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21 Ways to Motivate Yourself (+ 1 Spare!)

You’ve got an idea. You’re excited about it. The first few weeks while you work towards your plan fly by in a flurry of activity: you organise things efficiently, you make phone calls and send emails, you start to get things moving.

Then you hit a wall.

It’s not uncommon for us to be really excited about something when we first embark upon it, it’s when we are a few weeks or months in that the real work begins. If you feel that you have become stuck in a rut with an idea, then there are ways to motivate yourself to achieve your plans and goals.

Getting stuck is nothing to be ashamed of – it happens to us all. The trick is learning how to motivate yourself when you’ve lost some of that golden enthusiasm you had when you first decided to study, take on a new project or job, or start that business.

1. Visualise your long term goals

Often when we set out to do something significant, the task seems unsurmountable. Make sure you have a clear vision of where you want to get to. Be specific. For example, if you are keen on studying accounting or beauty therapy, find a specific course that you want to do.

2. Focus on short term achievements too

A short term goal might be to simply spend a few hours researching what you want to achieve. Once you spend some quality time investing in your idea, whether it’s a business goal or study plan, you’ll feel a lot closer to the outcome.

3. Compete with yourself

A bit of healthy competition can be advantageous when the only competitor is yourself. Try to do just a little more today than you did yesterday and watch the rewards come in.

4. A bit of healthy competition

You might want to compete with others too, but in a positive way, that is! Motivate yourself by finding out what others are achieving in your industry or sector and see if you can match or better them.

5. Give yourself rewards

Rewards help to keep us motivated, so long as they are healthy rewards. Buy yourself a little treat when you finish that big study or work task or reward yourself with a long afternoon walk to the ice cream shop once you’ve done your allocated study.

6. Get a theme song!

Rocky had one and so should you! Make yourself a study or work playlist and use it to motivate yourself when times are tough.

7. Have a realistic goal

Want to rule the world? Have your own international show like Oprah? Design clothes for the future Queen of England? Start small. Many people get stuck because their goals are unrealistic. You can achieve anything you set your mind to, but work in small steps.

8. Break your goals into small tasks

Think of the things you need to sort out and break the tasks into small groups of things. If you have lots of banking or IT issues to sort out, have that in a different pile to your schedule-planning and phone calls. Study or work on one thing in the morning, another in the afternoon.

9. Get off the seat of your pants

Take frequent breaks from sitting down every single hour. Stand up, stretch and move your legs around. Even taking just one minute every hour can make a huge difference to your motivation levels.

10. Do some exercise

Factoring time to get out and about is vital to keeping you moving towards your goals. It’s preferable to get some fresh air and exercise outside, but doing a quick session at your local gym or a yoga or dance class can be just as valuable. Not your thing? Take the kids to the park and push them on the swing. It counts as cardio!

11. Make a vision board

One way to motivate yourself towards your goals is to make a vision board. Collect images that represent how you feel about your goals. Stick your vision board somewhere prominent and look at it every day. Add things to it and remove things from it as you achieve and grow.

12. Allot appropriate time to tasks

One of the biggest traps you can fall into is not giving yourself enough time. Don’t think you can sort out a complicated administration issue with one phone call and don’t think you can read a whole book or study guide in a single afternoon. Be realistic.

13. Don’t get distracted

There is so much competition for our attention these days. Make sure you train your mind to focus on one thing, wholeheartedly, at a time. Even if you just give yourself 15 uninterrupted minutes with a task, you will see the difference.

14. Turn off social media

Put your smartphone in the next room, on silent. Let your message service take any non-urgent calls. Your social media networking could have a place in your study or business planning, but don’t get distracted by meaningless chatter. Keep your mind on the job.

15. Find some ‘you’ time

It’s essential to take some time to spend quality time with yourself. Often we are so busy with friends, colleagues, family and kids that we forget to spend a few minutes of quality time on our own. Try to make some time for yourself each week. Even if it’s only half an hour!

16. Keep hydrated

Without drinking lots of water, your brain will start to feel tired and lethargic. Take frequent, small sips throughout your study period to remain fresh and alert.

17. Study, plan or work with a friend

When we spend some time working with another person it can help to keep us motivated as we bounce ideas of the other person and hear their point of view. Make sure that you factor in some solo work time but collaboration often leads to grand results. Work with someone you trust.

18. Beat your personal best

Did you mange to complete three tasks yesterday? Could you get though four today? Giving yourself motivated goals can be a great way to stay alert and energised to push through a task to its competition.

19. Break tasks up into small chunks

Group similar tasks together and tackle them in chunks. This can mean that you do all of your administration on one day and all your research on another, leaving one day for note-taking and group study or work.

