When you want to quit

photo credit: M I S C H E L L E via photopin cc

photo credit: M I S C H E L L E via photopin cc

If you have ever done a job interview for a serious position, you have probably been asked the question, “Describe a time when you persevered in a difficult situation.” At work I’ve been working on a few different projects for the past couple of months. One project in particular has me thinking about this question.

Usually, I tell the story of how I wrote my first novel in a month. This experience has served me well in many circumstances. All of those circumstances involved persevering through difficulty. With that first novel, I was driven to finish to prove my brother wrong (he said I couldn’t do it). The transferable part was the pattern I noticed: the project starts and you’re exhilarated, then it starts to be less exciting but still neat, then you want to SHOOT YOURSELF and TAKE PEOPLE WITH YOU but you got this far so you better keep going, and then you get so close to the end you can feel it and you push through.

This week, I was at the SHOOT YOURSELF part of the project. As I was walking home from work one day I was reflecting on what was keeping me going. How was I managing to keep myself motivated despite the fact that I resented having to do some of the tasks I was doing (it was just that one part of the project; as a whole I’m very happy with my work!).

What motivates you?

This is the list that I came up with as I was trudging through the snow:

  1. The task is worthwhile and the end product will serve many people for years
  2. It moves our mission forward (and I believe in that mission)
  3. Our mission is worth experiencing the difficulty
  4. If I procrastinate because I don’t want to face the task, it will probably die and never be finished (which would be bad because of 1 & 2)
  5. It’s my job, and my integrity as a good employee is on the line if I bail.

But of that list, it’s really #1 – #3 that keep me going. I really, really believe in what I’m doing. I believe in it so much that I’ve done many things I’m not crazy about because I want to see us move forward. I’m happy to “take one for the team” so to speak.

Reflect on your ‘Whys’

What’s on your list? What motivates you to continue despite hardship? Running through that list was really helpful and calming. I hadn’t really thought about those things before during the project, but I agreed to do it because of the first 3 on the list.

Despite this experience being a frustrating one at times, I already feel a sense of accomplishment in getting to the other side of the hard part. I’m looking ahead to the project being finished and having a product that helps others do good work.

What motivates you when you don’t want to finish a project or task? 

Dissonance

The last few months have been obviously abnormal for me in certain ways. As my dad put it, “Your lack of blogging is very obvious.” He also proceeded to assume that I must be a lot less stressed by blogging less.

Not exactly.

I’ve realized that my life is a lot more together when I’m busy. There’s this sweet spot where I’m quite busy actively working on my priorities. This point exists right before I’m freaking out because I haven’t done laundry or grocery shopping for weeks. This fall, as I have focused on work and getting my laundry done on time and having food in the house, I’ve also watched a lot of Netflix.

I am mostly OK with these things.

I’m mostly OK with having not really moved forward much in reaching some of these goals listed on this website because I know there’s more to life than blogging and running and reaching goals. I’m mostly OK with having been a bit of a blob on my couch because it’s OK for me to not have everything together at all times.

But I was also partly not OK with this fall because I don’t like being a blob. I’m not a very great person when I’m a blob. There’s this ugly spot on that same imaginary chart where if I don’t have enough challenge I revert to laziness. This was me in my personal life this fall.

There was a distinct dissonance in my life and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was unmotivated, yet I understood that this was not the end of the world, even if I didn’t like it. My SAD wasn’t really a big deal recently, which was incredible. And yet, something was still off.

This morning when I woke up the sun was shining. We cleaned the house and I did all kinds of things I had put off. I scrubbed the tub, I cleaned the shower curtain, I did laundry, tidied the house, I walked to Café St. Henri and here I am. Blogging. Getting Things Done.

There’s something about December that motivates me. It’s the anticipation of a new beginning in January. So here I am, turning my back on that weird fall and facing forward.

