The start of the year is always a time of motivation and renewed energy and focus, of setting goals and being rejuvenated. People still set goals and resolutions, even though we all know that an incredibly high percentage of New Year’s Resolutions are forgotten within the first month. The motivation to endure through the first couple of months can be hard to maintain. Is that the fault of the person, or of the goal or resolution they choose, or the pressures of life and society? Maybe a combination of all 3? Whatever the cause, it’s hard to maintain the motivation that you feel at the beginning of a goal or resolution.
Permaculture talks about the value of catching and storing energy. You can learn more about permaculture from Permaculture Australia here. Nature provides a multitude of energy forces that we can harness for the benefit of human life. Sun, Wind, Water, Geothermal, Magnetic, these are all incredibly powerful sources of energy that can power our lives in a physical way. You could say that motivation is an energy force, right? When you have sufficient motivation, you can achieve a staggering amount of action and results. Where does that motivation come from?
What happens to the resolutions we make?
Perhaps after making a resolution and starting a new action, eg “I’m only going to eat healthy food from now on!”, you return to some old and familiar habits.This happens because there’s a part of your brain that will resist change. “I miss chocolate”. It will try to convince you that things were fine the way they were, and there was no need to change. That survival part of your brain will actually attack the motivation you had to do this in the first place. This happens even when the more intelligent parts of your brain know for a fact that the change you’re trying to achieve is very important for your growth and development.
Perhaps the pressures of life get in the way. Starting a new activity during the holidays is super easy. “I’m going to do 30 minutes of yoga every single day!” and then every day of your summer holiday starts with this wonderful routine. You get back home, back to work, and suddenly that time availability disappears. Finding the time and motivation to continue is really hard, even to complete a shorter period of time is hard to find, your day is back to the old routine. There wasn’t time to do it beforehand, so there’s no time to do it now.
Perhaps you want to stop a bad habit. “I’m going to quit smoking”. Resolutions like this, to break an addiction, are one of the hardest but most rewarding to achieve. It is very possible, and even doing it with will-power alone is achievable, but what happens when you fall off the wagon, when you cave in to your cravings, and break that resolution? You could feel discouraged, like you’ve failed, and so you stop trying. Perhaps you see this resolution as a single decision, and not the reality that breaking an addiction is a journey, a process of making many consecutive choices to stay on track and keep trying over and over again, and accepting that there will be lots of bumps along the way, and that it needs continuous motivation to stay on, or to keep returning to, that track.
Consider the extreme examples of motivation and the stories we hear, such as a mother whose child is trapped in a car and she finds the power to move the car with her own two hands to save her child, presumably being sufficiently motivated by her love for her child and the imminent danger. If we look at less extreme examples, perhaps there’s been a time when you were struggling with procrastination, and then an assignment is due, and your whole semester of school relies on getting a good grade on this assignment, so you suddenly find the motivation to stay up all night to finish it.
This energy force of motivation comes from within. I could talk for hours on the wonders of the brain and the sort of things it’s capable of, but perhaps I’ll do that another time, let’s not get distracted.
Last month we discussed the Wheel of Life, and how it can offer a holistic approach to your personal development in setting goals that really make a positive impact on your life when you use it together with an impact matrix. But now that you’ve chosen that goal, you need to make sure that you achieve it, and that it doesn’t end up on the heap of forgotten commitments and broken promises you’ve made to yourself.
How can you maintain motivation?
The solution to this problem of struggling to maintain motivation can be found in each of the four values of: Be True, Love the Earth, Community, and Structure.
You can maintain motivation to achieve your goals when you are true to yourself, and what’s really important to you. Choosing goals that are at the core of your personal values will provide an automatic source of motivation to achieve them. The result you want to achieve will create a powerful magnet pulling you towards that result. The actions required to achieve the goal will have less resistance if compared to the actions for a goal that isn’t linked to those core values. So, what are your core values? What is REALLY important to you? When you consider this, don’t worry about what you think they should be. Be honest with yourself, be really true to yourself, and consider what really lights you up inside. Your goals need to be connected to these values.
If one of your core values is FAMILY, then your goal could be something specific and measurable that would improve the relationships within your family, for strengthening bonds and contributing what is needed to ensure success within your family. When the challenges come that threaten to make your goal or resolution fall over, your compass towards your core value of family can fire up the motivation to keep going.
You can maintain motivation to achieve your goals when you love the earth and all of nature. The perspective we hold regarding our place on this earth can impact so much of what we do. I use the framework of Permaculture to find solutions to my challenges, because I believe that nature always has the answer. You can do the same as you spend time in nature, to feel the beauty and balance of nature, to appreciate what the earth provides. When you show love and respect to the earth, you will find the way forward.
You can maintain motivation to achieve your goals when you build your community, and then lean on your community. When you need support to help you achieve your goals and stick to your resolutions, remember that you are part of a network, and there is strength and support available from within your community. Reach out to trusted people for support, share your goals and the things you want to achieve, and when things don’t go to plan, they can help to remind you and stay on track.
