- Reuters Pictures/Kim Kyung Hoon
Motivation often comes from outside sources.
Maybe your boss has set a due date for a project report or your personal trainer is shouting at you while you power through push-ups.
But sometimes motivation needs to come from within. Your boss won’t always be hovering over you asking for status updates on your project report – you have to make the personal choice to work on it.
Because pushing yourself to work toward your goals is anything but easy, we checked out the Quora thread, “How can I motivate myself to work hard?” and rounded up the best advice.
Read on for the tips.
1. Be a success seeker.
Quora user Bhaskar Bagchi writes about being a success seeker, as opposed to a failure avoider, which is an idea attributable to a TEDx talk by Scott Geller, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech.
In the talk, Geller says finding self-motivation is about reframing the way you talk to yourself. For example, if you’re a student, do you go to class so you don’t get kicked out of school (i.e. failure avoidance)? Or do you go to class so you learn more and get closer to your career goals (i.e. success seeking)? Chances are, you’ll be much more motivated to perform well in the second scenario.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
When you feel like you’re falling behind on your goals, it’s tempting to look around at all the people who seem to be achieving theirs.
But that tendency will only undermine your confidence and your ability to make progress, says Micha Kaufman.
“A case of the Joneses is about the best way to make you feel like you’re worth nothing,” he writes. “When such comparisons enter your head, recognize that these are just negative thoughts and let them pass.”
3. Understand your purpose.
- Wikimedia Commons
“Find your why,” says Nelson Wang. “If you don’t know what it is, create it.”
Research supports Wang’s idea. One study found that call center employees at a public university performed significantly better when they met students who had benefited from donations to the school. In other words, learning about the potential impact of their efforts motivated them to work harder.
4. Keep a daily diary.
Gerard Danford mentions research by Teresa Amabile, Ph.D., a professor at Harvard Business School, which found that making even a little bit of progress is tremendously motivating for workers.
That’s why it helps to record your progress along the way – for example, a phone call you made to help secure a sale. That way, you can look back at the end of the day and feel empowered to take another step forward tomorrow.
“Keep track of your small wins,” Amabile says in a video posted on Academy Bridge. “Keep track of your progress every day. That can be very motivational.”
5. Remember where you started.
- Flickr/Trekking Rinjani
Once you start keeping a diary, flip back to your entries from a few weeks or months ago.
“It can be very motivating to look back at where you came from,” writes Ben Baert, because you’ll realize that you’re capable of making great strides.
For example, Baert says, “if you’re learning how to draw, draw something (a cup, a tree, an animal, then draw the same thing again after a couple of weeks/months. Then compare with the original. That moment will be very motivational.”
6. Don’t fear criticism.
- University of Exeter/flickr
No one likes to hear that they’re doing something wrong. But try to keep your emotions in check.
“Consider the source and decide if the person really has the expertise or knowledge to make his or her comments,” writes MaRina Abaza. “If you decide that the words are not just empty accusations, look at it as an opportunity to improve yourself.”
If you approach the criticism with a clear head, it could end up being exactly the kick in the pants you need.
7. Set a quit time.
- REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
When you need to get stuff done, it can seem like the only strategy is to work as hard as you can for as long as possible.
But that technique is usually counterproductive and can easily lead to burnout.
Instead, Matt Holmes recommends imposing some deadlines and taking breaks.
It’s “important to recognize when enough is enough,” he says. “Set a realistic quitting time for yourself, and stick to it at least most days of the week. Stop answering emails after 8 p.m., or take Sundays off. You’ll feel more refreshed and more productive when you allow yourself some down time.”
8. Spend time with smart people.
- Flickr / Jim Fischer
It’s always intimidating to be in a room full of super-intelligent, super-knowledgeable folks – say, at a professional conference. But the experience can prompt you to challenge yourself to work harder than you thought you could.
Devansh Malik recommends spending time with people “who know way more than you about anything and everything. This will encourage you to learn more and to achieve [so] that you’ll automatically work hard.”
9. Rely on habits.
- Getty Images / Photofusion
Try as you might to summon it, sometimes motivation will elude you.
That’s why Eduardo Matos suggests turning your desired behaviors – like studying – into habits.
“It’s better to build the habit of studying X hours/day, and do it religiously, [so that] very soon you’re going to be studying automatically,” he writes.
One reason why practicing habits often trumps finding motivation is that you don’t have to exercise your willpower to make the choice to study. It’s simply something you do without thinking.
To start, figure out both the cue and reward for your old habit. For example, maybe you have a bag of chips each day when you get home from work because it relaxes you. If you want to start a healthier habit, you can use arriving home as the cue to change into your jogging gear, and that warm and fuzzy post-exercise feeling as the reward. Soon the exercise habit will have replaced snacking, and you won’t need to muster up the motivation to jog every day after work.