The biggest and most complex obstacle you’ll ever have to overcome is your mind. If you can overcome that, you can overcome anything.
Have you ever lost your motivation?
I know exactly how you feel.
Many moons ago, there was a time when my motivation hit rock bottom. I would look around and see others motivating themselves to do things simply by knowing that these things needed to be done. But not me. For me, motivation was an esoteric, intimidating game where I’d try to make myself do something while my mind simultaneously avoided doing it. If I won, I’d have to do something I didn’t really want to do. And if I lost, I’d be one step closer to ruining the rest of my entire life. At least that’s how I felt. And I never really knew whether I was going to win or lose until the very last minute.
Obviously, I was not being mindful.
The good news is, with daily practice, I’ve come a long way from those rock bottom days of haphazard motivation.
Nowadays, Angel and I coach students on a daily basis who are struggling to motivate themselves in various life situations. And, fittingly, we guide them through many of the same proven strategies I’ve learned and practiced over the years to get my mindset and motivation from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.
One of those strategies involves mindful daily reflection.
The truth is, motivation can be fleeting, which is why we need to positively recharge our mindset on a regular basis. I was reminded of this a few minutes ago when I received an email from a new course student that opened with:
“I feel drained! I’m stuck… with worry and overwhelm and frustration… and just a general lack of enthusiasm! Any advice? What should I reflect on or try to remember when I’ve completely lost my motivation?”
Today, with our student’s permission, I’ve decided to answer this question publicly, because I know we all need these reminders sometimes. Here are some key things I reflect on regularly to support my practice of nurturing a more mindful, motivated mindset…
- It’s not the weight that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. You can use pain, frustration and inconvenience to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life. Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negative thinking.
- You always have a choice. Choose to be negative and you’ll find plenty of reasons to stop and frown. Choose to be positive and you’ll find plenty of reasons to step forward and smile. Truly, the most powerful weapon against stress and discouragement is our ability to choose one thought over another. Train your mind to see the good in everything.
- One of the most rewarding and important moments in life is the moment you finally find the courage to let go of what you can’t change. When you stop worrying and complaining about what you can’t control, you have more time to change the things you can control. And that changes everything.
- It’s never in your best interests to share lots of time with people who constantly try to discourage you (even if they’re your family). Because, if you’re the kind of person who believes there’s something out there for you beyond whatever it is you’re expected to do – if you want to be extraordinary – you can’t get there by shackling yourself to those who hold you back. Instead, you will very likely become just as ordinary as they expect you to be. And there’s absolutely no reason to do that to yourself. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Long-term success in life is a trifecta of ability, motivation, and attitude. Ability is what you’re capable of doing every day. Motivation determines what you actually do every day. And attitude determines how well you ultimately do it. Keep this in mind, and keep yourself in check.
- Sitting around worrying is a misuse of your incredible creative energy. Instead of imagining the worst, imagine the best and how you can bring it about.
- It’s always better to be exhausted from meaningful work than to be tired of doing nothing. Put in the effort and live the life you’ve imagined. Wake up and remind yourself that you are what you do today, not what you say you’ll do someday. Good things don’t come to those who wait – they come to those who work on meaningful goals. When all is said and done, oftentimes more is said than done. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The way to get going, and feel good about it, is to quit talking and begin doing.
- Imagine how much more effective and happy you’d be if, instead of dreading and fighting against certain tasks, you simply got them done. Remember, the task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you. Do what’s right, not what’s easy. And when the task is a big one, do just a little bit of it every day. Even the tiniest daily ritual changes everything in the long run. (Angel and I build tiny, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- Effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger, more educated, and more experienced. So when the going gets tough, be patient and keep going. Just because you are struggling does NOT mean you are failing. Every great success requires some kind of struggle to get there.
- The next step is always worth taking. Seriously, no matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things you desire may not happen today, but they will happen. Practice patience. And remember that patience is not about waiting – it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard to make progress every day, and knowing that this journey is worth it.
