8 Top Ways To Motivate Yourself To Take Action On Your Dream

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Carrot Hanging from a Piece of Leather by Doug MazellMotivation is the life-force that makes it possible for you to achieve your big dreams.

But what is motivation exactly?

Motivation is what causes you to take action, otherwise your dreams remain just that–dreams.

Where people get stuck with motivation is that they often believe motivation must be positive in order to take action.

I don’t believe this to be true.

What’s most important about motivation is finding what “triggers” motivate you and these “triggers” are not always warm and fuzzy.

If you think about the addictive personality, it is often only when they’ve lost everything in their life (and then some) before they finally become motivated enough to start recovery.

Some people are only motivated by deadlines.  It isn’t until midnight the night before a project is due that they sit down to do what they could have done four weeks earlier.

There’s the heavy person who waits until someone gives them an ultimatum before they begin to take care of their health.

There’s the athlete that can’t find their spark until the coach yells out to them on the field. There’s the teenager who won’t search for work until all support is withdrawn.

Are these people bad?


They are human, but they are disconnected from understanding how they are motivated so they can replicate its success through some similar action that will motivate them whenever they need it.

8 Top Ways To Motivate Yourself To Take Action On Your Dream

1. Sit down and figure out what your motivation triggers are.

Remember back when you were young. Was there ever an event where you were pushed by someone towards doing something you weren’t sure you wanted to do? What was said and how did it make you feel? Was there ever a time when this happened and it turned out that you were happy afterward? What did they do that motivated you? Did you do it out of anger? Did you do it to show someone up?

If a friend came to you with a similar dream as yours and didn’t know how to start, what would you advise them to do? Would you advise them to pray? Do affirmations? Set up a buddy system?

Believe it or not, hidden in these answers are YOUR motivational triggers. Whatever you would advise someone else to do to motivate themselves is EXACTLY what you need to do to motivate yourself. It doesn’t have to be good or bad, or judged — it just has to work for you and your dream.

2. Set up structure around your motivation trigger.

Dream muse and best-selling author Barbara Sher says, “The first thing all “self-motivated” people do is set up a structure that will not only help them but make them do what they want to do!”

There is another saying that goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.” Busy people have to plan their days in order to accomplish everything they need to get done before they can relax.

You have to commit to a structured plan for achieving your dream.  Figure out a way to incorporate your trigger into your plan every single day.

3. Set a target date.

Your dream has to be accomplished with a specific action or event so that you’ll know when you’ve arrived.  Setting a target date also helps you plan your action steps. Think about if your dream is to become a real estate agent. In most U.S. states this requires a license, the passage of some college-level courses and passing a three-hour test delivered by a state agency.

Taking the necessary classes would be the first target action step or goal, then studying and scheduling the test would follow. Once you’ve completed the number of college units needed, passed the test and paid your license fees, your dream would culminate with the holding your parchment license in your hand. This license would be your signal that you have achieved your dream and it’s time to go after another one … maybe to become the top real estate agent in your town . . . and the process begins anew.

Setting a target date to become a real estate agent is the beginning of all the necessary planning to get you moving forward on your dream.

4. Find a role model.

Find someone you admire who is doing what you are doing and try to connect with them. Now I am not talking about in an annoying write to them 100 times kind of way. But if they have a blog or a website, visit it every day of the week. Read their books if they have them. If there is a way to volunteer time with this person, then do it.

If they are public speakers, try to travel to hear them speak as often as you can. Listen to them when they describe what their life is like. If your dream will require that you travel 80% of the time and you have 6 kids at home under the age of 15, then you need to look at this hurdle objectively and your role model can help you do this. If you can accept the negatives that go along with living your dream life (and there are always negatives) then you know you are on the right path.

Watching how your role model navigates the negatives can keep you motivated if your dream is now going to take you 15 years instead of 2 years like you once thought.

5. Set a small, reachable target you can complete in 30 days or less that lines you up with your big dream.

There is nothing more motivating than success — no matter how small. Think about the example I used on becoming a real estate agent. The thought of showing houses to strangers might freak you out at first, but it’s important not to go all the way there in the beginning.

