There’s a strange thing that happens as we achieve more results or we make progress. We plateau. We stop getting excited or engaged or driven by what we’re doing and we start to coast. When we start to coast, things do become easier but we also feel this sense of unease about how we’re utilizing our time and privilege. We’re wondering if we’re going to stop short of our potential. We wonder if we’ve lost our drive and motivation. We wonder what’s next.
The other day I was talking to someone about this idea of plateauing. She had just recently achieved some pretty big milestones in her career. Things that she has been working so hard to achieve for a long time. With it, however, came a sense of unease and some bad habits that had crept in. When we’ve worked so long and hard, we get tired and we want to rest. That’s completely healthy and normal. It’s also completely healthy and normal to evaluate after a big climb, what you now need to address. We ask questions like, “what parts of myself have I been ignoring?”
In this process, we start losing a sense of this person that had drive. Maybe we “should” want to achieve more in our careers, but we don’t. Maybe we “should” exercise and stop overeating, but we don’t. Maybe we “should” be more proactive in our work life, but we’re not. Maybe we “should ” start that project around the house, but we don’t. Maybe we “should” stop being so stressed about everything that is happening in the world, but we’re not.
People often come to me with a long list of “should’s” and my work often involves sifting through latent desires, false desires and life-changing ones to identify what gets turned into a “must”. This is a simple concept and much of what I share is fairly simple. I am not inventing anything new. I’ve heard this concept from Tony Robbins and I’m sure this concept has been around for a long time, but what we’re really talking about is understanding what changes when you change.
What is Motivation?
We often think that motivation is something that is extrinsic. Something that comes from outside of us. We think that motivation around money or appearance or what people think or say about you is the most important thing to have, which is why we give ourselves lots of incentives that are extrinsic. Promotions are more money and a title change. Revenue goals, clients, and business targets are numbers we count. Buying physical objects and having fancy homes, cars, clothes are very much tangible and seen. Accolades and awards from other people are also very much something that we can show and point out.
Yet, we often tire of these kinds of rewards very quickly. We are always searching for the next thing to motivate us when it comes to extrinsic rewards. This is why we don’t make the change we want to make next when it’s solely focused on extrinsic rewards. What if you don’t have an extrinsic reward that really motivates you because you have all the other things already? What if you already feel sufficient in all of these areas? Some people keep going after more money or less weight or more titles or more things, and find that there’s never an end. Others – and this might be you – start wondering if that’s all there is – and if so, begin to think “I don’t really want more of this in my life right now”.
If we want to still feel like we’re growing, developing and creating interest and joy in our lives, we’ll need another reason to do the things you know you should do but you don’t. You need intrinsic motivation. It’s not your fault that this hasn’t been shared with you as much as extrinsic motivation has – it’s likely due to how other people around you have been successful or what your culture, family, or society has told you is the way to happiness.
Yet if you’re here, now – thinking about how much you want to find more security, peace, joy, calm, freedom or energy – then what you’re really after is something that’s found in the world within us. In the world behind our eyes, instead of in front of our eyes.
The Big “P”
When I first made some big changes in my life to pivot my work it was because of a deep sense of urgency that life was short and I wasn’t living into the big “P”. What’s that big “P”? My potential. It was because I experienced the grief that comes with death that I saw how my own life was a big question mark. Sometimes, you are going to feel like your life doesn’t look the way you thought it would and you have no idea what to do next. You feel like it’s so uncertain and that you’ve lost your firm footing because you don’t have a north star to guide you. If all the things that used to matter, don’t matter anymore – what do I care about and who am I really?
What I want you to know is that when all is lost, you have the opportunity to discover something completely different. I am not saying that you won’t feel grief, confusion, discomfort and an immense sense of not-knowing- when you’re on this path of change or discovery. What I am saying is that these breakdowns often come before the breakthrough. How do you ensure that there is a breakthrough, though? How do you ensure that things actually change this time and that you suffer less and create more wisdom through this experience?
