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The Most Important Thing for how You Build Long-Term Motivation

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Do you execute on plans only when you feel like it?

Do you postpone doing things until you feel motivated enough to take action?

If that’s the case then you’re being stupid.

Let me tell you why.

I’ve been getting some questions lately – both from readers and from people in real life – about motivation.

These people have asked what I do to motivate myself, how I stay motivated, and how they can do the same.

–I do a lot of different things. I go to great lengths of effort to become more motivated. But probably the single most important thing is to look at motivation as a consistent long-term practice —  and not something fickle that you randomly experience from time to time.

To do this you need to shift from the approach of relying on short-term boosts of good feelings”  to do things, into a system-oriented approach for building real motivation.

So, what does this mean?

In short: that you must come up with a system of strategies for pulling through periods of low motivation and use these strategies to force yourself to execute even when you don’t feel like it.

My History with Motivation

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’m not always some motivated maniac – except for when I break out of homeostasis.

As a kid I was pretty smart, and I relied heavily on that throughout school.  My weak point was that I had very little motivation to do things other than playing video games and practicing martial arts.

The martial arts I practiced were Judo, Jiu Jutsu, Karate, Jeet Kune Do, and MMA (Thai Boxing & Submissions Wrestling).

I was good at martial arts.

I had a friend with whom I practiced Judo, Jiu Jutsu and Karate together with. I was always better than him in terms of talent and technique, and I would usually win.

But, he had a secret weapon.

He had a shitload of grit.

He literally never gave up. He was so damn stubborn that you had to completely choke him out before he tapped.

He would beat me the times when our sparring matches became a war of attrition.

That was back then, when I was 7-12 years old.

And now?

Ironically, that guy is now notorious for being lazy, while I have turned out just the opposite.  Life is strange!

Anyway, by being around that guy at such an early and formative age I got a good model of what true grit looked like — and how I could go about developing it myself. But that process didn’t happen overnight.

My childhood friend had this instinct wired into him by nature – the instinct to persist further.  I on the other hand would only persist past physical or mental discomfort in the rare occasions when I felt highly motivated. And that wasn’t often.

When I was at practice I’d often quit on myself early.  I was mentally weak. Many times I faked my push ups because I didn’t feel like practicing.

In short, I lacked discipline.

I relied far too much on feeling good as a prerequisite for doing uncomfortable things that took effort or willpower.

I  eventually realized that I had to practice my work ethic over many years. I think I was around sixteen when I first understood this.

I had to form a system for improving my motivation in the long-term and get myself to do stuff despite not feeling like it – which, by the way, was most of the time.

Becoming System-Oriented

I still struggle with motivation from time to time like anyone else.  But, I think I struggle with it less often than most other people these days.

The reason for this is twofold:

  1. I’ve been practicing for a while.
  2. I’ve got a system for what to do to pull through periods of low motivation.

When I say I’ve got a system, what I mean is that I know what to do and how to act when I’m feeling shitty.  By following this system – when I’m feeling shitty – I become more consistently motivated in the long-term.

Actually, it’s especially important that I follow through and stick to the system-oriented approach when I’m feeling shitty.

It’s all about NOT letting the brain dictate reality to you.

It’s about consistently executing on things despite your current emotional state feels like. You simply cannot sit around and wait for your body to feel better. Or wait for your thoughts to become more positive.

You have to lead your brain and body as much as you can — you need to manipulate your state by forcing your physiology.

If you don’t, your brain will run the show and drag you along for the ride.

Your brain will use you to get stimulation in the easiest way possible.

Why?

Because the brain’s main priority is to maintain homeostasis and do whatever requires the least energy possible, while getting the most stimulation possible.

(Those of you who’ve read my book know this)

This means that:

  • If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do just because you feel shitty, you will be teaching your brain that it can get away with being lazy if it just produces bad emotions.

Just like a kid screaming and whining to get candy, your brain quickly catches on to this pattern and starts producing more bad emotions. It thinks it’s going to solve its problems by doing this.

And as a result of this you will start feeling less motivated.

Surprisingly few people understand this fact.

When most people feel bad or demotivated it’s because they’re doing it to themselves. It’s a self-induced affliction that stems from being ignorant about how to lead the brain and body. (Have you ever seen a depressed elite athlete?)

Instead of leading and giving orders to the brain, these people are only listening and following its responses.

How do you fix this?

–You learn how to control your brain. If you don’t, it will ruthlessly control you.

The System-Oriented Approach

What is it that I systematically do when I don’t feel motivated to do stuff?

