Find Your Motivational Motive

If there is a goal you want to pursue or something you want to change in your life to improve it, once you have narrowed down the specifics, the next important thing is to think about the reason you want to do it.

This is because if you want to succeed you need a strong reason to succeed.

As strong reason helps you leap the inevitable hurdles’ we all face in life. Where as a weak reason will make failure the much likelier outcome.

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Imagine you have your goal in mind and the reason you are doing it because “everyone else is doing it” or “I’ve heard it’s a good thing” or “Her on the telly said everyone should do it”. Then, a few weeks down the line this are not going to plan, you are much more likely to give up and you mind will justify you giving up, “everyone else doing this is mad,” or “I must have heard it wrong” or “Her on the telly doesn’t know what she is talking about”!

We humans are creatures of routine and habit and it is often easier for us to fall back into familiar routines rather than make the effort, both physical and mental, to pursue change and difference in our lives. Perhaps you can think of a time you or someone you know has started a programme of change, probably it started off well but then faded away as old habits and routines returned.

Very often this is because we start off with good intentions, unfortunately though, good intentions on their own do not gives us the push to go beyond the initial steps. They do not get us past that difficult patch where relapsing into the familiar is such an easy thing to do.

A strong motive for succeeding can push us through that almost inevitable stage because that reason pulls us toward success.

A strong reason starts with you as an individual. What is it that YOU want to achieve from your goal or life change? Trying to do something because someone else wants you to do it or because it is the socially popular thing to do has inherent problems because your unconscious knows that what you are doing is not actually what you want therefore there is always a degree of resistance. It may be okay for small, less significant things in your life but for longer term, more substantial change It has to be for a reason YOU have.

By using YOU as your starting point you can develop your motive and, therefore, the motivation to get you started and keep you going.

Picture yourself having achieved your goal or life change. What are the benefits in your life you picture then, what are rewards you get from that success?

Remember it is all individual, it could be you want to be healthier, for example, the rewards then could include such things as being able to enjoy time with grandchildren without getting so tired, or being healthier could prepare you for embarking on a bigger challenge such as marathon running, or being healthier could allow you to lead a better lifestyle. Perhaps you want to learn or develop a skill, it could be that it earns you more money, it could be it allows you to change jobs or it could even be that you gain that sense of personal achievement which raises your self-esteem.

Before you start on any significant change in your life, take some time to think and reflect about why you need that change, list the rewards and benefits that change will bring you. Yet there is a need to be totally honest with yourself, list the things that the change could impact negatively on your current life e.g.- taking up a new hobby could take time and money away from other areas of your life.

Then, assuming the benefits out weigh the negatives, you can see the overall benefits to you can add and the greater rewards these benefits will bring to your life.  You build your reason for succeeding and, as you fix those reasons in your mind, any time you begin to doubt your success you have the motive and motivation to carry on.

You can succeed, and you strong motive for that success will help carry you along the path to that life you truly want.

 

Zoom In On Specifics

What do you want?

Do you want to be heathier, wealthier, or perhaps you want a new job, a new lifestyle or to be able to travel more?

We all have dreams of a better life yet rarely make the moves toward achieving those things we fantasise about.

One reason is that our dreams and fantasies are often quite vague on detail. We like the idea of these things but we just leave them as dreams to retreat into when our current existence gets to us. In order to make a real difference in our lives we need to narrow in on those dreams and develop them into specific goals we can use as a springboard to reach the real life we want to live.

Start by letting your imagination run wild. Really be creative in your dreams about what would bring you satisfaction if life, give yourself no limits on what you think of and allow yourself to mentally explore the most outrageous possibilities your life could be. Throw everything into the mix, everything you have ever dreamt of achieving, those childhood and youthful ambitions that faded away and those sparks of ideas that were smothered by life.

Once you have done that write down some of the ideas that appeal to you most. It is time to switch from the creative side of your brain to the logical side!