And now it’s time for a quick reality check…
If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking you’re too young or too old to be successful or to pursue a meaningful path, here’s a short list of people who have accomplished incredible things at various ages – young and old:
- Helen Keller, at the age of 19 months, became deaf and blind. But that didn’t stop her. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
- Mozart was already competent on the keyboard and violin, and he started composing music at the age of 5.
- Shirley Temple was 6 when she became a movie star in “Bright Eyes”.
- Anne Frank was 12 when she wrote “The Diary of Anne Frank”.
- Magnus Carlsen became a chess Grandmaster at the age of 13.
- Nadia Comaneci was a gymnast from Romania that scored seven perfect 10.0 ratings and won three gold medals at the Olympics by age 14.
- Tenzin Gyatso was formally recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama in November 1950, at the age of 15.
- Pele, the soccer superstar, was 17-years-old when he won the world cup in 1958 with Brazil.
- John Lennon was 20-years-old and Paul McCartney was 18-years-old when the Beatles held their first concert in 1961.
- Beethoven was a piano virtuoso by age 23
- Isaac Newton wrote The Principia (containing Newton’s laws of motion), at age 24
- Roger Bannister was 25 when he broke the 4-minute mile record – the first person to ever accomplish this.
- Albert Einstein was 26 when he wrote the “Theory of Relativity”.
- Lance Armstrong was 27 when he won the Tour de France.
- J.K. Rowling was 30-years-old when she finished the first manuscript of “Harry Potter”.
- Amelia Earhart was 31-years-old when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
- Oprah was 32 when she started her talk show, which became the highest-rated program of its kind in history.
- Martin Luther King Jr. was 34 when he wrote the speech “I Have a Dream”.
- Neil Armstrong was 38 when he became the first human being to set foot on the moon.
- Mark Twain was 40 when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and 49 years old when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.
- John F. Kennedy was 43-years-old when he became President of the United States.
- Henry Ford Was 45 when the Ford T came out.
- Suzanne Collins was 46 when she wrote “The Hunger Games”.
- Leonardo Da Vinci was 51-years-old when he painted the Mona Lisa.
- Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat”.
- Colonel Sanders was 61 when he started the KFC Franchise.
- J.R.R Tolkien was 62 when “The Lord of the Rings” book series was published.
- Ronald Reagan was 69 when he became President of the United States.
- Nelson Mandela was 76 when he became President of South Africa.
It’s never too soon or too late to be all you can be. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You CAN take the next tiniest step forward! I hope that fact alone motivates you to stand back up.
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
What do you try to remember when you’re struggling and need some extra motivation?
Anything else to share?
We would love to hear from YOU. 🙂
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Photo by: Will van Wingerden
These are excellent reminders!
I think I’ve mentioned this before in a comment on another post, but it’s worth mentioning again:
Even when times are rough and I’ve lost my motivation, or when I’m deeply struggling to make the slightest progress on a meaningful task, my top strategy is to stop myself from worrying and complaining. I just do the very best I can, one tiny step at a time as you’ve taught me. This is probably the most important idea I’ve picked up from your course and coaching (although there are many) – it’s a strategy (or ritual) I use almost every single day of my life.
Also, I try to keep this quotation from your book in mind also: “Worry will not drain tomorrow of its troubles, it will merely drain you of your strength today.”
Thank you, as always!
Marc Chernoff says
It’s inspiring to experience your continued progress, Mara. And you’re 100% correct: worrying is a waste. 🙂
I agree with Mara, this post is a needed one! Extremely empowering. Lately I have been just like your discouraged student in many ways, as I’m going through a period in my business life where nothing seems to be going as planned. I feel demotivated almost every day, and the vast divide between where I am presently and where I want to be is killing me inside, but posts like this and books like yours give me hope and help push me forward one step at a time. Thank you as always for everything you do.
Marc Chernoff says
You’re welcome, Wes.
I absolutely love when your blog’s emails hit my inbox right when I need to read them most. Your work is always something I know I can turn to for motivation when I need it most.
You guys are such an inspiration! Keep it up 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for the extra kindness, Issa.
