So far this series has focused on the what and how of autonomy—the sense of choice we have when pursuing an important goal! When autonomy is present we can say, “This goal is mine! I chose it! No one else is making me do this!” We are also able to switch gears, change course, and redirect to what feels more attuned and aligned with what's authentic within us!
If you missed the previous installment, we discussed what to do when things get hard! And isn't this when we really need a plan the most? When it's the most important time to be able to access our important resources? Check it out here.
As we wrap up, I will share four more practices that you can add to your toolbox. Put together, these practices will help you maintain your mojo, no matter what. Keep in mind that this does not mean you won't be challenged or that your goal pursuit won't feel difficult at times. But what these practices lay the groundwork for feeling that you're making headway, that you're taking responsibility for your own wellbeing, and that you're moving toward what is sustainable and expansive vs contracted and diminishing of your character and values despite the challenges!
What do Motivation Masters Do?
Let’s review the first two practices that motivation masters implement regularly and then dive into the final four that can catapult your persistence:
Defining your identities: When pursuing a goal, motivation masters shift their perspective from short-term gains to long-term aims and meaning. They reflect upon how they have changed over time, and they take stock of how they can continue their growth and self-development. They recognize that who they have been may need to evolve, grow, and unlearn some things in order to step into new ways of being.
Internalizing motivation: This practice facilitates persistence and goal congruent action for reasons related primarily to health and areas of personal importance (i.e., children, well-being, meaning, purpose). The individuals I’ve worked with who are internalizing motivation demonstrate thoughts and behaviors connected to their values, especially when perceived threats or challenges are encountered. Temptations, cravings, uncomfortable emotions, or unpleasant social situations that prompt compensatory behaviors like binge/emotional eating, overwork, drinking, smoking, shopping, or porn, for example, may be perceived as threatening to a goal. Internalizing a goal empowers us to choose long-term satisfaction over impulsive, easy, or immediately pleasurable behaviors. The next four practices you can immediately put into place to create a solid foundation for motivational momentum. They are called anticipating success, searching for choices, standing your ground and differentiating.
Anticipating success: I know many individuals who say they want something badly but their language about it is negative and focused on everything that could go wrong. This is not the energy we want to align with to move forward and pursue what's important, nor is it optimal if we hope to enjoy the pursuit along the way. Many of us also frame the goal in terms of what we don't want vs what we are aiming for. It sounds, and more importantly, feels, very different to say, "I don't want to be depressed anymore" vs "I will learn shift my mindset toward gratitude, resilience, and curiosity!" The latter also helps us to outline objectives that are measurable and targeted. We also need to practice making explicit statements of hope for future changes that can result from repeated and consistent efforts. We need to choose strong mantras to embolden the process. I have one client who repeats her favorite motivational mantra, “Listen deeply!” For me, a question that evokes significant curiosity and openness is "What are you being invited into here, Kori?" As Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life says, “There’s nothing as unstoppable as a freight train full of f***-yeah.” **An important aside here is how I asked the question to myself. It's phrased in the third person, like a coach was standing close by, guiding and advocating for me! It's called distanced self-talk, and research has shown this strategy to be highly effective for regulating emotion.
Searching for choices: When we search for choices, we engage in a dualistic discovery process in which we ask ourselves questions about what’s happening internally and externally. When we search for choices, we explore how our perceptions might be skewing our ability to move forward. Maybe our thinking is limited instead of expansive. Maybe we're looking at the situation with a bias or belief that has no grounding in the present reality! On the flip side, we can also ask questions about our external environment. For example, many individuals targeting changes to their nutrition go into social eating experiences with a view of “there isn’t going to be anything I can eat. It’s not prepared by me so it’s not going to fit into my plan” rather than perceiving the situation as a super opportunity for learning and asking, “Hmm…what might I eat and how might I modify in order to craft this into the best possible meal?” Those who search for choices also solicit the support of others to question their personal judgments and decisions. In turn, they pursue certain actions to secure increased knowledge and application opportunities. They look ahead and play it forward. With any big goal I’ve pursued, especially during difficult times, I would ask myself, “How do I want to feel at the end of this day?” I want to hit the pillow proud, encouraged, and excited! That doesn't mean everything has to go perfectly-- that's a losing battle! But it means I can say that I did my best, under the circumstances, with the skills, knowledge, and resources I had! Joshua J. Marine said, “Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” Expand into your choices to extract your meaning.
Standing your ground: This practice is demonstrated by staunch beliefs in action. Note, I did not say ignorance, perfection, or rigidity! Standing your ground means acting with moxy, with determination, and with self-belief! In so doing, you reinforce your confidence in your ability to persist, to figure things out, and to pivot when necessary. And...guess what this means for motivation! Research shows that these behaviors support an internally perceived locus of causality—a guiding belief that the actions originate from you as opposed to directives from others. When we stand our ground, we also increase our problem-solving and exploratory approaches toward goals. That means we reinforce the other practice of searching for choices vs viewing things to be catastrophic and framing the situation from a place of stuckness.
Differentiating: This practice is a process of questioning and reflecting upon the goals as the pursuit progresses. For example, many of us may initially choose a health goal based on comparison (i.e., magazine covers and women in fitness). Differentiating occurred with one woman I interviewed when she reassessed how much emphasis she wanted to put on these external influences as she thought about instilling positive body image and confidence in her daughter.
Time to Take Action!
Let's summarize what autonomy in action looks like! Which are you interested in committing to? In a recent coaching session, my client and I were discussing the importance of having a life philosophy that includes principles of practice. Why? Because the principles become our compass, our North Star, our foundation. They are the pillars of our character so when the inevitable challenges, pain, difficulties, and adversities of life occur, we have a home base. These are the fundamentals. My fundamentals are the ways in which I am committed to practicing being in every moment of my life, to the best of my ability. They include curious, compassionate, forgiving, understanding, open-hearted, discerning, & disciplined. How about you? Do you see how the actions below can support the ways in which you want to operate in the world? How they can support perpetual motivation?
Deliberately negotiating conflicting beliefs to move closer to success
Developing inner determination mantras and a positive mental attitude
Weighing the external and internal motivations for your goal pursuit
Actively generating alternatives and looking at the opportunities in each situation
Demonstrating authenticity and honesty with yourself, which will promote reckoning and wrestling with some tough questions that will serve your growth
Being curious about the consequences of your actions (for yourself and others)
Which of the above feel particularly relevant to you? Do you need support with activating and implementing them in your life? If so, you know where to find me!
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear from you!
Also, if there is a particular topic you are interested in learning more about, please share it with me. I'd love to explore what feels most meaningful to you!