“To Do” lists can help you with your motivation. Crossing your tasks off as you do them actually releases dopamine (a neurotransmitter) in your brain. Excitement, satisfaction and pride are emotions that are experienced during this chemical reaction.
If you’re having a hard time getting motivated to do something, break it down into small tasks and assemble a list. As you do each step, cross it off. It might help you feel a sense of inspiration and before you know it, you’ll achieve your goal!
Taking a good picture with a manual camera requires forethought, patience and careful calibration. You choose what you take a picture of – that is, you choose what you focus on.
You also choose what you focus to think about. There is new scientific data that shows people who choose to meditate and/or think positively have increased plasticity of their brains. That is, they have strong external and internal networks in their brains. External networks light up when people think about external tasks and internal networks refer to matters that “involve themselves or emotions.”
Buddhist monks meditate and direct their minds to think compassionate thoughts and positive reflections. They purposely think this way.
Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who ironically, suffered a brain hemorrhage. It (temporarily) disabled her ability for language and logic. With that, she was left with a dominant right hemisphere brain: creativity, intuition and imagination. She was happy. She was completely present and non-judgmental. All her thinking (and worrying) ceased. She had no negative thoughts! As her left brain recovered, she made up her mind (haha) to never go back. She chooses to think happy thoughts and to be blissful.
How do you do this?
Bolte Taylor says, “When you find yourself thinking negatively, it feels bad in your body. As soon as you feel it happening, think about something else!”
One day, a mother took her four year old and five year old daughters to their Montessori preschool. She apologized to the teacher for being late, and explained that it took some time to get her kids dressed.
“Why don’t you let them dress themselves?” The teacher asked.
“They’d look like disasters! Nothing would match.”
The mother thought about it. She decided to let them dress themselves. Thegirls wore odd things: sweaters with light pants, short-sleeved shirts with boots…but eventually, each daughter forged her own style. The girls laughed loudly, and they walked proudly. It was clear that each girl was her own person.
It was challenging for the mom. She wanted to help them so many times. “Relax.They’re doing great!” The father said.
As the girls grew, their mother made mistakes. She got some things right, but she learned that “letting go” was her biggest challenge. She noticed that they learned lessons most effectively through mistakes: forgetting an instrument at home and having points deducted at school taught them to plan the night before. When they didn’t eat well, they felt sick and chose to eat better next time.
Everyone – the father, the mother and the kids – are still learning. And it’s all good.
One of the 5 ways to increase your grit is practice, practice, practice. By this, Angela Lee Duckworth means to practice deliberately. For example, let’s say you’re a musician. It might be tempting to play that piece that you know so well, the one everyone compliments you on. But you’re not going to get better by doing that. You need to practice that four octave scale you haven’t nailed yet. You need to go slowly, hit each not just right and start over when you get it wrong. Boring! Tedious! But so critical.
This is grit.
It’s hard and it’s boring and you need to do it every single day. You need to be consistent.
That is how you get better.
By the way, you can substitute anything for practicing violin: football, soccer, dance, writing, drawing, painting. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing extremely well.
Grit – the persevering drive to achieve one’s goals – is identified as one of the most powerful factors for success, even more than talent.
A big part of my job is to preserve perseverance in my students. As a mother, modeling and maintaining grit is central to my parenting style. We can raise talented, very smart children, but without resilience, they won’t create and maintain satisfying, successful careers and lives.
Perhaps you’ve found your own passion and you can relate. “I love writing/painting/coding/etc. but I often fail to complete a project. How can I develop grit?”
Angela Duckworth, a noted psychologist, author and recipient of the MacArthur Genius award for her work on grit, identified 5 research-based ways to increase your grit level:*
Pursue your interests – obviously, if you’re intrinsically driven to pursue something, you’ll be more apt to stick with it through thick and thin!
Practice insanely – consistent, deliberate practice not only makes perfect, it also increases your perseverance.
Find purpose – if your long-term objective is to help your community or others, you’re more likely to stick with the work than if your objective is to save up for that dream Ferrari.
Be optimistic, have hope – truly believe and expect that tomorrow will be better than today. So if you’re still learning and making mistakes, know that you’re just going to get better and better.
Join a Gritty Group – Have you heard the saying, “You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with?” It’s true. Stick with diligent people and you’ll be persevering too.
You’re on your 18th diet. You’ve lost weight before – many times – and you’re planning on doing it once more. You’re going to the Bahamas this spring and you want to look good.
Why do you find yourself back in this place again and again?
You had the wrong kind of motivation.
There’s short-term motivation and long-term motivation. Short-term motivation is fueled by factors outside of the goal. For example, you’re motivated to lose 15 lbs. because you want to look good for your trip to the Bahamas. “The Bahamas” is not only outside the contiguous United States, but it’s also outside of being healthy and fit. You’ll be able to take the weight off, maybe. But the weight will come back. This is because your motivation lies outside of you. It’s external.
If you want to lose 30 lbs. because you want to be more ambulatory or because you want to get off your blood pressure medication and you want to feel more energetic, then your motivation is internal and you are much, much more likely to stick with your exercise, diet and all the other healthy habits that you need to adopt for the change.
This goes for any goal you create for yourself. If you want to ensure that you make a long-lasting (permanent) change, define for yourself the internal motivation for it. The externals are easy: more money, the respect of others, prestige, etc. But the internals? These could include: new skills, peace of mind, confidence, mental strength, and physical strength.
Of course, there are consequences for hard work. You very well might make more money by gaining new work skills. You might get noticed and gain fame. You might look great on the beach. But make sure these are not part of your motivation and it’s more likely that you’ll sustain your success.