how to find motivation

Sometimes wondering where to begin is worse than beginning. It’s like staring at a blank page, but a little bit different. When you look at a blank page you know the next step. Creation must occur to fill that white space with something. But, what about those other situations where you know an action must occur, but are unsure what that action is?

I’ve felt the weight of starting on many occasions. The task makes you so exhausted you want to shrug, look away, and distract yourself, maybe in a bit of t.v., maybe by eating some food, or maybe by just going to bed. But, if the problem is a good one, a challenge worth pursuing, your tension with taking action will return. Good objectives have a way of reminding you that they exist, at least for a bit. If you ignore them long enough, like any one else, they will just disappear from your life and you will never know what you missed out on. 

On the other side, if you confront the hard task of starting you will find yourself facing a unique form of desperation. On the surface, you will be driven to believe that too many possibilities exist, but deep down, on a level that you fear even admitting to yourself, what stops you from acting is the thought that you cannot pull this off. This thought leaves you standing motionless, yearning to act, but bewildered in to paralysis by the self-knowledge that you are not 100% confident you can do this.

Failure to Motivate

We cannot decide how to start because we worry we are not good enough to start. Who am I to dream? Who am I to dare?

Who are you not to?

So many people succumb to the gnawing thoughts of doubt, and listen to the voice inside their head that tells them to “pass on this opportunity.” They cannot motivate themselves to act. That voice, that inner monologue, comes from a place of ancient history where taking chances meant enduring great pain and possible death. While death is often not imminent in most of the things you will take a chance at starting, the feeling of putting everything on the line is no less frightening.

In starting you must confront one very large question – “What if I fail?” You must find the stomach to be okay with failure, as failure is nothing more than an action that did not turn out the way you expected it would. Facing failure, however; takes a heaping amount of courage at the beginning. Our culture does not like failure. We hate it. Just as much as old age, and, when you get right down to it, old age is just another form of failure, of the body as you age.

The thing about failure is that there is failure on a micro level and failure on a macro level. Micro failures happen all the time. Those are the little things – the business you start that doesn’t work out, the relationship that collapses in on itself, the rift you create with a best friend. The macro is the guy living out in the woods searching for big foot. The macro failure is the giving up on life, cashing in your chips, calling your life over and retreating with resignation to whatever mindless pursuit and escape passes the time until you die. You can fail in the micro many times and still succeed in the macro if you understand that small failures don’t make your life a failure. What makes your life a failure is believing that a small failure, the micro, determines your life as being a failure or success.

How to Find Motivation

When you find the courage to start, what you learn is that the beginning of anything outside your comfort zone is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. That is the trouble with starting. After you open that box and dump the 500 pieces on the table, you start by finding all the corner and edge pieces, because those are easy. When you have the outside edge done you work your way inside, putting together the parts that make sense, and as you invest more time and energy in to the thing you start seeing the big picture. Many times you pick up the wrong piece, curse and believe without a doubt that a certain piece goes in a certain spot. But, you are wrong. You make many mistakes. Yet, you still complete the puzzle. What was once 500 individual pieces which you had no clue how to put together is now a completed image. You succeeded because you started with what you knew.

Starting anything new is like that. New represents something outside of your scope of understanding and normal patterns of behavior. You are not going to have all the answers. But, you don’t need them. Focus on what you know. Start there. Expand as you go, and eventually the whole picture will take shape.

Ultimately, those who fail to start just do not have the courage to try. They would rather keep a perfect record in life, devoid of any failure, than take a chance. The trouble with starting is that we never begin. That is the simple truth. So, what will you begin today?

the devil of resistance

There is a devil in our lives. He is smart too. You see, he does not rely on trickery or deception of any sort to derail you. All this devil does is use resistance, your natural desire to not do something that is hard, against you. He harnesses your weakness and sets that weakness in front of you all nice and tempting like. Resistance wants to stop you from doing anything ambitious. If you listen to resistance you are failing. But, overcoming resistance is not easy.

We have the best of intentions, but our plans get laid askew by the worst within us. If there is one thing I have noticed about life it is that you need to work infinitely harder to achieve something than to fail at something. Failing is the natural path, rising is the hard fought way. Further, giving even one concession to resistance means a backward slide that requires twice as long to recover from.

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t want to just stop. Every day I reach some point where I have to either give up or fight on. You think that with time this would become easier, that habits would strengthen my resolve and make overcoming resistance easy. But it never does. Resistance always shows itself in new and creative ways, but your response to resistance defines the sort of person you are.

Our negative responses to resistance manifest in many ways. Do you overload yourself with more work and say you’re “too busy” to continue doing that one thing that’s pressing against you? Maybe you’re “too tired” to talk about your relationship right now, “have a deadline” and can’t work on your own projects, or maybe “now just isn’t the right time.” Resistance feeds off of excuses and justifies failing.

But, I’ve got news for you. Each one of us fails at something every day, as a man, a role model, leader, spouse, or father. Life is not about failing, life is about failing quickly and finding a new way to succeed based off of your prior experiences. We do not need to get things right the first time. We can screw up and do better the next go around. What we can’t do is give up because life got a little hard.

