You begin each new year with the best of intentions. You write down your resolutions, you vow that this will be the year for you — only to arrive at the end to ask,
All your best-laid plans stalled. You face the new year wondering what it takes to finally make your dreams come true.
There is something that is often left out when people set New Year’s resolutions: the “how.” And when I say, “how” what I am referring to is the spark that gets you moving — the motivation to see something 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 cheer-leading yourself into bliss in order to achieve your goals.
Motivation is not about positive thinking.
Motivation is simply the gasoline for your work 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.
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 isles, but because of your need to eat — whether or not your life is wonderful, important or messed-up.
Too often, we think that we have to feel a certain positive vibe in order to change, or we believe that “if this is right for me I’ll wake up one day and feel like doing it.” I call bullshit (sorry mom) on this.
Motivation doesn’t work that way.
It’s a lot more complex and it’s mainly based on 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, not being afraid to understand your strengths and learning embrace your weaknesses. 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 achieve your goals and resolutions.
The truth is that our motivations are shaped from our childhood experiences.
For example, if any of the four most influential people in your life growing up used guilt as a successful means of getting you to do something, then most-likely shame is still a motivational trigger for you.
The reason you haven’t achieved your goals or resolutions thus far is that you probably haven’t modeled your motivation after what really 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 any negative motivational 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 getting motivated to do any 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 motivational trigger she needs to get that deep spring cleaning done.
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.
You’ll need some quiet time and a pencil and at least two pieces of paper…
How to Discover your Motivational 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 you 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 most proud up until this point in your life.
3. Get out a second sheet of paper and write the following:
|METHOD OF MOTIVATION||GRADE/COMMENTS ABOUT|
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 motivational 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 it still isn’t a strong motivational force. The grades are about whether that motivation worked for you, or not — not if you liked them.
If shaming turns out to be a big motivational trigger for you because you seemed to accomplish the most during the years you were shamed into completing certain 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 this is still a motivational trigger for you.
Maybe you tell someone you admire to call you on a certain date and ask you if you achieved that big goal. If you will be ashamed to let this person down, then it’s the perfect test for your motivational trigger around shame.
Maybe the problem with your resolutions in the past are not the resolutions themselves, but the fact that you didn’t understand how you are motivated. Motivation is not about lovely-dovey thoughts and soft teddy bears, it’s about 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 REALLY motivates you and creating a system around that trigger while forgetting 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 in order to accomplish it.
My son, Brian is now 18, and 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 did nothing.
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 recently, when my son became a lifeguard at the local YMCA. As his family, 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 earlier.
Why is this working?
I came to the realization that 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 ice skated from the time I was 8 until I was 21 (attending classes once a week with skating all weekend). I took aerobics classes while in college and ran track with a group of kids (and I hate running).
It dawned on me that “taking a class with a group of people” is one of my motivational triggers. That’s why it’s easy for me to now workout and why working out at home never cut it for me.
Use the GRADE/COMMENTS side of your paper to make notes about the motivations you rate an A, then try and use them this year with your list of resolutions. For example, if I wanted to change my diet as part of my New Year’s resolutions, 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.
This month, as we roll into a new year, try this secret tool for making your dreams come true 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.
Happy Highly Motivated New Year!