Here are a few things…

Reflect on the Root Cause

When I find myself feeling like shit – I always wonder why.

Why am I not feeling highly focused?

What’s the cause of this?

I ask myself questions like:

  • Am I not sleeping well?
  • Am I forgetting to take relaxing breaks, power naps, or meditate?
  • Am I expressing myself enough?
  • Am I not pushing myself hard enough?
  • Am I pushing myself too hard?
  • Am I losing focus and getting stressed due to multitasking or getting too much stimulation?
  • Am I breathing correctly?

The last alternative, breathing, is an unexpected culprit that most people forget to think about.

Breathing is a very big deal. If you find yourself getting tired or having headaches often you might not be breathing correctly. Another indicator of incorrect breathing is if your voice is really low and weak. The correct way of breathing is by breathing deep into your abdomen, not your upper chest.

The If-Then Strategy

The if-then strategy means that you prepare in advance for how to handle a situation.

If X happens then you will react by doing Y.

By deliberately focusing on a thing like this you will become hypersensitive to when when you need to act, and in doing so you decrease the odds of unconsciously acting on autopilot when it happens.

One way of using the if-then strategy is by carrying around notes of what you’re supposed to do to remind yourself. Or write it on the back of your hand like Bas Rutten.

I did this obsessively every day for many months when I implemented a bunch of habits and mindsets related to work ethic and motivation a few years ago. I still do it sometimes.

Some Other Strategies You Might Find Useful

  • Keeping a Journal or Commonplace. This will make you more self-aware and allow you to notice when  and why you lose motivation. It also speeds up the learning process.
  • Planning ahead. If you expect to be tired the next day, pack your bags, select and fold your clothes, and prepare your gym bag for tomorrow.
  • Make Lasting Decisions. And do it often. Once you decide to do a thing there is no going back.

Stick to the System

The difference between me and a lot of other people is that I realized the importance that motivation played in my life from a relatively early age.  Therefore I’ve practiced it for a long time and gotten a bit better at it for every year.

We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.
―RICHARD G. SCOTT―

I know what I’m doing by now, and I’m continually tweaking small parts of my daily routine to find out what makes me even more motivated and focused.

I eat healthy, I exercise, I listen to awesome music, I visualize myself winning in everything I do, and so on…

In short, I’ve gotten more consistently motivated for each year that has gone by, and I will continue in this way because I have a grand strategy for what I’m doing.

I don’t leave motivation to chance.

I don’t expect to wake up one day and have things magically work out for me. Instead I take the necessary actions to make those things work out.

I don’t reward myself before first having put in the work. I often don’t eat anything until late at night after being finished with more important things.

So, if you struggle with motivation:

Realize that this is something you need to put some serious work into fixing.

If you’re not already fit, eating healthy, and getting proper sleep you need to start by doing that.

Then you need to come up with various mental practices to become more consistent, such as keeping a whiteboard, writing down affirmations, and using the if-then strategy.

You need to find ways of forcing yourself to act when you don’t want to.

You need to be very consistent in following the system you have devised.

You need to be like a poker player or a financial investor – you need to stick to your system and weather out the temporary storm in order to win in the long-term.

Question:  Do you also use a system-oriented approach to motivation? If so, let me know what you usually do to force yourself to be consistent.

 

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Comments

  1. Self-induced affliction? Are you stupid or something? Depression is a serious disease and if you suffer from it you need to get special help, you cant just “be consistent” and it will go away.

    Look here for example:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_depressive_disorder

    • Heathenwinds says:

      I’d be more careful about randomly insulting people if I were you. First of all he said “most people,” not “everybody who suffers from depression is a grade A IDIOT who needs to breathe better”. Actually, depression IS a mental state for most people. I “suffered from depression” for a while before I realized that my mindset and physiology(both body language and composition) were to blame.

    • Erica, no need to get angry.

      Maybe your case (or someone you know) is different, but for most people it’s definitely something you can practice away. I used to be depressed rather often when I was young, but when I started eating and sleeping better in combination with doing more productive things I started feeling a lot better.

      • I have a friend that doesn’t understand this. Sad feelings can lead to unconsciously bad habits that can lead to more bad feelings. It can be a vicious cycle that never ends.

        How can I help her learn that depression is a giant feedback loop?

    • Erica,

      Stop insulting people and get your shit together. Depression is self-induced. It`s the result of living a weak life. Wanna know the cure for depression?

      Get a purpose in life, eat clean, challenge your body, improve yourself, and remove everything negative out of your life. Done!

      • Well said Sebastian.

        Its funny how some people get offended so easily and provoke fights on their own.