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Learn how to motivate yourself

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to motivate myself. I don’t think this is entirely a bad thing. Sure, it isn’t nice to be unmotivated, especially when you’re someone like me who likes constant movement towards, well, anything. The positive thing is that I’m learning about myself. Through trial and error I’m learning how to get myself from where I am to where I want to be. Since I started University, I’ve been using different techniques to motivate myself to do tasks I don’t like. I would never have graduated without doing this.

I know that just because I don’t want to do something doesn’t mean it has stopped being worth doing. It just loses its excitement, not worth. In reading and learning about leadership, I’ve heard people say that leading yourself is one of the hardest things you’ll learn to do. I can’t remember where I heard that and I’m not totally convinced it’s true. But I do know it can be hard.

This week I watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (on Netflix). It was fascinating. One thing that I noticed that was alarming was how many people the guy was interviewing who said something along the lines, “I know I’m going to die because I’m overweight and unhealthy. It’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m the only one who can fix this. But, I just can’t. I love food.”

“BUT YOU CAN!” We  want to yell at them, right? And yet, we can probably relate in some way or another with serious demotivation. We can relate to an obstacle that seems so insurmountable, we give up before we start. Right?

This is where become resourceful is key. We need to have a tool belt of ways to get our butt in gear. In my experience, one thing may work like a charm in one area of my life, but not another.

In getting ready to write this post I searched the internet for resources to quote, but no one really said much that I didn’t already know. This was half encouraging (I’m on the right track!) and also disappointing (what if these ideas aren’t working!).

Ways to motivate yourself

If you’ve read my ebook some of these things wont be new. But they’re still true. Sometimes you need to be creative in how to activate each of these things.

  1. Vision. Remind yourself of how it could be if you achieve your goal. What was that original vision that capture your heart and mind? If you want to know more about this you can read my ebook.
  2. Inspiration. Hang out with inspiring people, read inspiring blogs, or biographies. Find out what inspires you to be better (spouse? child? sibling who tells you you can’t accomplish your goal?) and use that as fuel.
  3. Rewards. Humans often need rewards in order to be motivated. Whether or not you are ok with that or not is out of the question. You might think you’re better than that, but you probably aren’t. You’d be surprised what you’ll do for a square of dark chocolate, a chance to play a video game, dinner at Joe Beef. Develop a rewards system for yourself and try that out. Maybe going for a winning streak on Lift is reward enough.
  4. Play games/add healthy competition. Find a friend (or enemy?) you can have some healthy competition with. See who can lose the most weight, or swear the least while making a pie crust. Try something like Lift
  5. Act on the facts. The facts are, you’ll die younger than necessary if you’re obese. How do you act on that fact?

Now the question I’d be wondering if I were you: are any of these working for you? Sigh. Not in this case. BUT, that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I’m still on the search for a successful motivational tool. Sadly, the increasing numbers on my bathroom scale are not yet working.

Motivation: found

Just as quickly as my motivation left, it returned. One piece of information changed my attitude completely. It’s a bit bizarre, actually. I’m not sure why my attitude was dependent on these details. I went from not having zero desire to pursue any of my goals, to realizing I was being an idiot. What changed?

Fall came.

Yes, it’s that time again. When exercise is no longer a luxury or a middle-class hobby, it’s an act of desperation in order to keep on top of my mental health. When my morning routine is a way I keep on top of all of these things because they’re all crucial to me keeping my life in order. I don’t think it’s any coincidence I first posted about morning routines exactly a year ago. Fall, for me, is very pretty torture.

But you know what? I don’t really want to run anymore. I’m working on that one. I used to really enjoy it! And now all these people who started running after me are totally overtaking me in distance covered etc. They’re all running 5, 10ks. People posting their half-marathon times on Facebook and I’m experiencing deep regret over my public declarations.

But that’s kind of the whole point of the public declaration: so I will be shamed/encouraged into continuing.

The Oggings

If you follow me on twitter you would have seen me tweet this yesterday:

In the last week a bunch of people have bugged me (or simply asked) what was up with my lack of blogging (or jogging for that matter).

