Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How To Get Motivated - A Case Study

This is my year long case study about learning how to get motivated. Over the years, I've studied a lot of motivational material. The problem is that most of the stuff, while it's inspirational, doesn't really tell you what specific steps you need to do on a daily basis to continually motivate yourself. Once the inspiration fades, so does the motivation. If you want long lasting motivation that will truly help, this post is dedicated to giving you an inside look into specifically how you can achieve it.

Why This Case Study About How To Get Motivated Will Help You More Than Nearly All The Other Motivational Material Out There

Because this is a case study, I'll be sharing my own personal journey with you through my emails, my blog posts, my podcasts and my iTunes series. For most people, most motivation happens in the form of speeches they hear. These speeches might last anywhere between 15 to 90 minutes.

Mostly, they are a collection of stories to get you to decide to take action. The person giving the speech - I'll call them the motivator - are often successful only at inspiring. The success they've achieved is through speaking and not through giving people specific instructions to follow every day.

In fact, if you want an example of one of the leaders in motivation that illustrates what I am talking about, here's a TED Talk that talks about how to get motivated, but not really. It's called the "Puzzle of Motivation" but when he gets done, it's still a puzzle. If you watch the speech, at the end of it, ask yourself one question. How do I get motivated? You won't have a clue at the end of it. It's basically a story with no actionable content. The only thing I really learned was the answer to the candle problem which doesn't affect my motivation at all. It's more about problem solving. So anyway, I posted the video here so you can see it.

If you choose to follow along and take advantage of all the tools I provide, you will find an actionable system that you can duplicate for yourself. That system will bridge the gap between inspiration and achievement for you personally.

But only if, you take action.

Make The Decision To Take Action

At the heart of getting better individually is the desire to do it. If you don't care to improve, you won't. A desire to get better and also taking action to do so is motivation at work. And motivation, or the lack thereof, is probably the single most important factor in determining how successful you are. If you can tap into your inner self and get motivated to take action, you are more likely to have the life you want. If you can't, you are probably wondering what it takes to get motivated and how to get yourself to do the things you know you need to do to get the things you want out of life.

That's why I put this as the foundation of the Black Belt Project and place every student of their life here first at the white belt level to tackle motivation. Because many people lack motivation and don't know how to generate it, they remain stuck and unable to get things in motion. Personally, I find myself in that boat on occasions, including now as I write this.

It's an ideal time then for me to walk you through exactly the steps you need to take to create motivation that sticks and that you can use whenever you find yourself where you can't seem to muster action towards what you want.

Lack of motivation has many causes and I could spend all day reviewing the roots of mine or your lack of it as well. But that's not really a productive exercise and the solution is the same - a step by step plan to move you out of it.

If You Want To Get Motivated, You Must Build Mental Strength

I look at how to get motivated just like working out. And when you aren't motivated it just means you are out of shape. It's time to go to the gym but a different kind of gym to begin an exercise program. But instead of building physical strength, you and I will be working on our mental strength.

However, just like you wouldn't go to the gym and try and lift three hundred pounds the first day, you won't try and take massive action right away either. The reason is because either you won't have the strength to do it or the endurance to keep it going.

So when we start building mental strength, we are going to start small with light weights and those weights are going to be tasks that you do on a daily basis. We are going to start small by doing a few tasks and as we gain strength, we will add slightly more tasks to slowly increase our strength. The stronger we get the more tasks we will be able to do and we will always want to be adding tasks to get progressively stronger.

The Seven Steps To Building Mental Strength

To get started I'm going to break down the process of how build mental strength and then explain how it works. These are the steps to getting motivated through improving mental strength:

  1. Start thinking about what you would like an ideal day to look like in your life

  2. Put the steps required to do that day in the form of a checklist

  3. Start by committing to do the first item on that list each day

  4. Set your mental strength bar at that level

  5. Raise the bar by adding additional tasks as you gain strength

  6. Break down tasks into the smallest possible steps so they are easier to complete

  7. Keep raising the bar

Step 1. Start Visualizing What You Would Like The Perfect Day To Look Like In Your Life

The first step in this process is to sit down and start thinking about if you were motivated, what an ideal day might look like. It's easy to visualize what action would look like. Picture yourself being productive and get a good snapshot of what that day might look like. Don't worry if at first you can't create a complete image. If it's only getting out of bed so be it. But the point is that you have to start with an end in mind EVEN IF you don't know what that end clearly looks like yet. Clarity will come once your mind starts getting conditioned through action.

It's important to start at the beginning of the day from the moment you get up. While you can certainly start with any part of your day, I've found the most success starting with the beginning because the beginning is always the best starting point.