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Look at the ideas you have written down, do any of them need you to achieve one of the others first? For example, do you dream of a life of travel and of a life of financial independence? The life of travel may need you to have that financial security first. If that is the case cross off the dependent ones from your list.

Now, take what is ever left on your list and put them in order of priority. Which one feels most important to you right now? This is not to say you are dismissing the other ideas, we are just focussing on the most important idea right now. Those other dreams can just take a temporary backseat while we concentrate on achieving first things first.

Now zoom in on that one idea.

Remember it is your idea and how you view that idea is unique to you.

Maybe, for example, your number one priority is to be healthier. What exactly does that mean to you? It could mean losing weight, it could mean being able to run a marathon, it could mean eating healthier etc. You need to focus on what is important to you, not what other people are saying and not what society is demanding at the moment. Work your idea down to a single goal that you can aim for, a goal that is YOUR GOAL and one you can begin to work toward.

A brief warning, although we are aiming to create the goal to move us toward a better life it does not have to be perfect. Perfectionism is often a means of not making a decision and not taking action because we constantly wait for things to be exactly right and put off doing anything until we have got things exactly right!

Your goal does not have to be so precise and perfect it just needs to be something more concrete than the vague dream we started with. It is our call to action.

To start the process of changing our lives for our own benefit we need to start with something specific to aim for. Vague dreams make it difficult to find a starting point, so by using some focus to narrow down those dreams to an achievable, specific goal we can begin the process toward a life we want.

Be Smart This January

January. You can’t have helped but notice that every time you walk down the high street shops are enticing you to buy things to make you healthier, to feed those New Year’s Resolutions you sort of decided on.

It may be ‘active wear’ to help you with fitness, lotions and potions to help you ‘detox’ or books with alluring recipes to help you ‘get lean’. It is not just the high street though, there are those leaflets through the door encouraging you to join weight loss clubs and the media joins in with various ‘new you’ segments.

But before you start spending out or getting into some vague regime STOP AND THINK.

Remember for many of the shops, organisations and media outlets January is a slow month so for them, so jumping on resolution bandwagon is just a way of making extra money by appealing to our own frailties.

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Only you can decide what you want to do and it is important that you do it properly if you want to succeed.

START by really deciding what you want. Not a vague idea of “I think I need to lose some weight” or “I need to eat healthier” or “I want to be fitter” etc. but instead set yourself a specific goal, “I need to lose 2 stone” or “I need to reduce the amount of salt in my diet” or “I need to be able to run 10K”.

By setting yourself a specific goal it becomes more achievable because you can measure your progress over time, and time is also an important element. When do you want to have achieved your goal by? Having an end date gives you a greater incentive to work toward it. So if you have your summer holiday booked perhaps work to that date to be healthier, leaner or fitter. If you have a longer term goal then, with a specific end date you can break it down across the months so you know where you need to be by that summer date.

The other element of setting yourself goals is to be realistic. If you take up jogging in January you are not going to be running a marathon by Easter! Permanent weight loss is best achieved by losing weight at a steady pace rather than crash dieting and healthy eating is more about balance than completely eliminating something.

While I have concentrated on the typical January goals, these ideas apply to everything you want to get done, any goal that you set yourself. You need to use SMART.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

You may have heard of this before but it is always worth remembering when you set out to achieve anything. The better the framework for your plan the better he chance of success.

So before you rush headlong into the temptations of a healthier lifestyle take a bit of time to really assess what it is you want to achieve this year and begin the process of planning how best to really achieve that goal.

Next time – More on setting those specific goals

Befuddled Brains

Did you know that, in the UK, antidepressant use is higher in 40-54 year olds than any other age group*? Or that some researchers have concluded that we are less happy in mid-life than at other times in our life**?

None of this is rocket science though because in mid-life our brains are much more likely to be befuddled by the conflict between “happiness” and “responsibilities”.