The simple answer is: I don’t know. That’s also the complicated answer. It’s not that I’m too busy (Mrs. Buxton!). It’s worse than than. I have been uninspired and  demotivated.

I still care about these things. I just lack drive. This is a weird state for me to be in. It is rare for me to lack drive to write. It’s rare for me to lack drive to learn.

So this week I was thinking a lot about what I could do to stay motivated.

Dynamic Determination

Dynamic Determination is a leadership quality we teach a lot about at work and one that I’ve been working on in my life these last few weeks. I am determined to not let The Oggings fall totally by the wayside. The process of figuring out how is the tricky part. Do I use positive reinforcement and reward myself with Fleur de Sel every time I do one? Do I use negative reinforcement and deprive myself of something good for not having done one of these things?

I know that in my life there will be plenty of times when I don’t Want To do X or Y. Right now I’m learning how to find or make the Want To. Self-discipline is hard enough for me when I have motivation. At this point in time when I lack it, that self-discipline is nowhere to be found. But I’m on the hunt.

10 Questions About Your Goals

10Qaboutgoals

Photo by Seán Venn

Time Management Ninja had an excellent post on friday about goal setting. It was helpful and clarifying to me as I consider and evaluate my goals. I wanted to share these 10 questions with you.

10 Questions You Must Answer About Your Goals:

  1. Are They Written Down? – Writing your goals down is a magical act. It makes them real. It clarifies them, and helps bring definition and accountability to them.
  2. Are They Your goals? – Before you pursue them, make sure that your goals aretruly your own. Or are they goals that have been put upon you by expectations of your family, job, or society?
  3. Do They Have a Deadline? – Goals without deadlines are like a race without an end. You need a finish line to define your goal and when you will accomplish it by. (You can always adjust later… see #7.)
  4. What is the Cost and Are you Willing to Pay It? – Every goal has a cost. Whether it is time, money, or sweat. Make sure you are willing to pay the price to achieve your goal.
  5. What Help Will You Need to Accomplish Your Goals? – Truly great goals require us to go beyond ourselves. Every successful person learned from someone else. Plan in advance how you will get the assistance you need.
  6. Are You Focused on Your Goal? – Many people fall into the trap of unfocused goals. Or perhaps, they have too many goals at once. You must have laser focus on your big goal. It must be front-and-center in your life. It must get constant attention.
  7. Are Your Goals Adaptable? – Life changes. You can’t control that. So, your goals must be adaptable. This is not to be used as an excuse at the first sign of difficulty. Adaptable goals change, instead of break, when life throws you a curve.
  8. Do Your Goals Stretch Your Limits? – If your goal is to do something that you have already done before, then you will get the same results. Your goals should stretch your abilities. That is how new capabilities and limits are reached.
  9. Do Believe in Your Goals? – More than anyone else, you have to believe in your goals. There will be critics, doubters, and people who want to see you fail. Don’t listen to them. Listen to the inner voice that drives you.
  10. What Did You Do Today? – You must act on your goals every single day. It is not an optional activity. If you truly have the determination and focus to reach your goals, you will not only think, but act on them every single day.

My reflections on these questions

  • I’ve already thought through most of these. When this blog was first just an idea in my head, I considered “do I have the money to make these goals happen?” and “Is it selfish to focus on these goals?” (question number 4). We don’t want to set ourselves up for failure, but we don’t want to be pessimists either.
  • I hope you know by now that I love, love, love question number 7. In certain areas of my life I can be a perfectionist (cleaning my house is not one of those areas) and I tend to hold myself to a standard of performance that isn’t helpful or healthy. I’m learning to be flexible and give room for the unforseen changes of life.
  • The last question was a big kick in the butt! It’s unusually cold this week, though the snow is gone and the sidewalks are clear for running. I told myself I would start again but I don’t want to go out in -10ºC after being accustomed to +1ºC! Sigh. Out I go for my first run of spring, reminding myself I was running in -10ºC last November.

Have you thought about these things as you first planned for your goals? Had you forgotten to consider any of these questions? Leave a comment here with your thoughts.

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