20. Have a great mindset

A positive attitude can go a long way! Tell yourself that you will achieve your goals and focus on the good things you have already done. There have been studies that indicate that pessimists often have a more realistic view of an outcome, but optimists get more done.

21. Find a mentor

A good way to motivate yourself is to connect with someone you admire, or who is doing something that you one day hope to do. Here is an article on how to make connections in both your local area and more broadly online.

And the very last tip? Have fun!

One way to remain motivated is to consistently have fun. Taking things too seriously can be a downer and life is too short to always achieve, achieve, achieve. We all feel lazy and unmotivated sometimes. Often if you are really stuck in a period of feeling unmotivated, you may really need to take a proper break. Don’t feel bad – you are only human!

be nice to yourself

Taking Charge of My Life by Telling Myself a Better “Personal-Story”

I have been having trouble with some negative self talk lately, and it’s getting out of hand. I have discussed this problem on my blog before, but I am finding this a constant struggle. I have recently split with my partner, whom I loved very much, and I am still feeling very emotional and distraught.

Broken heart syndrome

I actually read an article about “broken heart syndrome” where a perfectly healthy 34 year old man had a heart attack after his partner left him. He just passed out at work one day, and doctors discovered that he seemed to have a temporary inflammatory heart disease. This was affecting his heart muscle, and he had a mini-heart attack.

Wait…you can actually DIE from a broken heart?

I am serious. Read it for yourself! I honestly have been wondering if I have this syndrome, but I feel too silly to go to the doctor about it. I think the problem has been that I have been negatively talking to myself about this situation, and making it harder for myself to move on. I have been toiling over the things I did wrong, stewing over some things I think he did wrong, and generally obsessing in a way that has made the last few weeks absolute hell.

Negative talk: I don’t mean to do this. I just can’t seem to stop.

sad finger

I found a great post on one of my favourite blogs Penelope Trunk, where she talks about “Managing your image by telling good stories”. She is talking about this from a work/careers aspect, but it resonated with me – thinking that this technique would certainly work for relationships too. She suggests to talk about yourself how you want yourself to be and to focus on the future, rather than where you have just been.

Penelope says: The stories we tell make an enormous difference in how we cope with change.

I will directly quote from the article here: Creating a story that resonates helps us believe in ourselves. We need a good story to reassure us that our plans make sense — that, in [making our next step], we are not discarding everything we have worked so hard to accomplish. A story gives us motivation to help us endure frustration, suffering and hard work.

Tell people about your new life

So, I have decided to work on my inner story, and to change the dialogue to something more positive. It’s not enough to just speak to yourself, either. Apparently to really make these changes real, you need to envision yourself in a new phase of your life by telling people about it.

I am in a New Phase of My Life

(And so are you!)

Here’s what I used to say, and what I am saying to myself now instead:

The Old Story The New Story
I feel so sad to be   alone I am surrounded by   people who love me
I have been rejected I have freed myself   to walk new paths
I miss this   person I am whole as myself
I am angry about   things that have happened I let go of past   hurt
I am guilty about   the things I did wrong I truly forgive   myself
He left me We mutually decided   to split, because we were both unhappy


Taking charge of my life and my emotions

And you know what? The “New Story” is actually far more accurate anyway! I have been feeling bad because I have been indulging these feelings (whether subconsciously or consciously) and telling myself a negative story. I am now taking charge of my life, not just reacting to what comes along.

Getting to my next point

Because my story is not over, far from it. There will be other lovers and other cuddles, more days and nights, more happy times and sad. I continue to live, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to open my heart just a little bit more.

Photos by by pinprick and swpave : thanks!

Why You Need to Commit to Making Mistakes, Today!

I’m always making mistakes. Messing up and getting things wrong. I can make mistakes all day: on the road, at work, in documents, with punctuation, spelling, in life, when I argue, when I cancel plans with people, when I make insensitive comments.

Mistakes stress me out. I am a natural stress-head and I come from a family of stress junkies. My family will stress over things that need not be stressed about, and if we can’t find anything to stress about, we simply start stressing about anything.

So can stressing out cause you to make more mistakes?

When I am stressed, I often make mistakes, and apparently I am not alone. Heidi Grant Halvorson recently wrote a book called Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. She believes that when the pressure to not make mistakes is removed, we make fewer of them, naturally. She says,’ Anxiety and frustration disrupt the many cognitive processes we rely on for creative and analytical thinking.”

What about perfectionism?

There is a book which gave birth to a now-famous quote: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.”