Fay meligas says
I’m going to leave these steps at my bedside and read them in the morning before I begin my day.
Amy Policarpo says
After reading this, I believe my life will slowly change. I’ve always been a worried stressed person. But I tried to tell myself I’m only so young to be in this position. At 19 I wish I could do so much, I wish I could be a millionaire but than I think I’m only making minimum wage/full time student… WHATS GOING ON?! living on my own, working my ass to go back to school one day. Than woot my stress level just goes higher. I’m here just a stressed wreck.
One day I will be stable and able to do lots but everything takes time. Most of all patience and positivity is the key to everything.
~ My story
Marc Chernoff says
Take it one day at a time, Amy. We can all successfully and mindfully fight the battle of just today.
“Today is the Tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and all is well.”
Thank you so much Marc and Angel. Your advice frees me of fear, even for a split second…and knowing I really had this feeling allows me to be mindful and take some pride in the little accomplishments of each day without feeling guilty of patting myself on the back. You two really are Angels. Thank you for always being there for me!!!
Marc Chernoff says
You’re welcome, Veronica. Thanks for the kindness.
Rosaline Macauley says
This is great! And what I always say when I’m struggling is: Never give up! Be grateful to God for who you are.
What a lovely post, Marc. I was nodding my head vigorously for each of them. Loved how you said that ‘the most rewarding moment is when we let go of what we cannot control.’
But the highlight, the one that hit me square in the heart, was about how we carry the weight… whether we use the pain to learn, or let it cripple us. The 3 most painful events in my life have shaped me into the person I am today. Think I had forgotten the lesson. Thanks for the reinforcement.
Off to share this…
Beautiful…you nailed it…this is as motivating as anything out there…
Jennifer Shepherd says
Thank you ! I was laying here still in bed dreading even getting up. After reading this though. I’m ready. Ready to face today with a whole New attitude. It takes work to knock down that wall I’ve put throughout my life. But one brick at a time its coming down and I see the sunshine. Hoping to order your program soon. I’m a stay at home Mom of a very very wild child with Severe Autism. I can’t work due to his disability and lack of resources in my town. We just put one foot in front of the other everyday and keep moving forward. But I do have that tight budget and something always comes up. I also have 3 other kids (2 teenage girls) . but one day. It will be my day and your program is first on my list. Thank you for everything you do. I am always excited to see your emails.
Needed this reminder today, thanks so much!
Pat Hardy says
We have to watch our thoughts. If they are negative, replace them with something positive. The fact that we wake up to a new day is something to be happy about. Down in the dumps? Do one little thing you like to do, and that will help snap you out of the doldrums. One good thought can lead to another. So much of life is a choice…we can choose to be negative or positive…we can choose to move or sit…we can choose to smile or frown. It’s really up to us to listen to our higher selves. Really in the dumps? Do something nice for someone else, and see if that doesn’t make you feel better. There is so much for which to be grateful–that helps, too! Again, it’s back to our thoughts!
Beautiful response and “thoughtful” response.
Amanda LaRose says
I can understand this feeling myself. I am suffering a bit from it too right now, but it can be fleeting with the right approach. One of the ways that I try to overcome it is by performing tasks, instead of staying stuck in my own head. Sometimes the things we really need to do are the ones we procrastinate or lose motivation for. I’ve been keeping a journal by my side for notes, reflections and tasks. I find that just tackling something, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s what we NEED to do at that moment can be just what we NEED to push through the lack of motivation.
I think I’ll go try to do that now 😉
Pat Hardy says
You are right on about doing tasks we dread, Amanda.. When they are finally completed, after all that procrastination, there is such a sense of liberation and a beautiful feeling of accomplishment.. What takes us so long to do what we know needs doing? I don’t have an answer. I don’t think it’s pure laziness, more like stubbornness, or maybe it’s one of the crucial lessons some of us have to learn in this lifetime–not to procrastinate!! It’s a hard lesson connected with learning to be better organized or more selective as to what we take on. All I know is that I’ve been fighting
the tendency for years. Good for you to take the bull by the horns!!
