The Essential and Timeless Guide to Motivating Yourself

How to Take More Action: 10 Powerful Tips
Image by goodsurfers2008 (license).

[hana-code-insert name=’social w twitt face’ /]“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

Motivation can be a huge help for you to achieve what you want in life. But how can you find all that motivation you need?

Well, looking at timeless advice from time to time helps me. And in this article I’ll share four of my favorite timeless thoughts on motivation, four thoughts that motivate and inspire me.

Make a conscious choice.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”
Wayne Dyer

“I was thinking one day and I realized that if I just had somebody behind me all the way to motivate me I could make a big difference. Nobody came along like that so I just became that person for myself.”

Help, accountability and motivation from others is always good. But in the end you to be able to rely on yourself. And there is really no escaping it, because as Dyer says, it’s always your choice what to do.

So you have to consciously choose to motivate yourself. You can do that by:

  • Doing what you really, really like to do. When you really like doing something then the motivation to do it comes automatically (most of the time). And when you really want something then it simply becomes easier to push through any inner resistance you feel. You are so motivated to achieve whatever it is you want that the risks you may encounter may be scary but smaller than your desire.
  • Make a list of upsides. Write down all the benefits you will get from achieving something, like for example getting into better shape or making more money. Save it and pull that list out of the drawer whenever your motivation is lacking and review it. Or put it somewhere where you will see it every day. This is a powerful way to reconnect with your motivation and reasons for taking action.
  • Compare yourself with yourself. Comparing what you have and your results to what other people have and have accomplished can really kill your motivation. There are always people ahead of you. Most likely quite a bit of people. And a few of them are miles ahead.
    So focus on you. On your results. And how you can and have improved your results. Reviewing your results is important so you see where you have gone wrong in the past to avoid similar missteps further on. But it’s also important because it’s a great motivator to see how much you have improved and how far you have come. Often you can be pleasantly surprised when you do such a review.

But the most important thing is to take responsibility for your own motivation and feelings and not wait around for someone else to do it. When you do that you will most often find a way to get yourself to start moving towards what you want.

Walk your talk.

“Walking your talk is a great way to motivate yourself. No one likes to live a lie. Be honest with yourself, and you will find the motivation to do what you advise others to do.”
Vince Poscente

This is great tip. Whenever you don’t follow your own talk or just your inner rules of how you want to behave you tend to feel bad. Your esteem of yourself sinks and your motivation to get going does too.

So you have to be honest with yourself when you feel like you are out of alignment. You have to get up and get started again. When your talk and inner standards you have set for yourself align with what you do then you your self-esteem goes up.

You feel great because you are living like you deep down want to. And you are getting all these important things done and can enjoy the results. And then you want more of that good stuff, you sometimes feel so motivated that you can’t wait to get going.

This is not always easy. In the short run it’s often easier and less uncomfortable and scary to lie to yourself a bit and hold yourself back. But the rewards for walking your talk are big. Both on the outside and the inside.

Set big goals that really inspire you.

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive.”
Robert H. Schuller

Without inspiring goals you tend wander around aimlessly in a confused funk.

I think the most important thing about setting goals is to find goals that really inspire and motivate you.

What are your goals? As much as possible, you have to set the goals for yourself. Should and ought to-goals aren’t good enough. Or goals that other people have set for you.

Think about your goals. Think about who has set them. Then think about what you really want in life. Then set your own goals. Write them down.

I also don’t think one should be afraid of setting big goals. Set a big goal that inspires you even if it may seem a tad unrealistic at the moment. If you have too easily achievable goals then you may find that they don’t give you that motivational spark and drive. When you start to think a bit bigger then you get motivated and your mind starts looking for the solutions that will help you achieve that goal. Thinking too small can leave you with a “meh…” feeling or make you feel like you can do it later.

And a benefit of doing things this way – even if you don’t quite achieve your big, big goal or it takes a while longer than you may have hoped for – can be found in a quote from Les Brown:

“Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”

Don’t get too hung up on being motivated to get started.

“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”
John C. Maxwell

Here’s another view on motivation. Maybe you don’t need it to get started? Maybe you can create it along the way?