I think that perfectionism can be a very negative trait, and I see this trait in many high-achievers around me, and it can be damaging. Initially, these people can put so much pressure on themselves, they can actually crash and burn before the task is completed to their satisfaction. It is effectively self-sabotage.

The fear of making mistakes


There is a great post I found about overcoming the fear of making mistakes. Margarita Tartakovsky interviews Martin Antony, co-author of When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough. He says, “The constant pressure to improve performance can have the effect of triggering fears of underperforming and of making mistakes,” Antony said. He added that constant criticism has a similar impact.

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, in fact, this is inevitable. The issue comes when your fear of making mistakes (perfectionism) causses you stress and anxiety. We all experience this to a certain degree, but some people have such a fear of mistakes, and feel such a drive to be perfect, that it ruins their jobs, relationships and ultimately lives.

So how to you learn not to fear making mistakes?

Antony says that you need to give yourself an alternative reality to the voices in your head. (I am totally paraphrasing him here, but if you’d like to read his original post, here it is.) He gives an example of a man who makes a bad joke at a party and worries that all his friends think of him as awkward and boring.

The exercise he is given is to provide himself with an alternate picture of what the reality of the situation is. Maybe he could tell himself that everyone makes bad jokes sometimes, or that maybe his friends like him anyway. Maybe he could remind himself that he does get invited out to functions, so that indicates that his friends find him interesting.

With two options of a reality, he picks this more helpful perspective: “Perhaps I need to give myself permission to make mistakes when I am talking to other people. I don’t judge other people when they say something unusual or awkward. Perhaps they are not judging me when I make mistakes.”

I am too afraid to commit to making mistakes!

So I am not taking my own advice here, but I need to do something to loosen up this fear I have of doing the wrong thing. Purpose Fairy has written a post on this topic and I love this idea: “Believe it or not, if you play it safe you will have more and more regrets about the things you did not do rather than the things you did do, you will regret not making more mistakes.”

I’ll end with a lovely little quote from the Fairy: Mistakes are the stepping stones to happiness.


Being Alpha Without Effort: Your Guide

The term “Alpha” started to appear in the media a few years back to define those people that take control of a room effortlessly; those people who seem to have the command of others’ attention, those people who seem to get the best jobs, the best lovers, the greatest opportunities.

Where does the term come from?

The term probably comes from one of my favourite books, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932). It’s actually a dystopian novel, and it’s quite scary and depressing. In it, humans are grown in test tubes away from their parents and raised in communal groups, according to their social and physical standing. The ‘Alphas’ are the smartest, the wealthiest and the ones who are in power. The ‘Betas’ fall beneath them, and they run the general businesses day to day. The ‘Epsilons’ are the lower class; the people are practically dullards with very little sense of self. They exist only to serve.

These three categories of people are created inorganically. To create Epsilons, the foetuses are denied nutrition in the last stages of development, which impedes their development, making them simple and easily controlled. The ‘Alphas’ are taught from birth that they are the leading class via psychological indoctrination. Words and phrases are pumped out to the groups from birth via sound recordings that lead these classes to behave in the way they have been designed.

It’s a very scary book.

The concept of ‘Alphas’ is an interesting one. Brave New World is not using them term positively, but these days, it is something to aspire to. However, we could all use a dose of self-confidence. If you have not been feeling your best lately, here’s a cheat sheet on how to be more Alpha, the responsible way.

Hold your head up high

Good posture makes you feel powerful, and it gives other people confidence in your abilities. Walking with your head held up high can make you look thinner; it’s better for your back and can even prevent women from being targeted by male predators. Don’t slink around the streets, hold your head up high, and walk tall.

Listen to people

So many of us don’t take the time to really hear people. Being a successful Alpha depends on your ability to connect with others, and to do this, you need to get to know them. Take the time to really tune in to what a person is saying, and don’t merely think about what you’ll say in reply. This is a powerful tool that is a valuable life skill.

Speak slowly

Don’t gush and babble when you do open your mouth. Take your time when you speak and choose your words carefully. Speak in a lower register as it has more power. Make use of pauses. Don’t rush.

Think before you speak

This is a point I need to heed myself. I am always saying silly things. When I take the time to reply concisely and carefully, I find that I reap the rewards. So often I find myself just babbling on to fill an empty space of silence. Embrace silence: it is nothing to fear.

Walk with your shoulders back

Open up your chest and breathe deeply into your diaphragm. Feel the difference within when you hold your shoulders back, as opposed to keeping them hunched or closed.

Tell yourself you love yourself

A great little trick I am trying to instil. I have written a post on this, and I am trying to incorporate daily affirmations into my life. Nothing tricky, just a simple ‘I love you’ to remind me that no one else will be able to love me until I can give that loving energy to myself.

