If staying motivated were easy, we’d all wake up every day ready and willing to take on the next challenge.
Unfortunately, staying motivated is somewhat of a marathon, not a sprint.
This is one lesson successful people have mastered on their way to the top. You have to take your slow, steady daily progress in stride and find mechanisms that work to keep you going, especially when you’re pursuing long-term goals.
Motivation can often feel like an elusive force, like something we have to catch out of thin air or completely change our lifestyle in order to achieve. The truth, though, is that we often overthink where our energy comes from and what will push us over the finish line. It may look different every day or with each goal.
Don’t be afraid to tweak your strategy and find new ways to stay motivation. To help you get inspired, here are 7 lessons from successful people on how to achieve and maintain your motivation.
1. Find your growth mindset
Here’s a bit of hard truth: your first try at something might not be good. Even if it eventually becomes your passion or your strength, it might not feel like it's going to happen at first.
Paul A. O’Keefe, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, studies how people approach potential passions and his research has revealed that people with a growth mindset actually tend to further develop their passions. They are able to find their “why” and keep working at it.
It’s not just about finding your passion — O’Keefe doesn’t believe that’s actually good advice for finding motivation — it’s about adapting and reminding yourself that the steps you take along the way are just as important as the end goal. If you fail and believe that you will keep failing, you probably will. But if you see missteps as a chance to get better, you’ll probably end up a lot further.
2. Find power in defeat
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you plan, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Successful people like Stephen King, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, and Charles Darwin all experienced defeat before they found success — often multiple times. But instead of giving up, it became a motivator.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed,” Jordan has famously said of his basketball career. “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
3. Strive for continuous improvement
For successful innovators, motivation is a journey rather than a destination. At Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has implemented “The Hacker Way” as part of company culture. At its core, the Hacker Way focuses on continuous improvement as a way to motivate and incentivize workers to improve the platform.
“Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it —often in the face of people who say it's impossible or are content with the status quo,” Zuckerberg says.
“Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once...We have the words 'Done is better than perfect' painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping.”
4. Surround yourself with the right people
How many times have you heard that surrounding yourself with the right people is the key to success? Well, it turns out that it might also be the key to being motivated.
Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, author of It’s Not the How or the What but the Who, says that surrounding yourself with the right people can inspire you to possibilities you may have never considered yourself: “Proactively seeking out and cultivating those who will help us become better versions of ourselves is, by a wide margin, the key for living a truly happy and meaningful life.”
5. Focus on the effort
Let’s face it, some days motivation comes a lot easier than others. On the hard days, focus your energy on just getting through the task and imagining how good you’ll feel about it after. The act of doing creates a snowball effect; the more you do, the more you want to do.
“Motivation comes from effort,” says Brendon Burchard, author of the Motivation Manifesto. “The way our brain works is that dopamine—the so-called feel-good chemical—is released the second we actually do something. So the motivation doesn't come before, it comes after.”
6. Make yourself happy
So many of us try to motivate ourselves by comparing ourselves to those more successful (or fit, or rich, or fill-in-the-blank), but successful people know that the only person you have to beat is the person you were yesterday.
"If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it's within your reach. Don't worry that you can't seem to come up with pure billion dollar winners at first. Just do projects for yourself for fun. You'll get better and better," Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, wrote in his autobiography.
7. Don’t forget the reward
Motivation is not a magical power that only highly successful people have. They rely on the same tips and tricks we do, and it’s because it’s backed by science. Rewarding yourself for performing a task is a great way to find motivation, especially when it’s hard to come by.
Lora Park, an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo who studies self-motivation, utilizes this simple hack herself. When running on the treadmill, she pairs her workout with watching Netflix.
Next time you can’t find any motivation to run errands or write a paper, try allowing yourself to have a nice cup of tea or coffee while you work, or listen to music you really love. It sets the mood and makes the task a lot easier.