We villainize or glorify failure so much that we look towards it as an obstacle that provides life changing information, or we think failure means we are a failure. This is resistance’s hold on us, and we either don’t act out of fear of failure, making up a bunch of sad excuses why such and such couldn’t be done, or we get so ok with failing because of the valuable life experiences learned that we never really give our all in what we do. We think things are a win win either way.

Overcoming Resistance

As someone who has been on both the winning and losing side of things, I can tell you beyond a doubt that winning is always better. So, how do you win every day? How do you overcome the easy path resistance lays out for you?

Resistance is self doubt, which is why no matter how great your habits and how hard you fight resistance it will always exist. Over time, resistance does fade, but it never disappears. Overcoming resistance is a daily battle.

Accept right now that life is a battle with resistance in many forms, and those that find a way to overcome the self doubt and contrived barriers to success win. So, what are you doing to overcome resistance? For me, I have noticed two things that have led me, when not used, to dark places, and, when used, to my brightest days: gratitude and desire/passion.

When I find ways to practice and explore these things daily I’m always strong enough to defeat any shape that devil of resistance takes. Maybe you have different tools. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Even when things are good, when your life builds momentum, when everything is going your way, don’t stop. I have also found that during these great highs of life, resistance is still in your shadow and waiting to find a chink in your armor. So find what keeps resistance out of your life and practice that daily. Put resistance in the corner, where it belongs, and never doubt that you gave life your all.

form and content

Many of the common place ideas we have accepted our whole lives are becoming irrelevant in the changing world. We are at the tail end of an ideological period, and things that were once relevant like everyone going to college or buying a house no longer represent the best advice.

The smart phone apps which should make our lives easier, more efficient, and better make us more exhausted, scared of showing our true selves, and chronically connected in an unhealthy way instead. Those high paying jobs we were promised after college where we could flex our mind muscle and do good work that made a difference never materialized. We were told to follow our dreams, but no one told us that dreams are irrelevant when you have debt and bills to pay. What matters is making ends meet, and not many are lucky enough to make their passion a sustainable career. Fundamentally, there is a problem with our actions and the result of those actions.

So, what happened? We live in a time where form and content do not work together, but are mismatched. We are sold ideas about what something is going to do for us (the form), but in reality (content) the result is different. Why does the form of our life not match up to the content of our life, and, more important, how do we understand the form of things, their true purpose, and chase actions that make our lives better in a pursuit of some ultimate end?

This problem of a form and content mismatch started a very long time ago and continues still today. Today, form is driven by marketing, because in our over saturated world filled with too many people drowning from too much of everything, we needed a good way to get through to people. When a concept reached critical mass, often propelled forward by marketing, and generated enough hype a product or service made a killing.

The goal became creating a form that would connect with people, instead of a form that would match reality. At one point the form might have matched reality, as in the case of pursuing a higher education. Before the market of post secondary education became saturated, going to college made sense. You really could get paid more than a manual labor job. But, not necessarily anymore. We have become a highly educated work force that works jobs which require us not to think.

Form, though; is a concept, and deeply ingrained societal concepts take a very long time to adjust. Ideas follow their own cycle of birth and death, and an idea rises from infancy, gaining popularity, and reaching critical mass where it peaks and becomes so widespread that a thought to the contrary is taken as hypocrisy. But, the rise comes with a fall, as people begin asking themselves, “is this true?”

An idea that once seemed fundamental to a society begins crumbling, and in the void created new ideas take shape. The crumbling takes a long time. Changing culture takes a long time. As ideas fall, and new ones take their place, the new forms realign more closely with reality, at least for a time. Are you picking up where this is headed? Everything is cyclical, even ideas.

Your best defense against becoming victim to mismatched forms is to question everything. Get comfortable with the fact that the structure of our society is built on ideas, and that ideas shape our actions. No idea is so fundamental that it cannot change. Just look at all of the countries throughout the world that have collapsed, only to be rebuilt on a brand new government or political system. Since we have not endured a massive collapse and restructure the impermanence of ideas is difficult to see. We have not had the grace of longevity and overcoming upheaval to temper our ideas.

We become connected and deeply invested in ideas because of how we were raised. Had the idea of the time been something completely different, you would feel just as passionately about that instead. Hold all with a grain of salt, realizing that the idea will pass and something new will appear, and trust yourself. Even if others think different from you, believe that your own ideas hold merit. Believe that form and content can align.

can or cannot

Do you think you can or cannot do most things? If you often think something is not possible for you, maybe the problem is not that you suck, but that your thinking sucks.

Those that can and those that cannot are separated by very little, but what separates them makes all the difference. Most live with a cannot mentality, ignorant to the unrealized potential within, and okay with floating by. You know these sort of people. You might even be this sort of person.

The cannot person does just enough to get by. No more. No less. Just enough. This person has an opinion on all the problems in the world, but no drive to solve them. The cannot person makes excuses and blames instead of taking responsibility for his/ her own life and finding a way to persevere.

What this means is that, in reality, while the naysayer is dwelling on why he cannot do something the person of action is exploring all the potential ways why he can do something. Can, or cannot. That thinking makes all the difference, and is one of the biggest separators between the winner and the loser.

