How can we consistently achieve the results we desire and perform at a high level and do so even when initially we may lack motivation, energy or inspiration? Is there a process through which we can fulfill our own expectations as well as meet external deadlines while enjoying the process? Is there a way to feel pleased with ourself and our ability to follow through consistently?
All of us sometimes lack motivation to do what we should do and/or feel internally blocked. There might be stagnation, a lack or energy or negativity may start creeping in. It seems like: “Wow. I don’t know how I should do this.” It’s okay to feel that way, nothing wrong with that. Although being in this state you still feel determined or responsible for getting the job done. Now let me show you how to move from a negative trajectory up into “orbit” — to a path that can take you to the successful completion of your goals. Just imagine getting there: now feeling motivated, strong, aligned and purposeful and pleased with yourself while delivering your desired result. Interested? Let’s talk specifics:
This is the foundation. If we really commit to doing something then, even if we don’t feel like doing it at times, we’ll still get it done. We hold ourself to a higher standard and do not tolerate anything less. We do it because of our expectation to follow through, to keep learning and growing, to consistently do our best.. For me, this means I am committed to produce one video plus article a week — even if I don’t feel like doing it. I will still do it and deliver on what I committed to doing. If we lack standards for ourself then we have to resort to external motivation. Research has shown that the strongest kind if motivation is motivation that comes from within — either from wanting to contribute to a bigger, philanthropic purpose or from staying true to our own rules and standards. The standards we hold become part of our self-identity and there is a natural tendency to act in alignment with our self-image. If you establish and maintain strong standards for what you expect of yourself then you have a strong motivation at hand that can help you take action consistently and align your behaviour with your values.
The Triad Of Human Emotions
Let’s imagine we’re in a situation where we are facing difficulty doing what we should do or want to accomplish. We might feel a little conflicted, frustrated, bland, annoyed or even depresesd. Whatever is happening in our mind or body: We’re always moving in a certain direction and “building” a state. That’s the experience of our lives — we cycle through sleep and wake states as well as emotional states. If we want to consistently perform at a high level then we have got to know about the building blocks of our state and how to change it:
There’s the body, how we move our body, how we’re breathing and standing (if we stand with curved shoulders and let our head hang down in discouragement) this is going to have an immediate effect on our emotional state. Try it for yourself by adopting a body language that correlates with a depressed or tense state of mind and remain in it for a minute or two — then do the opposite and notice how you feel. We can consciously influence our physiology and through this shift our mental state. More practical tips below.
The questions we ask and how we talk to ourself, including our choice of words. If you feel negative emotions taking over then look at the words and questions surrounding your situation. How can you shift those to create a more empowering state? This means moving from “Why does this always happen to me?”, or “Why do I always..?” to questions like: “How can I learn/benefit from this?” and “What’s funny about this?”
We’ve got to keep our focus on the solution, not the problem. Where focus goes energy flows. Where our energy goes, these things grow in our life (we develop habits and strengthen neuronal connections). An old but good example to illustrate this point is that race drivers apparently learn that when their car gets off track or out of control, what they need to do is focus their attention on the road instead of the obstacle. If we focus on our problems then we will start moving towards them. If you want to get to your goal you’ve got to remain focused on it at all times.
Now if I want to record a video what I need is a resourceful state where I’m feeling connected with myself, positive, feeling like communicating and sharing with others. It’s similar if you’re giving a presentation or talking to a customer, or if you’re working on an intense project. In all cases you’ve got to focus and be there completely. If you want high performance then overindulging in negativity is no longer an option. If one thinks negatively the body gets depressed and the mind starts to shut down. Then one can’t function at a high level. So you’ve got to be very careful with discouraging self-talk! If you talk to yourself in a negative way that is just going to strengthen an unresourceful state.
My suggestion is when you notice and recognise negative self talk to take a moment to remind yourself that: “I have a high standard for myself and my rule is to perform now. I need to stop this and I choose to stop indulging in this now.” By reminding yourself of your standards you are putting the focus back on your goal.
You’ve got to be very deliberate about how you use your body and mind — you can quickly develop strong momentum.