Words can create great emotions… so true… beautiful indeed each and every word made me take a pause and smile 🙂
I will keep this post’s words to ponder… Thank you!
David Rapp says
It’s the lack of motivation at my job that has me down right now. I have not taken a vacation in two years, and realized this will be another year without one. I am so completely burned out that just trying to launch this new project is giving me headaches.
My health is in decline again because I am allowing work to dominate my days, and spending time with my son and wife seems more and more important. And despite your many cogent and factual facts about having enough time, the amount of time has not changed and is fixed, and it’s always dwindling down for me.
Chris F. says
This post is a gem. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and impacting my course. Recent events had me dwelling on a failed marriage and feeling regretful. I felt sad, distracted and unproductive.
Choosing to maintain a positive attitude and taking small steps toward the life we want to create are great reminders for daily progress. The entire post resonated with me and incorporating tips for your ‘1,000 Little Things…’ book has helped me recover from divorce at astonishing speed. It’s no understatement to say your material has been a life saver. That’s not to say there are still challenging moments.
One thing I often do when circumstances have me down is keep perspective. This is one moment in a life that is uniquely our own but shared among 7.4 billion other human beings. At any given moment there are an inconceivably large number of experiences occurring…every one of them unique to the individual, yet we all share the same basic human needs. Have compassion, humility, slow down, be mindful, keep perspective and keep moving toward the life we want.
Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope says
Thank you for reaffirming this truth: it’s all about choice. We have so many options and dwelling in frustration or sadness will only impact our life in negative ways.
I can also really identify with “For me, motivation was an esoteric, intimidating game where I’d try to make myself do something while my mind simultaneously avoided doing it. If I won, I’d have to do something I didn’t really want to do. And if I lost, I’d be one step closer to ruining the rest of my entire life.”
I’m not happy in my work, but we need the income to get out of debt and build a better life. I need to give in and focus on the tasks at hand, so they will be completed, and no longer a source of stress.
Every time I read something on this blog motivates me. Every time!
Thank you for your work.
Thanks, Marc! This reminds me a lot of my struggles about my work and my new venture (business). I guess work drained all energy in me that I’m out-focused of my business which my passion. I hate it when resources stop me from doing what needs to be done. Sometimes i felt dull and just give up. Do nothing. See? A lot of complaints, negativity, reasons. But it strike me when you said ‘quit talking and start doing’. Thaaanks. 😉
Artiom Kovnatsky says
I go to run, afterwards I remember all the things I’ve gone through to get where I’m now and it motivates me.
Also useful to talk to a supportive friend, family member.
When I’m having trouble ‘getting going’ I first take a look: am I taking care of myself? It’s a sure bet I’m not eating / moving / sleeping enough, with adequate quality of all three.
As ever this landed in my inbox when I need it most – I feel overwhelmed with my life and the choices I make /have made and that in turn kills my motivation I have been on this train of bad luck and negativity and feel like I’m sitting under an oppressive grey cloud and I don’t like it – I don’t like it one bit – I have read your email before bed and I will re read it tomorrow thank you guys at least the universe send me you when I need a starting point x
As many others have stated, your words come at a time so applicable to the present. Motivation for me to move further into the course this past week and one-half or so is, I believe, both positive and negative. Actually, maybe it is just all positive, though a part of it is coming into knowledge of facts that are scary/frightening to me. I know matter of factly that I have lived the majority of my life with several narcissistic psychopaths. It is an eye opener, explains almost too much to me, triggers many memories that are not good ones. When overwhelmed by this knowledge, I have to get up and go outside into the garden.
