When I think of the roadblocks to succeeding in self improvement, staying consistently motivated toward attaining my goals is one roadblock that can so easily knock me off the wagon. Lack of motivation is probably the biggest stress factor in personal growth.
It’s getting to understand how motivation works within you that is the key, actually. What I would like to share are some key points that have assisted both me and my clients in understanding our relationship with motivation.
It is like a check list. Maybe do the first thing first and the second thing second…or not. Try this on for size and see if these pointers help you stay on track with your self improvement goals more gracefully.
Be clear with what your goal is. Achieving clarity is a piece of work in itself, well worth getting help from a friend who doesn’t have an agenda or from your spiritual director. If you are going to stay motivated, lack of clarity will surely make consistency difficult to maintain. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. Are you improving yourself in this way because you want to, or because you should? If there is any way you can get to the place of really desiring to improve, you will get a lot more mileage in the motivation category than if you go for “should-ing” on yourself!
2. What is it REALLY that you are going for? Flesh out all the particulars of what your personal growth goal is. I call this taking a snapshot. If your goal was a photograph, what would it look like?
3. Is your goal clear enough to write it down? Write down what your goal is. It is amazing how the Saboteur archetype can come in and have you conveniently forget what work you have done in getting clear. Type your goal into your word processing program, assign it a snappy font, print it out and pin it to the wall; right where you will see it….many times a day.
Set up realistic goals. Please, oh please, make triply sure that your goals are realistic! Make sure that most of your internal voices are on board with your commitment. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone say that they want to exercise regularly and then commit to exercising 7 days a week for 2 hours! If you haven’t been exercising I can assure you that the Saboteur is going to wreak havoc and you will fall off the self improvement wagon nigh before you start! Rather, go for a program THAT IS GOING TO WORK. Even a 5 minute walk 3 times a week is better than nothing at all if it means that you will DO IT! I know that exercising for 5 minutes only 3 times a week sounds lame, especially if you have been told by your doctor to get up and get going 5 days a week for an hour. But, if you try for something the most of you judges as too much, you will notice how you don’t do anything and that will contribute to your stress! If you commit to something and then find yourself not doing it, consider that you have bitten off too big of a mouth full.
Commit to consistency. I can’t tell you how important this is. It is said that if you just choose one small self improvement task and stick to it, it will get the ball rolling in all areas of your life….the operative words here, folks, are STICK TO IT.
Define what success will look like. Ask yourself, “How will I know/feel/experience when I am successful?” Knowing this helps define clarity, provides the end of the road in a realistic manner and gives you a sense of accomplishment. It also “puts you in your body” as it is said.
Cultivate the willingness to include uncomfortable options. If there is anything I know about self improvement and motivation it is that it is so important to be available for success to look differently than you thought it would. Work on letting go of your expectation of success to be exactly as you pictured it. If your goal is to drink more water (which is a basic physical self improvement idea!) and you go from drinking very little water to drinking 2 full glasses a day rather than your preferred 8 glasses a day AND you do it consistently, applaud yourself! You have adopted a self enhancing habit, albeit not as fully as you thought you would at first. It is the quality of the process rather than the quantity. Also, cultivate the willingness to hold yourself accountable; lovingly and nurturingly accountable.
Clear the agenda of the Judge Archetype. Along with the Saboteur archetype the Judge plays a leading role in most of us when we are maintaining motivation for our self improvement goals. Learn to let go of the stress of having this personal growth adventure be something that you SHOULD do. We inherently want to better ourselves. If you cannot find it in you to WANT to do this, connect with an unbiased friend to talk it over with, or look to your spiritual director for guidance.
Cultivate Compassion. Instead of letting the archetypes of the Judge and Saboteur drive your personal “bus”, work on, invite in, or ask for guidance to cultivate compassion for yourself. Our culture tends to think of compassion as something we only do for someone else, but, believe me, being compassionate for yourself is so important.
Motivation is the key to attaining the self improvement goals you have intended. If you set up your self improvement and motivation plan, you stand a fighting chance to reach your current goal of personal growth.