Why Getting Motivated Is Hard (And How To Do It Anyway)
Why do we struggle so much to just get started on our work?
Sometimes, it can feel painfully hard.
All you feel like doing is watching another episode of that amazing series on Amazon Prime.
And yet – you KNOW that you SHOULD be working on your business.
You’ve set a goal for yourself that really matters to you. That you truly care about.
And yet… For some reason, the inspiration and drive to take action can just vanish.
Am I right?
Have you also noticed that when you first set a goal, you feel exhilarated, energised and mega motivated?
For example, you decide you’re going to build a six figure business. And you get excited. You might even make up an action plan for the next 8 weeks.
Suddenly you’re swept away with all the amazingness that this goal would bring. You think about how your life is going to change. How it’s going to feel making all of those sales.
You can see your bank account grow in your mind’s eye. It all looks and feels and sounds incredible. You see yourself treating your husband to an amazing holiday. You’re elated. You’re psyched. You can’t wait.
You’re eager to get started.
And the day you set that goal, you might even get LOADS of work done.
You crush your tasks and move forward. You’re making strides towards your goal. It’s only day one, but you feel jazzed.
A day later or a week later, that drive disappears… where did it go?
It’s a Tuesday. It’s 2.36pm. And you feel lazy. You don’t really know what to focus on. You don’t feel like working on your marketing. You don’t really feel like making any sales calls or sales offers.
The idea of writing an email to your list just feels boring and meh and is anyone even reading these emails you’re sending?
And you just can’t seem to find the juice you had just a little while ago when you set the goal.
Why is that?
Well, we can explain it by thinking about the concept of our two selves. Let me explain. You have your present self and your future self.
That day you set your goal to make 6 figures, you were thinking about your future self. Imagining the pride, gratitude, and happiness you’d feel in the future.
However, your future self is NOT the one who has to do all the work. And take all the action. And experience writer’s block. No.
It’s your present self who has to take all that action, grind it out, hustle, and put in the effort. The blood, sweat and tears? That has to come from your present self…
And guess what?
Your present self is more interested in instant rewards. Feeling good NOW.
Your present self is more preoccupied with what’s happening right here, right now, in the present moment.
Your present self wants to experience pleasure today. Not some time out in the future in 2 years time!?!
So for a lot of us, the choice between making 10 sales calls right now and watching an hour of our favourite binge-worthy series on Netflix… well the answer’s pretty obvious.
Which one is going to give us more FUN and PLEASURE now? The series!
Your present self knows she’s going to get more joy out of a Netflix episode then potentially getting rejected on yet another cold call.
James Clear describes this beautifully in his blog:
“When you set goals for yourself — like losing weight or writing a book or learning a language — you are actually making plans for your Future Self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future.
Researchers have found that when you think about your Future Self, it is quite easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits. The Future Self values long-term rewards.
However, while the Future Self can set goals, only the Present Self can take action. When the time comes to make a decision, you are no longer making a choice for your Future Self. Now you are in the present moment, and your brain is thinking about the Present Self.
Researchers have discovered that the Present Self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff.”
Sure, we want to hit that 6 figure goal and be able to have that financial freedom in our business…but that could be two or even three years away.
That can feel really long and so far off. And a part of you might not even believe 100% that you can achieve the goal.
Why put in all this effort into sales calls, emails, ads and organic marketing today… when you don’t even know when you’ll achieve your financial goal?
It’s logical for our present self to experience resistance.
Our present self wants instant gratification.
Updating your website or working on a sales funnel is unlikely to give you that dopamine hit that you crave.
Even if you know it can give you rewards down the road.
James Clear gives this powerful example to explain why it’s so tough for us to feel motivated to take action now for a long-term future goal:
“many young people know that saving for retirement in their 20s and 30s is crucial, but the benefit of doing so is decades off.
It is far easier for the Present Self to see the value in buying a new pair of shoes than in socking away $100 for 70-year-old you.”
So what do we do?
Well, personally, being aware of my two selves helped immensly.
When I first learned about this concept of present self and future self, I realised why some days I really didn’t feel motivated to take action in my business.
Suddenly, it made sense that I could feel a huge level of drive on the day I set my goal (because I’m thinking about my future self).
And then feel a total lack of motivation the next day when I actually have to get to work (present self).
Just knowing and understanding that helped me push myself. It also meant I was more compassionate with myself.
My present self craved instant gratification – I mean, who doesn’t?! Just knowing that helped me move past the resistance and get started on my next task.
So what else can you do with this motivation dilemna?
Well, you can make it easier for yourself. You can reduce the amount of friction between you and your work.
How? Make it very very very small.
Better yet, make it tiny. I learned this from BJ Fogg, researcher in behavior design at Stanford. He even wrote a book called “Tiny Habits”.
Basically, the aim is to make your task small. As small as possible.
Let’s say you want a write a new sales email to your list of prospects.
But you’re really lacking the inspiration and desire to get writing. Your present self is screaming on the inside because it sounds so tedious. All it wants to do is scroll on Instagram and watch more video reels.
That’s why you have to make it easier for your present self.
Reduce the task to the ridiculous. For example, tell your present self that all you need to do is to write the subject line. Nothing else.
This may sound silly. But I’ve tried it! It works.
Suddenly, you’ll feel this huge sense of relief.
The tast now feels SO easy and doable. It’s only going to take you a second.
You open your email software, login, create a new campaign, and write out a witty subject line.
That felt so easy. Wow I’ve started.
You’ve reduced the friction between you and the task. You’ve convinced your present self to get started.
But that’s not all. How many times have you just kept going? Because that’s the thing. When you get started…you tend to want to keep going. Suddenly it doesn’t feel as hard.
And you may start feeling a bit of creativity and new inspiration pop up out of the blue.
It’s like a snowball on a hill. Just getting that snowball to start rolling is the hardest part.
However, once that ball is rolling down the hill? It’s SO much easier.
I’ve found this to be the case for everything, not just in business.
For example, I might wake up and not feel like working out. So I just tell myself, just put on a strength workout video on YouTube that you like.
You don’t have to do much Olivia. Just do 2 minutes. It’ll be good anyway after 8 hours of sleep. A tiny bit of mobility, get the blood flowing, stretch a bit. Just 2 minutes – that’s all.
Guess what? It always works. I always end up doing the entire workout!
And I usually really enjoy it.
What I don’t enjoy is getting started.
Honestly. Why is it SO rough to begin something?
Starting is honestly one of the hardest parts. It takes SO much willpower.
And effort. And activation energy.
Whereas once you’re started? It’s usually a piece of cake. You’re in flow. You’re moving. You naturally end up building momentum.
So the key is to start. And one of the ways to start? Is to make the tasy tiny. Tell yourself that you only have to do 1 or 2 minutes of it.
And look, if that’s all you end up doing that afternoon? That’s STILL better than doing nothing at all!
What I’ve found though – and what I think you’ll find too – is that you usually end up doing way more than just a minute!
Starting is the toughest part. Once you get past that hurdle, things get a lot smoother.
I’d recommend reading this article I wrote 1 Simple Tip To Stay Consistent In Your Business as it goes in more depth on BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits! It’ll really help you become more consistent in your business.
I really hope this concept of your Present Self and Future Self has helped you understand why it can be so darn hard sometimes to just get things done!
You’re not alone. And you’re not a terrible lazy human being. You’re like everyone else. Instant gratification feels SO much more appealing than the long term benefits.
That being said – you now have a little technique you can use to persuade your Present Self… give it a go right now!
Let me know in the comments if this makes sense to you and what your thoughts are on this. Would love to hear!
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