Self-awareness allows you to carry an inner candle to initiate and sustain inspiration. Image courtesy of nngkt at freedigitalphotos.net
Staying motivated can be difficult, sometimes. We have fluctuations in energy levels, our mood can change without us being aware of why, and we can forget why a goal is important to us.
As writers, we may or may not experience fluctuations in inspiration. Below are some thoughts about how to stay motivated not only in writing, but in other pursuits too – the principles are the same.
I think it is important to remember that feeling inspired, fuelling our motivation, can come after we initiate action. If we wait until ‘we feel like it’ we may not experience the positive emotions I find do occur once I start working toward a goal.
For example, I didn’t feel like going for a brisk walk the other day. However, I kept in mind how I felt after exercising, and this inspired me to do it.
I think sometimes it helps to ‘set the mood’ for action. For example, putting on music puts me in a frame of mind where I will want to do housework. I also perceive that I have higher energy levels, and that my mood is more positive.
Music might not motivate everyone, however. Some people are inspired by others' success and pursuit of a same or similar goal, some by quotes, some by visualising a successful outcome – knowing what makes you tick is the key to staying motivated.
Therefore, if we wait to “feel motivated” we may remain stuck in a state of inertia. The lack of action to fulfil our particular goals may lead us to doubt ourselves. Even though we should allow ourselves “time off” now and then, we may question whether we can do it. Of course we can, but we may assume our attitude from our behaviour – our self-perception may convince us it really isn’t that important. Sometimes, the longer we stay away from a course of action that will lead to attainment of a goal, the harder it can be to restart.
For example, an inspirational movie with a theme that mirrors your goal to some degree can help motivate you. I use to love cross-country running. My favourite movie was “The Four Minute Mile” because it tracked the ups and downs of two athletes who put their heart and soul into achieving what had never been done before – running a mile in less than four minutes. Often directors will cleverly choose the music to go with the themes of the music. “Chariots of Fire” is a classic example: the music is motivating as much as the sequence of events that comprises the movie.
We need to be aware of what environment best motivates us. The environment includes our external and internal states. For example, I cannot write when there the external environment is noisy, or my internal state is one of restlessness. I write best at night or early mornings and on my bed! We are all different to with respect to the conditions that are personally most conducive to productivity.
With respect to mood, tonight illustrates and reinforces a truth that resonates for me, but may not for everyone. I felt rather flat tonight – certainly not motivated. I felt uninspired. However, when I sat down and started writing, I feel at peace and those feelings have come.
Motivation is not about being excited or over the moon a hundred percent of the time. It’s often more about finding meaning in what you do, a sense of purpose.
Sometimes, putting pressure on myself demotivates me. If I force myself to sit down and write, it never works. However, if an idea comes to me it ignites my inspiration so I can write.
I don’t want to write words for the sake of it, either, to get my ‘word count’ up. What I write comes from my heart and head, and needs to be personally authentic.
Self-awareness is the key to understanding what triggers your enthusiasm to put energy into a desired pursuit. Being aware of what you are thinking and feeling while engaged in an activity can help. For example, when I am doing housework I think “this feels better now it’s tidier – that’s a good reason to do it” and “dancing to the music while doing housework is fun!” Sometimes self-awareness comes most frequently when the external environment is quiet and your internal noise is low.
Note when you have your most productive days. What’s going on in your environment? Are you alone or with others? What thoughts are you having? What triggers feelings of enthusiasm for you – is it music? Is it thinking of a loved one?
In conclusion, use your self-knowledge and individuality to discover ‘what makes you tick’. Then, 'just do it' and inspiration will follow.