I also went one day to a Home Goods store and there met a younger woman and how the subject came up, I haven’t a clue. She began to discuss a health condition and it led into family, her counseling, and the above condition mentioned. She asked me a line of questions in the context of, “Do you feel blah, blah, blah, when they did or said blah, blah?” These questions when on and on, tears came to my eyes, and she told me that she could tell, but that she saw my light and that I had to protect myself at all costs. She told me to come see her at the store when I felt really bad and told me where I could get free counseling. I made another girlfriend, “accidentally”, and we’ve done things together three times now and had a great time. I pray more, and I’ve begun to truly exercise in the early a.m. before I do anything else. I am getting up earlier and get so much done, even the majority of my gardening before it is hot outside. I put fresh flowers in my room always, and in two other rooms. What I have to do is to know, or affirm the fact that these persons are not going to change. I have to change my terms on when I will have contact and when I will shut it down and walk away silently to my own space. I understand myself more and can acknowledge why I have responded to or become depressed when triggered. Then, or rather now, I’ll give myself a break and actually take a short nap, which I’ve never allowed myself to do.
I read your book that is beside my bed and then lay down. I look for jobs that may be of interest and I’m reading Angel’s words and writing my lists of which my lists are pretty substantial and come somewhat easy for me to this point. Angel does say in the beginning of the book … “it will become harder.” I can see where it will. I believe I last stopped on the Forgiveness section of the Course “Getting back to Happy”, as I was having information overload and could not imagine anyone consciously doing to another human that which I have experienced. Learning and seeing it for what it is I would call it definite sickness on the edge of conscious evil. It eats one’s self-esteem, joy, energy, is crazy making where you doubt your own sanity. It causes you to forget as it is a confusing cloud and in the center is the “why”. So, truly, knowledge is good regardless if it is good or bad, and acting positively on it is good and I have been doing that. I’ve just had a couple of days and three nights that I’ve had to shut down a while to let it go, rest, and pamper myself. One person, I will not have spoken to in just about one month now. It has been hard. I’ve wanted to pick up the phone, but I’ve not wanted to be spoken to more than I’ve wanted to speak to them. Since, it is all family in one way or another, it is hurtful. One is away and one is here. That is kind of funny when you think about it in the light that I get to experience the fullness of it all at once.
P.S. I gathered 4 gallons of honey the other day from my bees. Pretty cool, huh? Thank you both. You are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are meant to be doing. Blessings/Namaste.
I am always grateful that every time i opened my e-mail I’ve seen your account popped on my inbox. I used to read your blog before proceeding on my daily work activities so i do have motivations to work well for the whole day. It gives me more energy to be an effective worker each day. Thank you for your counsels for lifting up those people who have almost lost their hopes (including me), for they still have the chance to start again. And me, as young as 24 years of age i considered myself as a strong woman after being wrecked from my past relationship, your series of advice gives me courage to start over again that life is a wonderful journey and never stop walking the road of life 🙂 🙂
From Philippines with Love
Wonderful article! I’m currently training for my second triathlon. I’m 59 yrs old. Does it hurt? Of course! But I’d rather wake up in the body of an old athlete than just the body of an old woman!
Tom Justin says
Great food for thought here. Thanks.
I used to call myself a motivational speaker. I was also a motivation junkie, going to seminars when I wasn’t giving them to find that “boost.” My epiphany arrived when I realized that motivation was only one step and sometimes a dangerous one in that it was incomplete.
Motivation is excitement and that burns fast and out. To get motivated is like propelling us towards something. Like a rocket, that, in order to reach orbit, must break through earth’s gravitational pull. Otherwise, it falls back to earth, a complete waste.
Motivation to inspiration creates commitment and that’s where I needed to go all along and where I needed to bring my audiences and clients too.
Ashok Patir says
Thanks for the inspiration. I was so broken today. And I got this message in my inbox. It revived all the energy within me. It means a lot to me. Keep up the good work!!
ramon diaz says
This was really refreshing to read. Thank you.
I have been following your articles since a couple of years now, when I had a personal tragedy. Your blog has kept me going since then. Its not that life changed overnight after that, but I feel that I have been able to overcome obstacles better after reading your inspiring articles. Life is better now, not the best, but I have started to enjoy the way it is after following your blog. I wanted to express my heartfelt thanks for guiding so many people like me. When I am upset about something on a day, I receive an article from you which deals with the exact same topic ! Thank You