      • Agreed 100% man.

      • Yay for arguing on the Internet! I hardly know anything about anything, but regardless of whether depression is self-inflicted or not, I think the answer for it is compassion, not animosity.

        At the end of the day, whether someone is right or wrong, it’s possible to know who they are based on a comment on a blog post.

        Just my 2¢

    • Hi Erica,

      I was depressed previously but after I started following a system, I felt a whole lot better.

      I don’t know about you but I hate having the victim mentality I had when I was depressed. It made me think that I’m sick and cannot live a good life. I want to change lives not being stuck in a sea of negativity. It’s simply not a practical way to live(which we only have one).

      But I got my shit together, invested my time to build a system, and heck! even if depression got me, I know that my system got my back. and reminds me that I’m moving forward with life no matter how small the improvement can be.

      But I know sometimes we need help such as therapists and the like but if you don’t agree with Ludvig, hey…it’s just his thoughts(he even said that he experienced it once so I think it’s good advice).

      Hope that helped.

    • Okeeeey.. CALM DOWN. i apologise for the insults. I just got so irritated.

      But its much easier being a man than a woman. A girl cant just build muscles to hide behind to get over depression like some people believe here!

      And to sebastian:
      I have a weak life and need to get my shit together?
      I looked at your blog and saw:

      +a picture of a girl in only underwear, which can only mean you don’t have a real girl.

      +this text in your newest article:
      “And you can always fuck new girls, they won’t stop producing horny girls overnight.”
      … I dont even know what to say here except hahahahahaha!

      I may have troubles of my own and a weak life but yours is weaker!!

      • Sebastian says:

        Erica you got me! I am Willy the weak wanker.

      • That’s funny.

      • Heathenwinds says:

        I don’t really think that I should be wasting my time on an argument on the internet, but I suppose that any restatement of my beliefs is a good for my brain.

        “But its much easier being a man than a woman. A girl cant just build muscles to hide behind to get over depression like some people believe here”

        The point here went so far over your head here that it’s back under your nose. The reason that there are no depressed elite athletes is because elite athletes /are/ system oriented. Their brains don’t produce negative thoughts because they control those thoughts which their brains produce. Unless of course I am mistaking his meaning.

        Still, though, I don’t think that you are qualified to say that being a man is easier or harder than being a woman. Have you been a woman? Sure. But you’ve never had anything dangling between your legs; you don’t know what it is to be a guy. Unless it’s somehow completely obvious that guys have it easier in ways that I am just oblivious to, you are talking without basis.

        “+a picture of a girl in only underwear, which can only mean you don’t have a real girl”

        I don’t get it. Is there like some kind of talking points manual that ALL feminists get their material from(assuming that you are some type of feminist)? Boys like girls. Girls like boys. Boys can even like boys, and vice versa. If you’re uncomfortable with any depiction of sexuality, that’s certainly your right, but I don’t see why you feel the need to judge others for seeing things a different way.

        “… I dont even know what to say here except hahahahahaha”

        What’s so funny? Girls like to have sex. Boys like to have sex. Sebastian could’ve replaced the word “girls” in his post with “boys” and it still would have been right on target.

      • Erica, you really need to get laid. I’d love to help, but I have standards. Luckily, alcohol is on your side; just go to a bar, find the loneliest looking guy there, and buy him a drink. Buy him six if that’s what it takes.

        P.S. You think I’m insulting you, and I am, but I’m also giving you good advice.

      • Heathenwind you are not wasting your time with me I am a woman with class ;) you are the only One here who makes sense.

        Sebastian i knew you couldnt defend yourself!

        And abgrund dont try to get smart with me with insults covered in flattery. i wont even dignify that with an answer!

      • Erica babycakes, how did I flatter you? Was it by implying that you only needed to buy a guy six drinks to get him into bed?

        Here’s more flattery for you: In replying to my last post by telling me you wouldn’t dignify it with a reply, it might seem you were contradicting yourself, but in fact you haven’t any dignity to contribute, so that was actually the most rational part of your comment.

        May you always be “covered in flattery”, babycakes.

  2. Erica, the essence of what is conveyed here isthe importance of being aware of one’s state and creating a methodical way of bringing yourself to a motivated mindset through a protocol. This doesn’t disrespect disrespect severe depression by calling it a self-induced disease – just says that we can manipulate our internal environment through certain actions.

    Some of the things I do when unmotivated is rewrite my goals/missions, ask myself what activities will bring me the most happiness that very day, and exercise/meditate.

    Great post as usual Ludvig.

