As head learning coach here at CAL, every day I have students call me up or email me desperate for help with getting motivated. It’s my job to make it seem really exciting and super achievable…easy even, to finish a part-time course at the same time as well…the rest of life!
In my role I make out like I don’t experience these seemingly mere mortal feelings but and I’m not proud to admit it there are some days when I stare at an email or hang up the phone thinking “well who’s going to motivate me?!” I get it. I have days, weeks, even months when my motivation is almost hitting below zero and brrr it’s freezing down there! It’s a horrible feeling and what makes it worse is that the solution seems to be ‘out there…’ it feels as though there’s an external force that I’m waiting for to – hopefully – at some point bear down and lift the black cloud of sluggish self-doubt off my head so that I can get on with it. Sometimes that does happen, but often it takes more work than that.
So I thought I’d share with your four little myths about motivation that I’ve discovered and some helpful tips to eradicate them forever. The great news is? There’s no kale or superfood smoothies in sight… phew!
1. Your personal self-doubt cheer squad is very convincing and most probably right.
Rubbish! The non-stop chatter coming from the evil – yet profoundly powerful – mate that you’ve got living upstairs can be very convincing, I’m not going to lie. This loud and – let’s face it – crazy person is probably telling you that you can’t do it anyway so why should you bother? It might sound something like: “There’s no way you can do this, it’s too hard for you. You haven’t studied in years, since school, HA! What a joke. What if you send in your work and they laugh at it? You’ll never recover! Just stick to what you’re good at. It’s so cozy here in your comfort zone, why would you want to change. Change is unsettling and stressful. It’s too hard, just give up.”
The worst thing about this ‘mate’ of yours is that he/she A) never shuts up and B) never, ever leaves you alone! They get in the shower with you, they eat breakfast with you, they get on the same tram as you and then at the end of the day, they go to bed with you. Crowded!!! If you don’t believe me, spend a day consciously listening to them. You’re not going to like it.
It can be a constant barrage of abuse – even if you’re not aware of it, they don’t care, they will still hound you until at some point for seemingly no reason – when you’re walking down the street, doing the shopping, picking the kids up – you’ll suddenly feel the heavy weight of self doubt lowering comfortably onto your shoulders. Game over.
The great news is that this is all within your control. The simple solution is to not listen. Don’t engage in a conversation. Don’t listen to the advice (especially if it’s not helpful advice). Pretend like it’s your mother and just do it anyway to prove her wrong! You control the voice, not the other way around. Negative cheer squad be gone!
2. There are more ‘important’ things to be doing.
Well ok, this might be true sometimes! But when you manufacture ‘important’ things to do, like cleaning out the fridge, that’s cheating!
There is nothing more important than keeping the promises you have made to yourself. If you had a friend who consistently cancelled on you because every time you made a date to catch up she found something more important to do, I can’t imagine you’d stay friends for very long…am I right? That’s just rude!
So, make yourself your number one priority – just for some of the time. Don’t be so altruistic that you sabotage yourself completely. Making yourself unimportant in your own eyes (and therefore in others’ eyes) does nobody any good.
Treat yourself like you would treat your most adored and valued friend or partner – 100% supported with 100% commitment. No cutting out on yourself!
3. I’ll do it when I can put a good solid few hours in, then it will be worth while.
There’s nothing more satisfying than setting yourself up for some good solid hours of study. You get your playlist ready, put the kettle on, prepare your nibbles and water and make sure your work station is so comfy you’ll never want to leave. You could wait out winter here! But let’s face it…how often do we actually have endless luxurious hours to ourselves to study? Not that often. So perhaps we need to lower our standards and make the most of what we do get.
Sneak in an hour of study during the day or better yet use your idle (aka Facebook) time to start that report, edit some work, or do that research for your tutorial activity because you never know, by the end of the week you might have done the equivalent of a good 8 hour study block.
You might also find that because these 30 minutes here and there are so precious you’ll be more focused and achieve more than you thought you would!
4. I need to wait until I feel motivated before I can do anything, otherwise I’ll just feel more frustrated.
This is very tempting to believe – I know, I’m an EXPERT at this one! It’s such a relief being able to emancipate yourself with a solid ‘plan of action’ for when the time is right but sorry you lot, it’s rubbish!
You’ll end up with the same obligatory item listed on your to-do list ‘finish unit one’ week after week. I know you’re doing it.
In truth, what I’ve discovered – from hitting rock bottom and either having to find a way out or give up completely – is that it’s actually the other way around. As soon as you tick something off your list it instantly stars to get better.
A few weeks ago I cleaned out my underwear draw. I kid you not, it was the ONLY positive thing I achieved for the whole weekend and it most definitely was not something that was on my ‘to-do’ list but you know what? It felt good and I banked it as a win and as soon as I had a win, I wanted another one.
Have a go – commit to just one tiny thing. One tutorial, one activity, send a draft into CAL, type up one page of notes, read one article, visit one website… and then? Celebrate it! Give yourself a win, thank yourself and then promise to do it again tomorrow.
Do it today so that you wake up tomorrow feeling grateful and… you never know, perhaps even a little more motivated!