Goals Managing Self

What to do when motivation wanes

Written by Lisa Holden Rovers

Summer is well underway and it is hard to believe that we are halfway through the year.  If you are like me, with the sun warming the sky, and the vacation season here, you may find that your motivation has waned.

The same drive to complete the goals you set at the start of the year may be fading, or you’ve lost sight of them altogether.  You are likely concerned that if you don’t push through the summer months, you could be in for more overwhelm when the busyness of the fall season approaches.

You may be asking yourself, “How can I stay motivated to meet my goals while having vacation on my mind – whether it’s getting ready for the holiday, getting caught up after the break, or getting  proper coverage while I’m away?”

Well, I am here to remind you that there is a distinct difference between motivation and discipline!

When you begin something new and exciting you may be like many of my clients and think thoughts like: “This is going to be great!” or, “I am really looking forward to this.”

Eventually, the results don’t come fast enough, or you get overwhelmed by the work it will take to achieve them.  Bottom-line, when your motivation wanes, your guilt level increases, time ticks closer to the deadline, and that can feel very draining!

The reality is, when we set our sights on a goal, there will be times when we JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE DOING what needs to be done!   

July and August are months when you may be tempted to throw caution to the wind and slow down your progress.  I encourage you not to do this and instead examine where you are at now in reaching your goals and what you still need to do.  Then, identify new habits you can put in place to help you get there.

Jim Rohn stated, “Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”  In other words, when motivation fails you, a disciplined habit can save you.

Think about this for a moment.  Even when you desire a certain result, you don’t always want to do the work you know it will take to get you there.  But, if you do the thing, and make it a trackable, disciplined habit, you can measure your effort, and this can motivate you to continue while you work towards your desired result.

Set yourself up for success by doing these two things: 

First, chunk down your goal. 

Break the goal down into smaller steps. This enables you to focus on the action steps needed to be done to complete the current phase of the bigger project without getting overwhelmed by the big picture.  Amazing what a small shift in perspective can accomplish. As I like to tell my clients when they are overwhelmed by a big hairy project, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  Not that I’ve ever tried one!

Second, create small actionable habits so that on days when you’re less than enthusiastic, you will make good decisions to move forward towards your goal.

I often suggest to my coaching clients, that they follow the advice of the behavioral expert, B.J. Fogg to develop a habit that supports them in reaching their goals.  Fogg suggests these three steps:

  1. Form a new habit in baby steps. Ask yourself, what is one small habit you can adopt?  Perhaps it is for you to set aside one hour per day or two hours per week to work on a goal.  This now becomes a simplified way for you to track and evaluate your progress towards your goal.
  2. Identify an anchor. Think about something that you do now that can prompt you to act on this new habit.  As an example, on Mondays, as you plan your week, immediately block off two hours to work on goal-related actions.  The key is that you perform your disciplined habit AFTER you complete something you do already.
  3. Celebrate small wins. Each time you complete this new habit, reward yourselves in some small way.  Treat your team to a latter or cookie break, or even put a gold star or big check mark on your to-do list.  By simply acknowledging your completion of the act, it will fuel your motivation to make this a habit.

The masterful painter, Van Gogh said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

It isn’t impulsive moments of inspiration that will help you achieve your goals and cement new habits.  Rather, the accomplishment you feel when you and the team make incremental progress towards your goals.


About the author

Lisa Holden Rovers

Lisa Holden Rovers is the Founder of Workplace Matters, where she serves as a powerful catalyst for business leaders and career professionals. She has coached and trained hundreds of emerging and veteran leaders to discover their strengths, develop an influential leadership style, and take action to achieve their goals.

Lisa has been personally mentored and trained by some of the masters in the personal development industry, most notable of which is internationally recognized leadership authority, John C. Maxwell. Maxwell’s core philosophy, “Everything rises and falls on leadership” is a key message Lisa shares with clients through her coaching, training, facilitation, and speaking engagements.

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