The responsibilities of adulthood can stack up in mid-life, you can still feel ‘responsible’ for your children even if they are grown and have flown the nest, there could be the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

Unless you are one of the very lucky people who can earn a living doing what you love, work responsibilities often impact on our happiness, this in turn, relates to the financial responsibilities we have e.g. the responsibility of having to work in order to maintain your home and even paying for activities that you hope will make you feel happier.

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Not that happiness and responsibilities are mutually exclusive, for example looking after grandchildren is a responsibility that can bring happiness, but there are, obviously, times when we would rather be doing things that make us happy than doing those things that we feel we have to be doing as responsible adults.

The problems occur when we find the responsibilities overwhelming and we sacrifice happiness because we feel we have to do the ‘responsible’ thing.

We may find ourselves with feelings of guilt (as I am writing this, which I enjoy, there is a sense of guilt because I know there is a stack of clothes upstairs that need ironing!). Guilt at feeling or doing something that makes us happy can soon make the feeling of happiness evaporate as our sense of responsibility makes us chastises us for not doing what it considers the important things in life.

We can easily find ourselves caught in a responsibility trap where we only do those ‘responsible’ things and forget that we need time to relax and do things to offset those things we feel we have to do. Think of times when you have put off doing something pleasurable in order to do the responsible thing.

Are there times you can think of when those responsibilities that just continued to stack up and you never seemed to be able to do what you want?

Without those times when we can truly relax and do things that make us feel happy, our stress levels grow, our happiness levels drop and we can find ourselves in a downward spiral.

We need to STOP and remember that our own emotional well-being and happiness is probably one of the most important responsibilities we have.

If we feel good about ourselves and feel happy about our lives we can undertake those responsibilities much more efficiently.

Make certain that you make time every week (at least) to do something that makes you feel good and don’t feel guilty about it! It does not matter what other responsibilities you have in your life or how many people you feel responsible for, without making time for yourself you will never be able to be fully discharge those responsibilities. Think about a time when felt you had failed in a responsibility because you were tired or felt overwhelmed, then just imagine how much better it would have been if you had been more refreshed and happy before starting that task.

Our brains become befuddled by the conflict that often occurs between our responsibilities and our happiness, it is up to us to ensure that we look after ourselves by making time for those things that make us happy because our emotional well-being is a responsibility we must put at the top of the list.

 

*Eurobarometer SP345 2010

**https://www.economist.com/christmas-specials/2010/12/16/the-u-bend-of-life

Problematic Personalised Truths

As promised, more on Personalised Truths, those pesky, sometimes damaging, ideas we have about ourselves that we believe to be true even when there is absolutely no evidence that they are actually true!

These ideas may have been created by us or they may have been put in our heads by others, but whichever route, it is because we believe them to be true they become a part of our unconscious thinking and, therefore, impact on our feelings and actions.

If you think about a time when you have met someone whose life or behaviour you really could not understand, for example someone obsessed with changing how they look through excessive dieting, excessive exercise or excessive plastic surgery or maybe someone with an addiction which is obviously detrimental to their well-being yet the continue to do it or, perhaps, someone whose lifestyle involves risky behaviour. Behind all such behaviours a personalised truth can be found.

There are two types of personalised truths that burrow their way into out psyche, those that we believe about ourselves and those we use to justify things that affect our lives.

The first, what we believe about ourselves, are those ideas about our bodies, our intelligence, our capabilities etc. for example “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure”. Naturally these truths are not always negative, some people are perhaps too positive and over confident and many of our thoughts are quite balanced. Yet where we have a negative belief about ourselves it can far outweigh any of those balanced ones.

Especially where those personalised truths can never really be true in the first place!

Take, for example, “I’m ugly”. Ugliness and beauty a wholly open to interpretation, ideas of beauty depend on individual taste and, on a wider scale, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and vary over time. Would Titian’s 16th Century vision of Venus, goddess of love, beauty and desire, male it to the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine today?

