Thousands of people search online for the term ‘How to stay motivated‘ every day.
Staying motivated in challenging times is an absolutely crucial factor to success in anything. You see, it’s easy to close your eyes and imagine the person you want to become, it’s easy to daydream about how your life could be some day, and it’s even easy to write down goals and get started on them.
What separates those who succeed from those who lose, however, is the ability to persist during the tough times. Learning how to stay motivated will help you persist when everybody else has given up.
This is common wisdom, but it doesn’t tell us how to stay motivated, does it? That’s where sites like this come in.
Let’s take a look at how we can stay motivated during life’s challenges. First, let me tell you about what it’s like to be in at the deep end, then we’ll get to how to stay motivated 101.
The Biggest Period of Challenge & Change of my Life
I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew, and it’s been this way all my life. I get inspired and I’m also extremely demanding of myself, so I tend to start multiple new endeavours at the same time, rather than focusing on one.
There are pros and cons to this, but ultimately I’d say it’s a bad habit and one I’m actively trying to reduce. As I become more aware of it and what makes me do it, I’ll phase it out of my life and begin to focus on 1 or 2 goals instead.
Yet what happens in the future doesn’t help today. Right now I am in the midst of the greatest period of personal growth I have ever undergone. I am in the fast lane on multiple life-changing projects, and I chose them all at the same time.
I am simultaneously running 5 websites, studying for a degree in environmental law, running a small business that has just had a major breakthrough, and moving myself, my wife and my son back to Europe after almost 10 years in Asia.
The past year has been insane. Regular readers will probably realize I’ve updated a lot less frequently than I did the previous year, and this is essentially why. I am at my absolute limit, but I have not broken yet, and today I decided to take myself one step further by sitting my final exams 6 months early.
Why would I do such a thing? For the hell of it, and because I love to push myself to my absolute limits and find that what I believed I was capable of is actually far short of what I’m actually capable of. I believe that’s the case for most people, and the only way to realize it is to actually throw yourself into the deep end of the pool of life and put yourself in a sink or swim situation.
This year my life will have changed more than in any year I can remember – mostly in positive ways which I’m glad of. It’s changing for the better because I have taken action to make it so.
But how to stay motivated when the workload seems almost unbearable at times? That’s what I’m going to share next.
How to Stay Motivated When Times Get Tough
1. Prioritize & Simplify
When you first realize you’re in deeper than you’re comfortable with and life is beginning to grind you down, it’s important to step back and take stock.
Which of these projects is most important to you? To understand this you’re probably going to have to understand why you are doing these things in the first place. That may require some meditation and introspection.
Once you list all the projects you are currently engaged in, try to put them in order of importance. You can use your gut feeling or a logical analysis to decide this – whatever works best for you.
Once you have ordered your projects, start to trim away. What projects can you drop, at least temporarily, or put on the back burner, in order to ease things up for a while? What projects are sapping most of your time and resources for the least return? Which could you live without and abandon, if there are time limits which don’t allow you to put them on the back burner for a while.
Trim at your list like you would a bonsai tree, for your life is, in fact, just like a bonsai. The art of living is not so different than the art of Bonsai, and both will teach you one way or another to trim back and minimize for the best results.
You can still test yourself to your absolute limits, and I recommend doing so, but you have to draw a line and realize when you’re OVER those limits and adjust accordingly.
Prioritize and simplify – even dropping one thing can make the load feel x1000 lighter.
2. Get Perspective
Getting perspective on life is one of the best things you can do for yourself when facing huge challenges.
When viewed up close, some challenges seem like insurmountable mountain peaks. They look enormous and intimidating, and your pile of projects might look the same when viewed in the perspective of the moment.
Yet humans don’t have to zoom in and focus on what’s in front of us now. We have the amazing ability to zoom out – waaayyyyy out – and view things from a much longer perspective – months, years or even decades for most purposes.
Does the 3 years it will take to turn a profit from blogging matter when you view it in an 80 year perspective? Does the stress of the university degree you’re struggling through in the evenings matter in the course of the 3 or 4 decades that will follow?
This is how you’ve got to view things when you’re stressed out about projects, which saps and kills the motivation to complete them. Learning how to stay motivated when life is dealing you cards faster than you can handle them is key to your success.
Looking at the bigger picture can be deeply motivating, first, because it makes the problems we’re facing seem smaller and so we feel energized to take them on, and second because viewing things this way can let us see how the small efforts we make today could lead to huge positive results down the line.
Perspective is paramount for maintaining motivation. Take regular time outs to regain it when you lose it.
3. Harness Fear
Everyone talks about fear these days like its a bad thing, but the truth is fear is a powerful gift.
Without fear we’d be dead, and without it we wouldn’t be able to feel motivation like we can in some situations. When nothing else is making you tick, it’s always possible to dig down deep and scare the living shit out of yourself, forcing yourself forward towards your goals.
Every time I look into my son’s eyes, I feel joy, but I feel fear (parents will understand this). This motivates me to be a better version of myself as I realize I am a living, breathing guide to another human life. I can only show him by action what’s right in this world, and I can only show him by action by becoming it.
I also often find existential fears motivating. Since I’m not religious and don’t believe anything is looking out for me ‘out there’, I reflect on this and I’m motivated to work harder. Since I’m here all alone and nobody can really help me but myself, this positive fear motivates me and pushes me forward to become more, be more and do more.
Fear isn’t always negative. It can be a powerful motivator in the midst of tough times. Learn how to use it and you can tap into endless mental fuel.
4. Get Inspired
The only thing greater than fear is inspiration, in my opinion. When asking yourself how to stay motivated, inspiration is the secret weapon.
People get inspired in many different ways, but mostly inspiration is tapped into either by reflecting on some sort of mentor or guide you look up to, or by thinking about the end goal you want to achieve.
Every time I feel like quitting when I’m neck deep in environmental policy and law which is dense and often incomprehensible, and I want to quit, I think about the day I will graduate, and how something that’s always caused me regret will be put to rest forever. I think about how I’ll feel when that day comes and I can finally let go of the internal conflict that I hold within for never finishing college. When that day comes, it will be a relief, and I can get a little taste of it today to spur me on when I close my eyes and imagine it.
In my own example, I don’t even plan to work in the field I am studying for. I simply want to achieve a college education at a later stage in life because it will make me grow as a person and open doors to knowledge and skills I never knew existed before.
Holding this higher image of myself in my mind helps me stay motivated in the hard times. To me, a higher image of myself, one that inspires me, can spur me on in ways money, sex or any other motivator never could.
I honestly believe that if all teachers understood this, our entire system would change overnight as kids would be inspired to become the best versions of themselves.
5. Remember Why
Victor Frankl wrote in his renowned book Man’s Search for Meaning “A man can endure any how if he has the right why”. Those words send shivers down my spine when I read them, because they are some of the most profound truth ever to leave a human mouth.
Understanding why, and holding a powerful reason to begin with, are the greatest motivators of all. Ask anyone who fails at anything and you’ll find that they didn’t really know why they wanted to do it in the first place, or couldn’t see how it tied in with their goals and dreams.
Remembering why is powerful. I do 99% of what I do for my family – that’s my why. I reflect that I have taken all of this upon myself to give my wife and son a better life. My other reason is to feel better about myself, but my real ‘why’ lies in ‘family’.
Find your why and write it down. Remember it. Discover it again if you have to and recommit to it. Why is this reason so important to you? Remember and never let it go.
Use these things and you’ll have unlimited motivation in life. I use all of them to keep pushing myself to new heights, and I’m determined to be the absolute best that I can be, even if it kills me in the process!
Do you feel the same passion? Do you feel the same drive? If it’s waning and fading within you, use the above techniques to tap back into a motivated mindset.
No matter how tough life gets, you’ve got it. You literally can’t fail until you give up! Now you know how to stay motivated – permanently!
Desire. Decide. Persist.