The first goal might be to decide on the school where you will complete your classes and when you can start. Will it be online schooling or will you need to take your classes at a local college? Just exploring this first small step will make you feel like you are excitedly dreaming.

Completing this step in 30 days will lighten your spirit and make you believe that you are capable of more. It will also bring to you other goals — like cost, the need to save money, or the need to create a space to study.  You may need to tie up a work project first so you can have time for online courses. These smaller action steps or goals become your next target steps that you plan with dates for completion.

Make sure you celebrate each action that you complete.

6. Journal how you are currently spending your days on a calendar.

Author and public speaker Barbara Sher has this wonderful exercise in her book, Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want called,Patterns of Spending Time.”  She points out, “The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life.”  Documenting the little details of your days, like how much time you are actually spending in front of the television, on Facebook, driving your kids to functions, chatting on the phone etc. tells you volumes about why you aren’t working on your dream.

Documenting your days for a week — what you actually do with your time every day — can tell you where you have more time to do something just for you.

If you see that you are spending 20 hours a week on Facebook, but can honestly say that you are bored more than engaged there, then schedule two hours of that time for you to do something creative just for yourself. Step away from Facebook (like every Tuesday from 7:00 – 9:00 I will…) and do something fun JUST for you.

7. Find a planning system that screams at you.

Do iPod apps excite you?  Do you love writing notes on your bathroom mirror?  Do you get the most excited when you are in the shower?  Do large wall calendars float your boat, or small pocket ones?  Do you like to write on tables or do you prefer post-it notes on a wall?

Whatever system you love — use it to plan your dream goals.  There’s nothing like 50 bright pink post-it notes staring at you from across the room to get you motivated.  There are products available that allow you to brainstorm in the shower.  You can write your goals for the week on your bathroom mirror.

You can tape a big wall calender in your hallway.  The important thing here is to give yourself bright visual reminders to do something for your dream this week.

8. Find your dream buddy (or buddies).

I’ll say this until I am blue in the face. You have to have a support system and someone or something that will hold you accountable. You need to set up a way to check in with a dream buddy (or buddies) once a week. This is why I require the dreamers on 8 Women Dream to show up and write every week. They have to check in. They have to look at their dream.

You can get a trusted friend (who has your best interests at heart) to be your check-in buddy, or join a Meet-up group that meets weekly.

You can sign up for a life-coach. You can start a Facebook Page and ask your Facebook friends to check on your progress every Friday. But you must find someone outside of yourself that will hold your hand and cheer you on as you navigate your dream.

Websters dictionary defines motivation as something that motivates; inducement; incentive. In order to take action you must figure out what incites you to take action and share this with someone who is willing to motivate you with this trigger.

One final note on motivation. If you are usually a highly-motivated person and find that you have lost your motivation, don’t rule out a trip to the doctor. Depression, illness, thyroid disease, lack of vitamin D, and low vitamin B12 can make you feel unmotivated.

What are you waiting for? Get motivated and take action on your dream this week!


  • this is really good stuff

  • Thad

    One of the first things someone should think about when trying to motivation oneself into taking action is: Time Is Money. Everyone should sit down and figure out what they think they are worth an hour. Or take their dream salary and figure out what the hourly rate is. Then ask themselves what sitting there watching TV for two hours a night is worth. Think about it. If someone watches TV for 2 hours a day for a month, that’s 60 hours in 30 days. Let’s say they want to make over $100,000.00 a year, well that’s $240.00 an hour or more. Imagine that your time is worth $240.00 an hour. Is TV really worth $14,000.00 a month of your time? When you start looking at life this way, it’s really easy to give up on bad habits and motivate yourself to do something more valuable with your time.

  • Then Remy I would venture that your motivation trigger is working in a group, or on a team, or with someone one-to-one. And if you think about your life, this seems very true. Think about how your photography Meetup group makes you feel excited, or how great you always are at 8 Women Dream meetings — or even when we brainstorm on the phone. Look at how you work with the clients you coach — or with Jayne. I can tell you leave all of these situations energized and motivated. So now you know your trigger … ;-)


  • I would not have come this far without the support of my dream buddies. Period. I think all that other stuff is important but having someone there to support me is priceless. xo Rem