sized BiTCh tasks, you need to know when to recharge. Give yourself a deadline whether that's once you've finished 1 more task or a time of day or even just by the time the kettle has boiled. Do something totally unrelated to your BiTCh and make sure you are not actively thinking about it but letting your mind 'rest' on something completely different. You probably know that your mind never truly rests but it does process and reorganise (even in 'Sleep' mode...) - that can lead to a new idea, perspective or action that can motivate you to complete the next task that will pop into your head just when you get back to it. And you do need to get back to it so set a Start Time too!

  10. Keep Learning - Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, all of the most famous entrepreneurs value the impact on their success of reading. Your 'Quit Time' can be a book of course but you might also want to set aside time - perhaps during your commute or when you're waiting for your flatmate to finish in the shower - to learn. Watch a TED talk on the train, browse a book on the bus, play a podcast on a pogo stick... However you do it, do it.

  11. Help Others - Serendipity is an undervalued trait. Some people can drift in and out of your life and things they say or do can motivate you long after their name or appearance has faded from your memory. Opening yourself up to good advice means putting yourself in a position to both meet possible influencers or mentors but also reciprocating. If you help someone with their BiTCh, they may make time to help you with yours. Despite what I said about monitoring progress, this is one aspect where you don't need to keep score - you will always be disappointed. To get the help you need requires three-fold (or more) opportunities where you have helped someone else. It's not fact, it's not a law, it's a hunch - but a hunch that feels true to me and, if you test it out, will probably be true for you too. If the people you help are motivated - or, even better, motivating - your BiTCh will soon be history with the help of your colleagues, friends or even complete strangers.

I hope that this helps you to find, keep or rekindle your motivation. If you have more suggestions, please get in touch!


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