Also notice what your body is doing. How are you sitting or standing? Are you holding a lot of tension in your face, shoulders or other areas of your body? I suggest you get up and shake out your body a little and return to a neutral state. Allow your head to rise and get grounded by assuming a solid stance on the floor. Take a look at my article/video on grounding and posture. It takes some effort to break old habits but it’s worth it!
In summary: Notice what’s happening in your body and mind and make a conscious change to your focus, language or directly to your physiology and things will start to shift immediately.
Get clear on your why
Once you’re at a neutral or even slightly positive state you need to get clear on why you want to achieve the desired result. These are the deeper reasons: Why are you inspired to do what you want to do? Why is this project important to you? What are your personal reasons? Not what are the reasons of other people — what are your reasons. While other people might be affected by you not delivering the result — it’s more powerful to find your own reasons. You can ask yourself: “How do I want to show up in the world and what is my expectation of myself? What is my standard for myself? How important is it for me to keep my word both to others and to myself? What’s the value of personal integrity in my life?” That might be to be reliable and to have high accountability. That’s a really strong standard which can motivate you greatly. It’s much stronger than: “Other people are going to be angry at me.” Really get into it and get to feel your reasons. Why do you want to do it?
For me when I record a video or write an article my reason is because I want to help people. I want to help someone else to make their life easier, to make their life more harmonious. I want to contribute something and I want to share some of the things that I believe might help others. I want to see someone else get value and positive results from my contribution. Furthermore I’ve made a commitment to myself to post a video/article every week. It’s something I promised myself to do as it supports my goal of getting my coaching business off the ground and earn money in a more flexible and creative way. That’s what motivates me to do this — even if at times I don’t feel like doing it.
Get clear on your what
You’ve got to define what you actually want to do. Because when in a state of stagnation or discouragement it’s easy to lose clarity regarding your goal. It’s really good to write down the answers to the question: What exactly is it that I want to achieve?
If you’re doing a presentation then you might write: “I want to do a great presentation. I want to take the most important points about my topic and really connect with my audience. I want to get the matter across in a way that people can really feel it and understand it — so that my message reaches the recipient. I want to enjoy presenting and share something and enrich people’s lives with my presentation. I want to present this point about it very clearly, I want to do it in a way where I’m feeling connected with myself, where I’m speaking clearly and where people can hear me.” As you go into the specifics you take your goal from 2D, which is a fuzzy sketch to 3D. You flesh it out and it becomes clearer what your goal actually is, you add another dimension to it. One thing you can use now as well as any time is goal visualisation. You just close your eyes, go inside for a moment and you ask yourself and think about: “What is it that I want to achieve here?” You think about the optimum end result.
How I do it: I think about sitting down, there comes a great idea for a video. I write it down, feeling motivated. I’m taking out my camera. I’m standing there, presenting it, I’m feeling clear in my mind and grounded in my body. I’m engaged and inspired to do the presentation. I’m connected with myself and the camera. I’m in a flow state and things are working out. I just visualise that it’s a great video, a great result and I’m feeling proud of myself. That’s my goal visualisation. If you’re in a rather negative state try to start small: “I’m getting up. I’m starting it — I’m writing the first few sentences of work, doing the first few calculations. I’m feeling good about myself for having started the work. Or you think: “Yes. I’ve done the first few slides for my presentation and it’s getting clearer what I have to do.” Then you can start upgrading to the end result: “I’ve now finished my presentation. I finished all the slides and I’ve rehearsed it once and I feel great about myself.” Visualize your sub-goals as well as the end goal — see it as if you had already achieved it. This can be visualisation in internal pictures, you can talk to yourself or really get into the feeling: “How does it feel to actually have finished the work that you set out to do? To have finished the presentation, made the call with your customer feeling like you really connected with that person. How does it feel having communicated very clearly, presenting your ideas convincingly and honestly?” Getting into this strengthens the goal that you are aiming for. As a result your body and mind are going to follow suit.
Imagine being the captain of a ship in really foggy weather. You’re not sure where the harbour is. Goal visualisation is like switching on the lights in a lighthouse at the shore. Now you’re clear and can steer the ship into the right direction. The brighter and clearer your goal — the easier it gets to steer your ship of goal achievement in the right direction — towards the achievement of your goal.