You can maintain motivation to achieve your goals when you use a structure. When you develop and stick to a plan, a method of how to get from where you are to where you want to be, the structure of that plan provides stability and resilience to the opposition and resistance that you will experience as you try to improve your life or business. Rely on that structure to get you through, and use it to your advantage. You can structure your time around the actions that you must do to move forward. You can make them the priorities that everything else needs to work around.
Permaculture Principle: Catch and Store Energy
So how do you catch and store your motivation to get through the times when you would typically give up on those goals and resolutions? Kinetic energy is produced from movement, and is often captured to produce power. So that means that action is a source of power. Action is the solution to the problem of procrastination. It appears that, in true permaculture style, the solution IS found in the problem. When you lose motivation and can’t get that action going that you were so committed to just a short while ago, the solution is action. Any action.
Procrastination, lack of motivation, losing momentum, it all comes from neurological resistance to the resolution or goal you’re trying to achieve. But, on the flip-side, the neurological receptors that need to get going again can be fired up by a different action that isn’t seen to be so threatening. As you carry out the non-threatening activity, the walls of resistance to your goal will come down, and hey presto, you’re back in the groove again.
Give this a try the next time you know you should be doing something, but you just can’t find the headspace to do it. Take your attention off that action for a moment, and divert it to something you enjoy doing. Something that’s active (meaning that binge-watching Netflix is ruled out), something that is engaging and productive and beneficial. You’re not avoiding the action you should be doing, you’re preparing for it, and distracting the primitive brain that put up that resistance in the first place. The key to this exercise is planning. Taking a moment when you’re in a good headspace to prepare a prompter card will mean that when the lull and the energy funk sets in, you don’t have to try to think of something to do then, you just pull out your prompter card, and pick one of the activities you’ve already identified. The intention is to do this kick-starter activity, which should take about 10 minutes, and then have another go at the action you were supposed to be doing the first time.
The other side of this solution to lacking motivation is the connection to your core values. As discussed already in the focus on being true to yourself, having actions that you can clearly see charting a course to your deepest desires, which are connected to your strongest core values, provides a boost of motivation before you’ve even started. When you’re in a good headspace and feeling like your ultimate goal is clear to see, write down all the things that connect your immediate goal and the action you need to take with your ultimate vision for your life. Write a list of the chain of events that will occur to get you there, draw a picture of what it looks like, do whatever you do to best express your imagination and the vision you have for yourself, and create a clear step-by-step course of how this is going to go.
So now we fast forward to next week, and your motivation has bottomed out after a big stressful week, and your internal dialogue is getting pessimistic, and you’re tired, and here’s this action you wanted to commit to. Let’s say you made a commitment to go for a walk to the park and back with your spouse and your dog after dinner. But you really want to just sit down and rest. Let’s see how this may play out using these 2 motivational tools. You pull out your prompter card, and read what you prepared last week:
Use a Motivation Prompter and Kick-Start Activities Card
My Goals or Resolutions are: My Core Values are:
Go for a walk to the park each
day with partner and dog
Strengthen my marriage
Value my health
Love the Earth
Prioritise home life
The benefits of the Goal or Resolution are:
The reason these benefits are important are:
Which will bring me closer to my core value:
Give us quality time together
Help us connect when we’re both relaxed
Give us a chance to talk about our day
Help me to be present and emotionally available
Strengthen my marriage
A good low-impact exercise
Release tension from my muscles
Gently raise my heart rate
Value my health
Get me out into the fresh air
Clear out the indoor-air I’ve been breathing all day
Expose me to the fragrances of the garden and the evening air
Love the Earth
Take my mind off work
Release stress and tension
Help me to be present at home
Prioritise Home Life
By completing this exercise to begin with, you are catching the essence of your motivation, you are catching that energy to be stored, saved, and preserved, so that when you’re running low on energy and motivation, you can then tap into your reserves, and find the motivation to get going again.
The other side of your prompter card, there is a list of activities that can be used to kick-start your motivation again. Each of these suggested activities should take no longer than 10 minutes, even just 2 or 3 minutes could do the trick. They need to be physically active to generate kinetic energy, and engage 1 or more of your senses. You would make a list of activities that are really simple, familiar, that you really enjoy, so that there is no resistance to doing them, even when you find yourself in a motivation slump. For this example, you might have recorded a few ideas like:
KICK START ACTIVITIES:
- Do a few favourite yoga stretches. Pay close attention to how it feels.
- Stand on your tip-toes and reach for the sky.
- Drink a BIG glass of water, visualise the hydration spreading through your body.
- Take photos of your family, pets, or favourite things.
- Listen to your favourite song and dance along to it.
When you need to find motivation, pick one or more of these activities, and then together with the prompter card reminding you of how your goals and resolutions will take you closer to your core values, see if that makes a difference to the resistance you feel towards doing it.
Here is a free template PDF to print up, and then write in your answers by hand. Keep this in a handy place to use whenever your motivation slump comes along, and see if it helps.
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- Maintain Motivation to Achieve your Goals - January 29, 2024
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