And I’m not talking about winning in a competition or business. I am talking about winning in life. Those that are happy are winners. Those that live desperate, unhappy lives hoping for some strike of good fortune are losers. The latter type of people accept cannot as the status quo for most parts of their lives.

As master of the thoughts you foster, your ability to accomplish great things lies in whether or not you believe you can or cannot do something. Think you cannot do something and you have already lost. There is no way that you will accomplish whatever task or venture you are embarking upon. But, think that you can, and your mind will open to the possible ways you can succeed.

We make ourselves by how we face the things we can control. Just like you do not want to surround yourself with negative people because they bring you down, your mind does not want to be surrounded by your negative thoughts. Instead, your mind calls it quits instead of listening to all the ways you cannot do something. Your mind agrees you cannot do something and moves on.

Those thoughts of failure you believe in are part of an old way of thinking that you must destroy. From a very young age on you were told to think a certain way, to do certain things, and not do others. All this did was condition your mind to set boundaries for what was and what was not possible. Now is the time to rethink those boundaries, to questions all of the things you cannot do, and see which of those things are just stories about limitations you tell yourself and which ones are really things you can or cannot do.

I am not telling you that the world is yours for the taking, and that you have infinite possibilities, because that would be optimistic ignorance, but I am saying that you are selling yourself short because of your negative thoughts. So many want to improve the circumstances of their lives, but are unwilling to improve their actions to create new circumstances.

Sometimes you need to tell your mind to shut up so you can do the hard work that needs to be done to get you where you want to be. In many instances, can or cannot is just a matter of perspective. Change your perspective, change your life.

Or, maybe I do not know what I am talking about. After all, I’m not an expert on cannot. I removed that word from my vocabulary a long time ago.

In this externally satisfying world we spend much time asking the world how we feel, and never reflect on what is happening inside of us. The amazing thing about life is that as we age our complications grow, but life remains just as uncomplicated and simple as always.

The basic premises of life have not changed. We still want the same things we did when we were kids playing in the sandbox at home, or chasing little Sally around the playground at school. But, humans have a way of screwing everything up by overthinking things. We get in our own way, complicating matters, and when the layers are pulled away what we find is that what drove us forward years ago still drives us forward today. We’ve changed. We have added layers of complexity, and with each passing year we weave more tangled webs.

Dealing with complications is not fun. Our webs grow out of our hurting past, the scars and times we’ve been kicked down. They grow out of our professional and personal failures, our perceptions of who the world thinks we should exist as, and how we failed to meet that standard. Our successes also define our complications. These complications take an otherwise straightforward and simple life objective of finding and being happy and make such a goal nearly impossible. This is of our own doing.

The proof that life does not become more complicated as we age, but humans do, lies in those small moments you find throughout adulthood when you think “this is what life should always be like.” I’m talking about those moments when reality makes sense and aligns with who you want to exist as. These rare moments are quickly overshadowed by other mundane aspects of life that we have classified as “adulting”- tasks that are essential to our longevity as humans, but compete with watching paint dry for an award on sheer tedium.

So, how do we simplify life and get back to that uncomplicated version of ourselves? There is a movement of people trying to find a way to do this. People are leaving their nice city homes and moving to small, remote towns, hideaways deep in the woods, flocking to suburbs to escape city life, or picking up and vanishing to countries outside the US in the hopes that their anonymity among the many can make life simple again.

We hope that by packing up our technological devices and children, converting our stressful jobs in to telecommuting positions, shouldering our struggling relationships and a gnawing feeling of isolation we can walk away from all the baggage that complicates life and simplify things in a new environment. Instead, we bring our web of expectations with us to that simple environment, and what starts out as an opportunity to start over turns in to a slow, tortured downward spiral to the same problems in a brand new environment.

What we need to do is look inside for solutions. The root cause of life’s complications is us. The world has existed in the same way for thousands of years, but the rules and structures we impose upon this place complicate matters. We strung wires across the land, cut roads through the wilderness, built skyscrapers and monuments to our successes and throughout all of this maturation our minds have not matured fast enough to keep pace.

We are cave dwellers living in a sophisticated society, trying to understand why the structures of culture we have created make life more complicated, not more simple. One answer lies in going within, and seeking out that internal simplicity. By focusing on finding and recognizing those things and people we appreciate for how they make us feel and for the value they add to our lives we cut away the things that do not matter.

When this baggage falls away the simplicity of so many things in life reappears. When we are in the thick of our own little worlds seeing this is impossible. In thinking about how to live a good life I recognize that a few things have served me well:

  1. Express Gratitude
  2. Find something you enjoy working hard at, and then work hard.
  3. Don’t care about the opinions of others. You’ll be dead soon and they won’t matter.
  4. Surround yourself with people that make you better
  5. Don’t dwell on failures or limitations
  6. Take the time to reflect.

Maybe I’m oversimplifying life. But, maybe you are over complicating things. Maybe, in an attempt to create an attitude of self importance you are just talking about being “too busy” and not focusing on the things that really matter. So, what are those things for you? And are the things that matter, the only “complications” you’re willing to accept in life?