The Missing Link Between Motivation and Executing on Your Goals
Between our intention to do something and the action itself, there is a gap. It is in this gap where we either hesitate and don’t take the needed actions or where we jump right in despite voices of fear or doubt.
When we make the internal commitment to do or be something, our brain senses that there is a difference between where we are now versus where we want to be. This feeling of disequilibrium may cause us to uncomfortable until we start taking action.
It’s easy to jump right into action when that initial rush of excitement washes over us, but some of the goals we set get abandoned after only a few short weeks or months — think of your last New Year’s resolution.
Can we train ourselves to feel motivated more often and to continuously keep taking action towards our most important goals?
The answer is yes, but first we must recognize the two main reasons why we often don’t commit to the actions needed to take our goals to the finish line.
A lack of motivation often results from these two main causes:
1) Weak Intrinsic Drive — a “why” that is not aligned with your heart’s intent
2) Weak Conviction — a subconscious belief that your goal isn’t possible to achieve
If your goal is driven by something outside of you such as the expectations of society or others, you lack the dopamine-boosting power of intrinsic motivation. If you don’t believe that achieving your goal is actually possible for you, then your brain won’t have a reason to invest its energy into it. The feeling of resistance then seems to be louder than the voice of your passions. Let’s examine both of these in more detail to see how they affect us and use the knowledge to turn ourselves into our own cheerleaders no matter what!
1) THE INTRINSIC DRIVE TO THRIVE
Research studies show that intrinsic motivation is correlated with better performance, higher levels of creativity, enhanced learning and development, and psychological wellness.
When we work on projects that have meaning for us, we often find ourselves in a state of flow. When we’re in the flow and working on a task that may be challenging, we become so absorbed in what we’re doing that the inner critic subsides. The optimal mix of challenge and skill in these flow states signals our brain to provide boosts of dopamine to keep us going.
You will always put more effort towards a goal that makes your heart light up.
When you find meaning in the activity itself, you bring that meaning into your actions. The satisfaction you feel isn’t linked only to the goal — you feel it even as you’re taking the necessary actions towards that goals. Tasks related to the goal don’t feel like a burden imposed on you by others. The work itself can become a labor of love. This frame of mind allows you to enjoy the work more because you are aware of the benefits you get from doing the activity and from the growth along the way.
Examining Your Why
Are you clear about the reasons why you want to achieve the specific goals you have for yourself? Are the goals part of a larger vision that is pulling you forward or are they a result of society’s and other people’s expectations for you?
Traditional goal setting is often focused on checking off our list of survival needs, including our psychological need for acceptance. True heart-based goal setting, however, springs forth from a place of a desire to fully express ourselves and grow, to connect with others on a deeper level or to contribute to their well-being.
As you consider your most important goals that you don’t feel like you’re executing on as well as you’d like to, think about some of these questions:
Where are these goals coming from? Your parents, your friends, your culture? A place deep within that you can’t explain? Or perhaps both?
Will you be able to be the person you want to be even as you work towards achieving them?
Will those goals contribute towards the experiences you want to be having on a more frequent basis?
Will they allow you to live your life in life with the message you want to leave after you’re gone?
Based on these questions, asses whether your goals are truly in line with your heart. If not, consider re-aligning your goals to something you feel pulled by rather than pushed towards.
“If you have a reason, you’ll find a way. If the reason is not something you believe in, you will find an excuse.” — Jim Rohn
2) ASSESSING YOUR LEVEL OF CONVICTION
When our imagination is limited by conditioning that tells us that “this isn’t possible,” we narrow down the range of goals that we will actually take action on. Our brains simply do not want to expend the energy to even bother going outside of comfort zones when it likely won’t lead to the desired outcome anyway.
We have to keep expanding our perspectives about what is possible, stretching our minds beyond our comfort zones.
If your goal doesn’t feel attainable, keep reminding yourself of others who have already done the same.
Inspiration is important because it helps us see what may be possible for us. One person can literally expand the possibilities for many others by doing what may appear to be impossible. This has been called the Bannister effect. In 1954, Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. That was a feat that was thought to have been physically impossible without significant damage to the runner’s health. But within the next three years, something incredible happened. Ten other runners broke the four-minute mile as well. How did that happen? There were not any mysterious leaps in human evolution during that time. The introduction of the new possibility enabled others to try something that their minds could not conceive of before. Imagine how many limits we could surpass as humanity if we all started breaking past our individual limits?
Increasing Your Conviction
To increase your level of conviction in your goals, surround yourself with examples of people that have achieved something similar. If you’re going through difficulties, see how those people have dealt with difficulties in their lives. Learn from them — read their books, watch their videos, listen to their podcasts. The more your brain gets used to the fact that your dream is a possibility, the more likely you will keep taking action in that direction.
“There is one grand lie — that we are limited. The only limits we have are the limits we believe.” ― Wayne Dyer