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Another aspect of problematic personalised truths is that we will ignore any evidence that contradicts them, the person who believes “I’m always unlucky” will dismiss any good fortune that happens to them or believe that a small piece of luck will be balanced by greater bad luck! A person who believes “I am a failure” will dismiss successes as mere flukes and believe that any praise they receive is just other people trying to be nice!

The other type of personalised truths are those we believe justify our actions. At a simplistic level remember those times when you have bought something you really didn’t need but justified the purchase by saying to yourself something like “I had to buy it because it was half price” or “I had to buy it because I haven’t got one that colour”!

On a more complex and problematic level people will justify staying in toxic relationships because they believe “it’s my fault” or “things will change soon”. Or people will justify addictions such as gambling with beliefs like “it is the only way I can become rich” or “my luck will change soon”.

The real challenge with uncovering and resolving problematic personalised truths is identifying them in the first place, they operate at an unconscious level and influence our behaviour automatically. If we spend a bit of time thinking about our behaviour at the end of the day we can begin to unravel those personalised truths that hold us back. Alternatively, if we are brave enough, we can asked friends and family what it is they least understand about the way we behave, that will give us a good route to uncovering those underlying beliefs.

Once we have identified them we can begin to really question them. What evidence is there that they are true? What evidence proves them untrue? We need to be fully critical here as we will, if not, just dismiss that contrary evidence. We need to engage with the process logically and rationally so that we can begin to believe those personalised truths are, in fact, untrue.

It is not an easy process but one we need to undertake as it will improve our lives and our well-being as we move forward to success and happiness in life.

Unconscious Untruths

Just as we can unconsciously emotionally react to events around us, we can also be unconscious victims of thoughts that are not true.

Our actions and reactions are based on what we believe to be true, and this happens on an unconscious level without us questioning whether or not those beliefs are true.

That is not to say that what we believe is lies but rather there are various versions of the truth which may hinder us in our lives.

Outdated Truths – Take a moment to think about things in your life that may have once been true but no longer are true. Perhaps it was once true to say you lived in a certain town but have since moved so it is no longer true. Or a time when you were single but now are in a relationship, maybe you were once in a relationship but now are single. Truth can change. Think of others examples in your life where this is the case.

The examples above are fairly obvious ones, as always things are not so obvious. As children we have truths instilled in us by parents, teachers and other influential people which may very well have been true at the time but life and society move on and those truths may no longer be relevant yet they still live in our unconscious impacting on our actions and reactions.

For example your school years may have shown you the ‘truth’ of how children should learn things and you may hold on to that truth despite the fact that the world has moved on and different learning strategies have been shown to be more successful.

Opinionated Truths – We are inundated constantly by opinionated truths, facts which are not actually facts but rather interpretations or opinions of facts. Politicians provide the best example of this, just look how different political parties present the same information in different ways but usually prefixed with expressions such as “the truth is” or “the fact of the matter is”. If you are predisposed to favour one political party over the other then you are more likely to accept their truth while dismissing the other as the other as ‘spin’ or outright lies.

Other sources of ‘fact’ also have a degree of opinion. The news, for example, is opinionated. If you get the chance watch the news on different TV channels, look at how different channels emphasise different stories, one may lead with a story (giving it an air of greater importance) yet another may give the same story a lot less emphasis giving the lead to a completely different piece of news.

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(For the record this blog is opinion of fact rather than the ultimate truth!)

On a much more personal level we can be influenced by friends, family, employers etc. who give us ‘facts’ which we accept as truth but which, in reality, are opinions of facts. Is there a time when you have been carried away by things a friend has told you only to discover later they hadn’t given you the full information? A friend could tell us a ‘truth’ about another person which unconsciously influences our behaviour toward that person yet later on we find out that there is a different version of that truth which, in turn, changes our actions again.

