Staying motivated: how the why can help with the how

Our level of motivation can have a major impact on how successful we are, partly because, by definition, motivation is what drives us forward and partly because, if we are not motivated, there is a very high chance that other people will be able to detect this and will therefore have no faith in us.

Motivation can, of course, depend on external factors to a certain extent – for example, how we are treated by our employers – but much depends on ourselves and the degree of self-control we exercise. That is, it is possible to be highly motivated despite wider factors militating against that. We perhaps have more control over our motivation than we think.

Many factors influence motivation, but one of the most important ones is goal setting. So, when it comes to staying motivated, important questions to ask yourself are: have I lost sight of my goals? Is this affecting my motivation? If you have lost sight of your goals, don’t despair and give up on them. Instead, try the following steps to get yourself back on track and re-motivated:

Step 1: Visualise what it is that you want to achieve. Try to get an image in your head of what you want life to be like – having a visual image of that ideal can be motivating in itself.

Step 2: Now start writing those ideas down, or recording them somehow. Use a format that you’re comfortable with – a list, a table, a mind map or whatever works for you. Remember to keep focused on an end point – what you aspire to: where you want to be.

Step 3: Now that you have a record of what would constitute the ideal for you, have a think about your current shorter-term goals. Are they in line with that end point you have just identified? That is, if you achieve the current goals you are working towards, will you be any nearer that ideal you visualised at Step 1? If not, then you will have highlighted to yourself that your goals may need revising. Refocusing in this way is highly likely to be motivating. This is because you will be able to see that any effort you put into achieving your goals will not be wasted, as it will take you to where you want to be, or at least further along that journey.

Step 4: Even if you were to stop here, the process of revisiting, and maybe revising, your goals is likely to pay dividends. However, keeping your revised plan somewhere where it will catch your eye, rather than hiding it away somewhere on your desk or computer, can act as a prompt to make sure that you keep on revisiting the why of what it is that you are doing on a daily basis. Having lost sight of your goals at least once already, try to avoid this happening again by finding a visual image (or sound if that works better for you) that will grab your attention and regularly remind you of your aspired-to life. This could be a photograph, a written promise to yourself, a song, or whatever you feel will remind you of where you ultimately want to get to in life, and help motivate you to get there.

You will probably meet more obstacles along the way to achieving your ultimate goals – life’s like that. It isn’t always easy to stay focused and motivated when such obstacles throw you off track, and planning new strategies isn’t easy if your confidence has been knocked. This is when the process outlined above can come to your aid. Being clear about why you need to take the steps you are considering can help enormously with the motivation needed to enact the how of those steps.

Roy Wallace is a former local government officer