Emotion is energy in motion. If you want to shift your state you can do this very effectively via your body. I’m not a fan of “getting motivated” and “pushing” too much — yet sometimes when it’s necessary to perform and deliver results there are some great tricks to really have an immediate impact on the body and mind:
This is a simple exercise Anthony Robbins teaches: You cycle through touching both your thumbs synchronic with your index finger, middle finger, ring finger and pinky — after which you again start at your index finger. With each touch you take in a small partial breath into your nose (so 4 in-breaths). Then you breathe out 4 small breaths on next cycle. Now you can do just this and it’s going to have an effect on your state — but even better is when you have space to walk. You now take 1 step with each partial breath (it’s a brisk walk, depending on how fast you are breathing). This gets your body moving and can drastically change your state. Anthony Robbins teaches using affirmations (saying them in your head while doing the breathwalking, like “Every day in every way I’m feeling stronger and stronger — yes!” or “Every day in every way I’m feeling more and more confident — yes!”. A few years back I used to do this in my morning routine for 15 minutes each morning and it certainly is a strong tool for both changing your state and also for reconditioning yourself. The touch on your fingertips is stimulating the nervous system. When I’m really tired I might just touch my fingers in this fashion and this helps me to wake up.
This is a great way to change your emotional state — once your state changes then different thoughts will be coming into your mind and it will become much easier to re-focus on your goal and performing at your best.
You can do that anytime — also when you’re not “feeling” it. It’s scientifically proven that this affects our brain and mood. Here’s a 7-minute Ted-Talk discussing some studies on it. Changing your physiology from a frown to a smile is a big shift. To achieve maximum effect you can smile with your lips, eyes and even the corners of your eyes (try to feel it in your heart too). That being said — simply lifting the corners of your mouth can do wonders. So if this is challenging for you then you can start with a really subtle and relaxed smile and just keep it there for a few minutes (you’ll have to refresh it). Check out my video on Smiling Meditation where I explain this great tool.
There are certain poses that you can take with your body which have a direct effect on how you feel. One posture is to stand more than hip-wide apart and put your hands on your hips. Let your head rise and get your chest out a little bit. Now put on a big smile and hold this posture. Now try being really negative and see if it works. Check out either a 30-second clip or a longer video, also by social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
Another pose: Get a solid stance on the ground and feel the connection with the floor. Now put your hands up towards the sky. Bend your knees a little bit and stand like this for a few minutes. There are more power poses you can find on the internet.
If you stand in a power pose for some time then this will have a very positive effect on your emotional state. When you’re having to do something and battling with negativity and stress that’s a great opportunity to try this and break your pattern!
Have standards. If you want to feel motivated even to go through these steps then you need to have a strong reason. For me: I have a standard that I’m going to perform when I schedule it and that I’m going to do a video once a week. When you have that standard — then you’re motivated. When the motivation is coming from the inside then it’s going to be much stronger than external motivation.
Get clear on your why. Why do you want to do this project, action, presentation — whatever work you’ve got to do. Why do you want to do it? What are your internal reasons for doing it? Why are you motivated? Why are you inspired to do it?
Take it from 2D to 3D. Make it crystal clear. What exactly? How are the end result or the sub-goals going to look? Visualise — get in tune how it’s going to feel once you’ve completed it. Because this is what gradually gets you from this negative trajectory to a positive trajectory — where you’re feeling inspired and getting into a flow state and achieving and even over-delivering on what you wanted to do! This has happened to me so many times. I apply this whenever I’m feeling very demotivated or feel like “I can’t do this today” or when I’m feeling self-conscious. I go through this process and I remind myself of my standards, why I want to do it, what exactly do I want to do and how is it going to look? How is the end result going to look? How am I going to feel? Really getting into that.
Mind your Focus, Physiology and Language at all times. Being very careful about negative self-talk because this really strengthens a negative trajectory that you can’t afford to be on.
Actively change your physiology — try breath-walking, smiling (you can do that all the time) or combine smiling with power poses. Some people feel uncomfortable smiling if they’re not ‘feeling’ it and it does not seem genuine but after some time, as your state changes, it actually becomes genuine! Give it a try because it can help you a lot with changing your state.
As you change your state you can get on a trajectory where you are suddenly starting to feel inspired and motivated and where you can focus your mind to over-deliver on what is important to you.