  3. Heathenwinds says:

    This was a great post and it came a great time, right before I began planning for the week. Thank you for writing this.

  4. When I don’t feel motivated to do something, I ask why. I always look at it as a good first approach to a problem. What’s the root cause for me acting the way I do? If I don’t understand that, then I feel like I can’t find a proper solution to it. And really, that’s all I’m looking for: a solution. If I’m procrastinating or being lazy, I want to know what’s up. It can take some soul-searching and self-reflection, but there’s usually an answer.

    • Indeed Steve,

      Why is the key question. Why this? Why that? Is this this necessary — why?

      For me the answer is often easy to find. But when it isn’t it will often come to me suddenly when I am in the gym or something like that.

  5. Wan Muhammad Zulfikri says:

    Man…Ludvig, your ideas coincide with mine. Haha

    I am still thinking about the same thing – systems. It is a must for everyone and I agree that we can’t rely on the feeling who comes and goes as he pleases.

    Moments of inspiration and motivation is great but somehow our mind is not primed that way. I wonder why?

    Motivation fluctuates every time and if people don’t have the if-then strategy, everything will be a mess if some shitty stuff happens.

    Here’s a post I find interesting from a guy, James Clear : http://jamesclear.com/goals-systems.

    Anyway, thanks for the post Ludvig. It made me think more about developing my own kick-ass system for this year.

    • Wan,

      Definitely, man. Systems are important. I think it’s a smart long-term investment to create (and improve on) systems as early as possible in life. Here are three important general systems:

      — Philosophic framework.
      — Motivation (discussed here).
      — Priorities, get things done & to-do, and reading systems.

      I read the post. Good one.

  6. Interesting read Ludvig. This is definitely something I need to work on, I am very much stuck in the mindset of thinking of motivation as something I must have before I can do tough things. So I often purchase chocolate/candy to do tough tasks as kind of a cheat. It works decently, but it’s not exactly the best solution — especially if I would get fat from it like I see some of my friends becoming.

    • Haha. Funny strategy Jen.

      Like you say, I doubt it’s going to be very helpful in the long-term.

    • Hey Jen,

      Funny enough I have the same strategy! And it works every time! It doesn’t matter how down or depressed or thoroughly unmotivated I feel, as soon as I start eating sweets (pastries, chocolates) or milk teas, …. I can work for hours. It works like magic, seriously.

      But I do wish it was more lean-mass friendly ;) It’s only a last resort thing.

    • I’ve done that too, and it is hard on your body, plus you build bad habits. I think it is mostly the sugar (and caffeine from chocolate) giving you a little short term energy; if energy is the problem, adequate sleep and exercise will work better in the long run.

  7. I go one step further. I run a system-oriented approach to make myself independent from motivation. I changed motivation against pressure.

    I have a daily checklist what needs to be done. I am only allowed to go to bed once I´ve done what needs to be done. Failing my process costs me 200$ or 10 minutes cold shower.

    If failing is not an option, I cannot fail. My bulletproof process is working brilliant for me every single day

    • Michal Stawicki says:

      I used somewhat modified version of it. I have very long daily checklist ( >30 points) and about 30% of them are non-negotiable.

    • Cool system. I’d take a cold shower over a $200 anyday though :P

      Who gets the money btw? I could be your accountability buddy ;)

      This gives me 2 thoughts:
      1. You must be realistic (and know your limitations) when you set your daily to do lists right? I imagine its easy to overestimate how much you can do in just One day.

      2. It might be cool to start a community/site where you make official statements of what you will do: (lose 10 lbs) (eat 20 apples in 10 minutes) and so on..
      And here is the catch…… Other people bet on you! That should be good motivation to do what you say.

      • Sebastian says:

        Most of my daily goals are measured in time. I don`t plan to write 10 sites, I rather plan to write for four hours.

        I don`t work 9-5, so my time is 100% in my range of influence. Only I can fuck it up.

        I only use outcome dependent goals if I know for sure that I can kill the beast within one session

        Example:
        – Go to the gym
        – Write for four hours
        – Edit book for two hours
        – Do research for three hours
        – Spam startgainingmomentum.com for ten minutes
        – Sign and mail tax declaration

      • Sebastian:

        I see. I do the same thing, though I don’t use any specific punishment — it can vary. But it’s usually a matter of refraining from doing something fun/rewarding.

        “Spam startgainingmomentum.com for ten minutes”

        — Great goal!

        Mike W,

        #2 is a nice idea. Just be careful about talking too much about your ideas. Ideas aren’t patentable, only the practical execution of an idea is.