Personalised Truth – These are the truths we tell ourselves about ourselves. That internal dialogue, most often negative that affects how we behave and see ourselves. Those things like “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure” etc. Personalised truths are also those things we tell ourselves to justify or make sense of the world around us.

Personalised truth is a post all on its own so more on that next time.

For now the important thing to remember is that truth is a flexible thing. If you remember back to my last post “Lightening Reactions” I encouraged you too take time to think what causes those reactions, often it is a belief or ‘truth’ that we hold, it is then up to us to work out if that truth still holds or if it is an unconscious untruth that we need to eliminate from our minds.

Lightning Reactions

Are you afraid of spiders? If not you probably know someone who is.

But think about the process of being scared, how long is there between spotting that spider and letting out a scream or fleeing the scene quickly?

Firstly you need to see the spider, then your brain has to sort through the endless number of things you can recognise in order to identify it as a spider. Then it has to ignite the connection between a spider and fear, once your mind has decided that you need to be afraid it then has to start sending messages to various parts of your body, increasing your heart rate, pumping fight or flight hormones through your body and, not least, preparing your lungs and vocal cords for that scream!

All that happens in an instant.

It is, of course, a survival instinct. If, for example, you entered your bathroom and were faced with a ravenous human-eating tiger sitting in your bath licking its lips expectantly, then that instantaneous reaction to flee could be life-saving.

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The point here, however, is that we often find ourselves in emotional states that have been triggered at  lightning  speed, and because of that instinctive reaction we can find ourselves feeling fearful, sad, angry or frustrated without fully understanding why. Then, if we don’t fully understand what has caused us to enter that emotional state, the state intensifies. If we start feeling afraid for no apparent reason we become even more fearful, sadness triggers even more sadness, we feel angry at ourselves for feeling angry for no reason etc.

Then our emotional state begins to effect things we are trying to do or those around us. Imagine a state of sadness comes over you on your way to work, how would that sadness impact on whatever it is you do? You would probably be less enthusiastic, slower and lose concentration. Those around you would also be affected as you would be less engaging, less talkative and probably give off an air of “I really don’t want people around me right now”.

We need, sometimes, to  stop, pause and think  about what is happening to our minds and bodies in order to prevent those unhelpful emotional states taking over our lives.

Firstly, obviously, is learning to recognise the fact that we have entered an unhelpful emotional state.

That  lightning  speed at which our minds work at a sub-conscious level means that we can find ourselves in an unhelpful state without us consciously being aware of it straight away, if at all. It is, therefore, useful to sometimes stop and reflect upon our mood, our emotions and how we feel.

However to spend too much time inwardly contemplating is incredibly impracticable. We need to move forward in our daily lives yet if we take a moment or two every so often to check on how we feel can help us move forward.

For example, take a brief pause before you make a transition in your day, we all have points in the day where we move from one thing to another. That point where go from travelling to work and entering the workplace, think about how you are feeling – is your heart still racing from that point where another driver came perilously close to hitting you? Are you still seething because your train was late yet again because of some lame excuse the rail company gave out? Or that point when you return home from your weekly shop, is that frustration of being stuck behind the world’s slowest checkout operator serving the world’s slowest customer still coursing through you?

By taking the time to recognise those emotions it helps us to start too eliminate them from whatever it is we are doing next.

Then when we do have a bit of time to ourselves we can go deeper into our emotional states, especially those that happen without us really knowing the cause. What triggers that feeling of fear? What caused that random feeling of sadness? What exactly made you feel so frustrated with life?

By forcing some of those unconscious triggers in to our consciousness we bring them under more control. We may not be able to remove them immediately nor can we guarantee that they will not produce the same instantaneous reaction but by being more aware they exist we can control the effect a lot sooner.

You are an amazing person with a mind that works like  lightning,  however, just sometimes, that speed trips us up. When we learn to reflect on those times when unhelpful emotional states impact on our daily lives, we may still trip but hopefully it will be a stumble rather than falling flat on our face!