Take pride in your appearance

When we feel more ‘Epsilon’ than ‘Alpha’ one of the first things to go is our appearance. We stop looking after ourselves; we don’t wash our hair or shave. We overeat or drink and smoke. We forget to dress well, to wear makeup, aftershave or sometimes to even brush our teeth. Looking good and talking care of your appearance adds to yourself worth, and changes how others perceive you.

Have terrific manners

I am a huge fan of great manners, and I don’t always practise them. Wait your turn, say please and thank you. Be polite, be considerate. Let others go ahead of you. Don’t interrupt. Bring a gift when you are invited to a person’s house. Make other people more important than you.

Care about people, genuinely

We all do, in our hearts at least. Remember how much you care for others and try to have empathy for those around you. Learn to put yourself in other people’s shoes and treat others with the respect that you would hope for yourself.

Be organised and in control

Alphas have command of their lives. They plan and they achieve. Look at areas of your life that could be organised? How are your finances? Your sock drawer? Your files? Try to improve areas of your life by enhancing your ability to organise. If you know where things are: you will be able to find them. Things need to have a place; personal or professional.

Think of others first

A true Alpha realises that they are not the most important person in the room. A true Alpha seeks to make others more important than themselves. A true Alpha does not need to scream for attention, a true Alpha commands that by his/her grace and presence.


The Power of Saying Yes, and Why I’m a Slow Learner

I have a friend (who I love dearly) who is very contrary. I’ll call her Mary. We have been friends since we were in our teens, and I love and respect my friend. But she drives me crazy because she is always contrary. She always says ‘NO’. She doesn’t realise that she is doing this; she thinks she is saying yes, but being with her can be draining.

Arguing a point just to argue?

I understand this, because I am exactly the same. I often argue a point simply to argue it. I love arguing. There is a difference between arguing and fighting. In ancient Greece, philosophical ideas were argued and new ideas were formulated. This may not have happened if everyone simply agreed with each other.

The Sophists of Ancient Greece

Think of the Sophists, “In the second half of the 5th century BC, particularly at Athens, “sophist” came to denote a class of mostly itinerant intellectuals who taught courses in various subjects, speculated about the nature of language and culture and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others.”

If I said to my friend Mary, “The sky is blue,” she would reply, “No it’s not. Sometimes it’s pink or even orange.” If I tell Mary that I enjoy my new job, she says, “But are they paying you enough?” If I tell Mary that I have tried a new form of meditation, she tells me, “I’ve heard that could be a dangerous or ineffective technique.” She contradicts everything I say, all the time.

But I love her. And I know her well (gosh, it’s nearly 20 years) and I can handle her contrariness because I have come to expect it. We only get to see each other infrequently and when she contradicts me, I shrug it off.

I have realised that I constantly contradict people

But when my partner does it, it drives me crazy! And I do it to him too! I have been writing about how he and I have been going through lots of problems. It’s like we can’t agree on anything anymore. I feel that he is too quick to discount anything I say, and I’m sure he feels the same way.

I have a great friend who always says ‘YES’. He is a lot older than me and very wise. By doing this, he makes people feel important and most importantly HEARD. I realise that when someone contradicts me unnecessarily, it can make me feel UNHEARD.

Say YES and not NO but

yes cats

It’s the old improvisation trick. Don’t say “No, but.” Say “Yes, and.” Tina Fey knows this, and so does every great improviser.

Penelope Trunk talks about being enchanting on her wonderful blog, she mentions that the only thing that is going to get you the job over the other four interview candidates is the fact that the interviewer finds you the most enchanting. People need to want to be able to hang out with you.

The Sophists knew this: “Sophists did, however, have one important thing in common: whatever else they did or did not claim to know, they characteristically had a great understanding of what words would entertain or impress or persuade an audience.”

Penelope rightly talks about making people feel enchanting when you are talking to them. You need to make the person you are talking to feel interesting, HEARD, listened to, appreciated. It’s about them, not about you. Too often I realise I make a conversation all about ME. I’m too keen to tell people what I know. What I’VE done. What I think. This can put people out and it certainly doesn’t make them feel heard and appreciated.

I need to learn how to listen and say YES when I am talking to someone

Penelope talks about this: “The truth is that people don’t care if you are enchanting. They want to feel like they themselves are enchanting. I first learned this reading Roger Ailes’s book You Are The Message. He explains how you are interesting if you make people around you interesting. You are enchanting to people if you help them to be better than they are.”

Blogger Carelton from Boston says: “In other words, Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” Check out his blog PCA2.

That might just have to be my mantra for this week.