Many times I have found it better to just do it and start working instead of trying to motivate myself to get going. At first what you do may suck quite a bit and it’s hard going. But after a while inspiration and motivation seems to catch up with you. Things start to flow easier and your work is of a higher quality.

And after you have kept going for a while you become more and more motivated. Because you start to feel like you can actually do this and you can keep going to achieve your goal. And now you are also walking your talk which boosts your motivation.

On some days you may not seem to be able motivate yourself into action. Even if you review your goals or reasons to achieve something.

That’s ok. You can still make a conscious choice based on what you know deep down is right and just start moving your hands and feet anyway. No matter how you feel inside, no matter what negative thoughts may be circling around in your head.

Try both to get yourself motivated before you begin and to just do it and find the motivation along the way. Try both ways and see what works best for you.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vic

    Motivation is a huge topic for me! Every morning when I wake up, I try to listen to or watch something very motivating. This usually gets my day off to a very productive start!.!.!

  • Self motivation is what drives one towards his goals, happiness and indeed a key for living a content life. External motivation can bring a short term boost to our brains but its only inner motivation that creates a strong will inside us and self-trust is very important for creating a self motivating atmosphere.

    Great posts and nice motivating points as well. Well done Henrick.

    Keep motivating us :-)

  • Henrik: I loved this post and there is nothing better than a little morning inspiration. Thanks for sending it my way :) I really appreciated what you said about taking a look at all you have accomplished and how far you have come. I really do think that is important because often times we can overlook what should be one of our biggest confidence boosters – what we have already done and accomplished. As you mentioned, there are always going to be people ahead of us, but if we just focus on what we really want and always keep in mind that we have made significant progress already, it is much easier to stay motivated. Thanks for all the great tips and advice. I really loved this post.

  • Goals are essential in living life. Great blog!

  • Excellent thoughts, to be sure. One thing I’d add: humans are motivated by two things, essentially – the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. When I quit smoking years back I utilized both of these concepts by making a list of every awful thing that would happen if I did NOT quit smoking. This ranged from the obvious (“I could get cancer and die”) to the very specific (“at my funeral, my little daughter might hear people say something like ‘well, you know she DID smoke…'”). Then I made another list of all the wonderful things I’d GAIN by not smoking. Again, it was a long list, of both obvious and not-so-obvious points, from the money I’d save to the freedom to wear the expensive silk scarves I loved so much without fear of burning them or making them stink to high heaven.

    Both lists got saved and referred to, often, over the next several months. Every time I felt a craving, I pulled those lists out and re-read them, over and over.

    It occurred to me then, and the notion’s served me well ever since: we humans HATE to “give something up” – but we sure do like getting good stuff. If the goal is a new habit to form, or requires stepping outside your comfort zone (as almost every good dream will!), I suggest trying to frame things positively. Think not of what you’re giving up — but of what you’re getting, in as vividly rich detail as you can muster.

  • Hi!
    Great post, Henrik!
    I like the way you began it, with the quotation from Mark Twain- it’s so obviously true, because regrets weigh tons while action and discipline weigh ounces !
    Isn’t it interesting that we’re using timeless advice and perennial wisdom (the gem of all there is human wisdom) in order to motivate ourselves to some basic things like going to the gym, jogging, reading, staying honest, taking action towards our goals?
    Thank you,
    Lilian Saum
    Personal Development For Savvy Consumers-

  • The single most important thing to stay motivated is to do what you love. When I first started my website, it was all I could think of and I couldn’t wait to get home after a hard day at work to work on it. When you follow your passion you don’t have to motivate yourself.

  • Torey

    I really enjoy your articles. I am a therapist and can use a lot of your positivity for not only my clients but also myself. Thank you.

  • I got to admit Henrik…your photo for this post got my attention. :) Huge surfer addict!

    Motivation is one of those temporary fire you need to take advantage of, it’s an emotion and emotion changes everyday. That’s why it’s important to have external motivation whether that is as Anthony Robbin best put it “move away from pain, or seek pleasure”.