The first thing I would put on the list? Getting up! Here's how to start learning how to visualize the perfect day.

Step 2. Put The Steps Required To Do That Day In The Form Of A Checklist

Break down the day you pictured into a series of steps. Put it into a checklist. The checklist is the key tool necessary to generate motivation PLUS it's going to be the cornerstone of mastering our lives. We are going to use it for a few purposes.

  • To gauge mental strength. We'll know exactly how many tasks we can do in a certain day comfortably and figure out just how mentally strong we are.

  • To get the steps required out of our head to get rid of that mental overhead.

  • To figure out how to better structure our steps to get them completed in the fastest way possible.

  • To know what done looks like.

You'll be amazed at the power of this checklist once it starts taking shape and later will see why it will be the primary tool you'll use to improve your life.

Step 3. Commit To Doing The First Item On The List Each Day - And Then Do It Every Day

Once you have started your checklist, it's time to commit to doing the first item on that list each day. This first task on the list is the first weight you'll lift each and every day to build mental strength.

What I want you to think of is that this task is like a 5 pound weight. Start by lifting five pounds each and every day. If you can lift more - do more tasks - that's fine, but you have to do at least the first task each and every day without fail. If you do that and only that, then the day was a success.

Step 4. Set Your Mental Strength Bar At That Level

The idea here is that once you have completed your tasks that you are mentally strong enough to do each day, then you can see exactly how strong you are. Let me give you a  visual to illustrate what I mean. Here's a simple list of a few items that might start out my day.

  • Get up

  • Go to the bathroom

  • Drink a glass of water

  • ---- Mental strength bar -----

  • Go for a walk

So here's a sample of the beginning of my day. I've envisioned what I want it to look like or at least to start out like, put it in a checklist and committed to doing the first three items on the list AND am able to complete them. But when it comes to going for a walk, let's say that I haven't built the mental strength to do that each day. I can tell at a glance exactly how mentally strong I am and also see what it's going to take to get stronger to get my day where I want it. I've got to go for a walk.

Step 5. Raise Your Mental Strength Bar By Adding Additional Tasks As You Gain Strength

Once you know where the mental strength is, your mission is clear - you must raise the bar and be strong enough to complete the tasks above it. As you gain strength, you'll find it easier to raise the bar. But you don't want to go to fast. You don't want to add to many tasks - or too many "weights" - and exhaust your strength. Remember, place your mental strength bar where you know without a doubt your strength is for certain. You can always do more tasks but regardless the day is a success as long as you do those items under the bar without fail. Doing more is fine. Just make sure you do at least the tasks above your mental strength bar and if you do, congratulate yourself.

I suggest that each week, you raise the bar at least one task always remembering that you can do more than the minimum but must always get to the mental strength bar you set.

Step 6. Break Down Tasks Into The Smallest Possible Steps To Make Them Easier To Complete

You will run into situations where the next task on your list seems to heavy and mentally you won't be able to find the strength to them right away. A good example above is the task just below my mental strength bar - go for a walk. I might envision that I want to walk for 45 minutes but given a choice between moving my body to the gym and laying back down, I might choose laying back down. It makes sense then to break "go for a walk" into the next smallest steps similar to this:

  • Put on work out clothes

  • Put on shoes

  • ---- Mental Strength Bar ----

  • Get keys to the car

  • Drive to the gym

  • Get on treadmill

  • Start treadmill

While at first, it might seem daunting to walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes, it seems a lot easier to put on my shorts, t-shirt and shoes. And if all that I can do is get that far, even if don't walk, as long as I complete it up to that point, the day is a success.

Once I get to drive to the gym, I'm probably going to look at the door and do the obvious walk in of course. You can guess then I might not have the strength to walk for 45 minutes. The answer, walk for 5.

Key concept: Whenever possible, break down every task into as small as step as you can. They are easier to complete and when you look at your checklist, the next task won't seem so hard you can't do it.

Step 7. Keep Raising The Bar

At this point, once you have the structure, you just have to keep adding tasks to your checklist moving the bar further down your list to build mental strength. The key is what's called progressive resistance. Small additions make you progressively stronger as you move the bar down the list.

As you continue this process, a strange thing will happen. Your mind will start to think about what else you need to add to your list and not only that, you'll start to think of ways to improve your list and reorder it into a more optimal sequence.

Before you know it, motivation kicks in and you are doing more than you thought you could do.

The key?

Just keep raising the bar.

What Next?

This is an active case study so this page will evolve and change during the case study. Your first step is to start raising the bar and put your email in the box below and click the red button to get started. I'll begin showing you how I build mental strength and with it, how I get motivated to achieve what I want.

The box is below.

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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength