Last updated on November 26th, 2019 at 12:00 am
You begin each year with the best of intentions. You write down your goals, you vow that this will be the year yet–only to arrive at the other end and ask, “What happened?” All your best-laid goals have stalled. You face the last part of the year wondering what it takes to make your big dream come true.
There is a trigger that is left out of the discussion when people set New Year’s resolutions: motivation. And when I say, “motivation” what I am referring to is the spark that gets you going–the motivation to work goals to completion.
There is a misconception about successful dream achievement that you have to be in the right frame of mind, thinking positive thoughts, and cheerleading yourself into bliss to motivate you into achieving your goals.
Lesson#1: Motivation is not about positive thinking.
Motivation is simply the gasoline to your success engine. It’s not positive or negative. It’s the ability to get out of bed in the morning when you have to go to work. It’s starting your day whether you feel like it or not. It’s showing up whether you are happy, or sad. Sometimes it involves working when you are sick.
Every single day you perform all manner of tasks without thinking about what motivated you to do them. You drive your car across town to buy groceries–not because shopping at the grocery store makes you dance in the middle of the aisle, but because of your need to eat–whether or not your life is terrific, essential or messed-up.
Too often, you believe you have to feel a certain positive vibe to change, or you think “If this thing is right for me I’ll wake up one day and feel like doing it.” I call bullshit (sorry mom).
Lesson#2: Motivation doesn’t work because of feelings. It’s Triggers.
Motivation is a lot more complex, and its basis is rooted in your childhood experiences and how those experiences shape you as an adult. I am not kidding you when I say that dream achievement is about getting to know yourself, learning not being afraid to understand your strengths and embracing your weakness. Who you are at the core of your being is the determining factor in your ability to create real change.
The good news is that you don’t have to see the world as full of rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns to motivate yourself to achieve your goals and resolutions.
The truth is that motivation is formed by our childhood experiences.
If any of the four most influential people in your life while you were growing up used guilt as a successful means of getting you to do something, then most-likely shame is still a motivation trigger for you in your adult life.
The reason you haven’t achieved your big dream thus far is that you probably haven’t modeled your motivation after what triggers you to take action. Triggers aren’t always positive and understanding how you were motivated as a child offers you the key to motivating yourself as an adult.
I am not here to argue whether or not you can change negative motivation triggers through therapy, I am only trying to get you to figure out what your triggers are so that you can successfully create real change in your life.
I have a friend who doesn’t like people to see her house a mess, but she has a hard time motivating herself to do a deep cleaning. Whenever she complains about this, I advise her to throw a big party. The idea of a bunch of people hanging around her house opening cupboards and using her bathrooms ends up being the motivation trigger she needs to get that deep spring cleaning done. Her parents used the shame of how her bedroom looked as a motivation to clean before guests they entertained arrived at her childhood home. They threatened to show everyone her room.
She learned that the fear of what other people think about her, in public, was her biggest motivator. You can think this is wrong, but the most important lesson is to know this type of motivation IS your motivation trigger. Once you recognize it, you can choose to change it.
One of my favorite ways to discover what motivates you comes from Barbara Sher’s book, Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-By Step Lessons. And I’m going to share it with you.
You’ll need some quiet time and a pencil and at least two pieces of paper…
Discover your Motivation Triggers
1. Think back over the years and list your successes–going back as far as you can. Were you the first girl to accomplish hopscotch without error? Did you read earlier than any of your siblings? Did you ride your bike faster than anyone in your neighborhood? Did you always get an A on your English papers?
2. List all of your life’s accomplishments that make you the proudest up until this point in your life.
3. Get out a second sheet of paper and write the following:
|METHOD OF MOTIVATION
Taking a class
Praise from family
Praise from strangers
Being in control
Proving others wrong
Other (list ways that you remember for reasons why you did certain things and accomplished certain goals)
4. Now sit down with this list and go back over your accomplishments growing up and look at what your motivations were. Did your mother threaten you with punishment? Did you have an older sibling who always said you couldn’t do it?
5. Grade the motivations on the left side of the list with A (works), B (worked sometimes), C (Hardly works), D (never works), F (worst motivation on earth) and make notes on your successes using the motivations marked with an A.
6. Carefully consider each one and by the time you are finished, you should have an idea of what your motivation blueprint looks like. Maybe there was a lot of shaming going on in your family growing up, but you’ve completely eliminated shame from your adult life. Now you can’t figure out why you won’t make the one phone call that will change your life. You’d rate Shaming with an “A” to the right because it always seemed to work for you growing up–even if you think you’d hate it now.
Just because you may not like how you were once motivated, or think you have eliminated the type of people who imposed awful motivations on you (like shame) doesn’t mean that their influence or the memory of it still isn’t a strong motivational trigger for you. The grades are about whether that motivation worked for you, or not–not if you liked it or not.
If shaming turns out to be a big motivation trigger for you because you accomplished a lot during those years, keep in mind that shaming was the motivation for completing specific tasks, then think about a way to create shame as an adult around the big goal you keep putting off.
It’s the perfect way to test if it is still a motivation trigger for you.
Maybe you tell someone you admire to call you on a certain date and ask you if you achieved your big goal. If you will be ashamed to let this person down, then it’s the perfect test for your motivation trigger around shame.
Maybe the problem with your goals in the past are not the tasks themselves, but the fact that you didn’t understand how to motivate yourself. Motivation is not about lovey-dovey thoughts and soft teddy bears; it’s about the real emotions that drive you to take action. Your triggers won’t make sense to anyone but you.
If affirmations never motivated you as a child, how can you expect them to motivate you now? You’d have better luck working with what your motivation trigger is and create a system around the trigger and forget about writing, “You will do XYZ today” on your bathroom mirror.
Recently, I started working out again, and I’ve become like a woman obsessed. Being that I study dream success on a weekly basis, I had to look at why I waited so many years to go back to working out and what’s causing me to arrange everything to accomplish it.
My son, Brian is now in college. Just after he was born until he entered first grade, I participated in an exercise boot-camp (butt-kicking) class every single day. I worked out just about every day for five years.
Then I stopped working out did nothing for my body.
What happened? Well, travel for work interfered with regular work-outs, and I needed to help my son with homework. Plus there was the fact that the classes were a half-hour drive south. Suddenly, that hour a day spent driving seemed impossible. So I let this part of me go.
That is until my son started to work at a gym where I was able to join for free. I decided to try the Zumba fitness classes since I love to dance. The next thing I knew I was taking all the Zumba classes and any Yoga classes I could fit into my schedule. I’ve started working out every day again — even if it requires that I get out of bed two hours early.
What is my motivation trigger to work out again?
All of my past exercise achievements were the result of attending group classes. I was a ballet dancer from the time I was a little girl until I was 18 (attending classes four times a week and more). I was an ice skater from the time I was 8 until I was 21 (attending classes once a week with skating all weekend). I danced through aerobics classes while in college. I ran track with a group of students I liked hanging with who loved running (and I hate running).
It dawned on me that “exercising in a class with a group of people” is one of my motivation triggers. That’s why it’s easy for me to now workout and why working out at home never worked.
Use the GRADE/COMMENTS side of your paper to make notes about the motivations you rate an A, then try and use them with your bucket list. For example, if I wanted to change my diet then I should try to find a class that helps people change their diet. Being part of a class ups my chances for real success.
Try this secret motivation trigger for making your big dream a reality and let me know your results. If you are a dreamer in search of your true calling, I highly recommend any of Barabara Sher’s books. She’s the queen of dreaming big, motivation and how to change your life.
Catherine Hughes is the editor and founder of 8WomenDream. She’s also a magazine columnist, content creator, blogger, published author, and former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine collaborates with companies to craft engaging web content and social media narratives. Her work, highlighting stories of the resilience and success of Northern California residents, appears in several print magazines. Outside of work, she treasures motherhood, her close friendships, rugby, and animals.
Note: Articles by Catherine may contain affiliate links and may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link.