You experience breakthrough by coming back to your “why”. Why are you unhappy or feeling unmotivated right now? Why do you want to do the thing and change those habits? What is your reason that is bigger than the discomfort you will experience?
When I first made the decision to become a coach, I made a clear declaration to the Universe and to myself that this was not about the money. That this was something that was so important to me to do that I would do whatever it took to ensure that my coaching work would be supported. I’ve never felt conviction that deep. I used to feel like conviction was the thing that other people had. I had believed that conviction came from people who were mad, angry or competitive. I didn’t realize that there was also conviction that comes with a great amount of peace, joy, determination. Conviction in what you want to do and why you want to do it can feel incredibly liberating.
When you have a hard time starting a project you know you “should” do, the solution is to discover your why.
What is your Why?
How do we think about our why? It’s what gets you out of bed when you’re tired. It’s what you want to be remembered for next year. It’s who you want to show up as in the world.
I often coach people on the simple act of getting started on a big goal. The thing that will often be the most rewarding is the most difficult. Isn’t that interesting? If you look at all the things you do in a day, taking the first step and then the next step at this one thing you’re avoiding, is likely the one thing you’re going to remember the most in a year. It’s likely the one thing that will end up on your resume or list of accomplishments. Why? Because it was difficult, hard and challenging! It’s likely the one thing that will improve your health? Why? Because if it was so easy to do you would have done it already.
Take all the energy that you’re using on a daily basis shuffling through life, not making any meaningful progress – and do one thing today that you know you should do. Instead of saying “should”, you’re going to say “this is the one thing I must do today”. No matter what happens. This is what I must do. There is always a price to pay for the thing you want – the difference between those who have and are living into their purpose and those who keep making excuses is the willingness to pay the price.
Making it a MUST
Making it a “Must” changes it to a priority. I must feed my kids. That’s a non-negotiable in my life. It’s not that “I should” feed my kids. It’s “I must”. There is a very strong reason and “why” behind feeding my kids and it is something that I feel deep conviction behind. I would work pretty much any job or do almost anything to make sure that they are taken care of and that my family is ok. This is what I mean about a “must”. This is my willingness to pay the price. You don’t feel that way for a “should”. You don’t feel that way about that thing you’re not doing. How do I know that? Because you’re not doing it.
My challenge to you this week is to actually take a “should” and turn it into a “must”. Find one thing that is actually meaningful to you and dig deep into the why until you feel that it’s a must as strong as some of the other “must’s” you have in your life. Really dig in and do the comparison. Even if it feels like a fairly mundane or simple task that you’re avoiding, you can see that we lose trust in ourselves and our abilities when we don’t do the things that we “should” do. If we can’t turn it into a must, then take a hard look at if it’s really something that needs to be a priority right now.
What’s the Price?
Ask yourself, “what is the price I must be willing to pay for this?” Maybe the price to pay for your next promotion or to hit a revenue goal is the willingness to wade through uncertainty and figure out how to do this project or sell with a sense of leadership. Maybe the price to pay for your healthy body is to move your body and eat for fuel. Maybe the price to pay for having a high-quality relationship is to think about it as the most important thing in your life and give it real time and attention. There is always a price to pay. That’s a good thing. The question is – “am I willing to pay it?”
I want to leave you with this thought, which has helped me when I don’t want to get started on a thing. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to thoughts of fear or uncertainty or not knowing exactly what or how. Act as if you did know how and just decide that your why is more important than a little bit of discomfort or uncertainty in the moment. You are only one step away today, from being the person and living the life you must live.
If this topic resonates with you and you want to see transformational results in your life, you’ll love coaching. Getting coached consistently is the spark that will light the fire of inspiration to make the change you’re looking to make. It is the first step in creating clarity, making a massive shift and moving obstacles out of your way so you can move forward. You can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more.