  8. Michal Stawicki says:

    Ludvig, you are one lucky… guy! A start at 16 gives you tremendous edge over us, ordinary mortals.
    I would say my approach to motivation is more philosophy-oriented than system-oriented. I developed my personal philosophy which makes a daily progress the central thing in my life. Like food and shelter, so my brain knows that it’s serious business. A part of this philosophy is that daily failures compound into life failure, so laziness has not many opportunities to creep in.

    • Michal,
      Haha. Maybe. I think it’s highly individual. Guys like Muhammad Ali grew up as badasses. He practiced his willpower and work ethic from a very early age.

      “A part of this philosophy is that daily failures compound into life failure”

      — That’s very true. The things we do each day add up cumulatively. The power of tiny consistent practice & improvement is incredible over long periods of time.

  9. Wow Ludvig, this is great stuff. My approach to motivation is quite similar to yours but I definitely need a better plan for when I’m feeling shitty.

    I’m glad you mentioned breathing. Using physiology to alter your mental state is indeed very powerful. Two great examples of this are the facial feedback hypothesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facial_feedback_hypothesis) and Amy Cuddy’s teams research on body language (http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html).

    Even though it feels awkward at first, celebrating for no apparent reason and intentionally using a powerful posture and demeanor can really turn your day around, especially when you’re feeling down.

    Keep up the great work Ludvig, you’re really pumping out high quality stuff right now! :)

    • Great comment Patrik,

      I watched that video a couple of months ago, only to found out that I was using all of that advice already! I’d just learnt it on my own. For example, usually before I go to the gym I will stand in a power position for maybe 15 seconds. Then as I walked there I will raise my arms often. I probably look strange, but it definitely works. I do the same thing when I party.

    • Thanks for reminding me Patrik, I was going to do an experiment based on facial feedback but I had completely forgotten about it!

  10. Motivation is something I struggle with too. Some days, I’ll feel invincible and on top of the world. I can’t sleep and gotta keep on working. Other days, I don’t wanna do anything. I only want to sleep and watch TV.

    You’re very analytical and can reason yourself into doing something even when you don’t feel like it. As for me, I’m not as smart. But I keep on doing and try to make it a habit. I don’t think … I just do.

    I do know that great success comes from a series of tiny steps, not from a few giant leaps. And I just trust that my meager actions will get me to where I wanna be.

    I actually wrote about this, but I didn’t post it yet. It’s called, “What Do You Call a Predator Who No Longer Wants to Hunt?”

    It’ll be up by the end of this month.

    • Alex,
      I know the feeling. I have days like that (when I can’t sleep because I want to do stuff) at leaast once a week. It’s challenging to my sleeping schedule, but it’s really a luxury problem that stems from being very motivated. I never had that a few years ago.

      I look forward to reading your post when it comes. Great name.

  11. I use a similar strategy- a reflection habit- which is already ‘built’ in my system such that I do it on a regular basis- almost weekly or sometimes more often. I tend to do it more when the need comes, but I also do it even when I don’t need it so that I continuously improve. It is also a way to be proactive.

  12. Awesome article, sir. I’m grateful to our Mr. Victor Pride to take me here to your blog. I really like your logical approach to motivation.
    I have been following the habits of 30 Days of Discipline, today is my 7th day. This is my 3rd trial, I admit. I wondered why I couldn’t pull through 30 days, ending up watching porn and consecutively wanking. I realized that I had been living my life without such disciplines for all my life, so I stopped blaming myself for not being able to pull through 30 days. Of course it takes time and many trials.
    Another thing I noticed was that, more importantly, there is one common thing among all the great human beings in the history: they DO what they need to do to accomplish their goal, that’s it. If they know they need to do one thing to accomplish it, they just do it. They don’t say “I’m too tired, maybe later”, “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m not motivated enough”. They just do it. So now it’s simple to me. I do it now and be great, or I don’t do it now and be a loser. No excuse. Of course there are many technical things that I keep in mind to get me back on track when I don’t feel motivated: eating healthy, cold shower, keeping my room well organized, reading motivating stuff, relaxing, etc. But in the end, I just ask myself; Do I do it, or not? One way or the other.

    • Hey Takumi,

      Sure. Victor is a great guy.

      You make some good points.

      Your approach to”Do it or not?”, is very simple.And simplicity is usually the best thing. But to get something simple you need to put in a bit of work/suffering. This eventually creates a bunch of negative associations that your brain wants to avoid.

      So when you say “Do I do it or not!?” it triggers a lot of powerful emotions — and thus motivation to act. But you had to build it up.

  13. Ludvig, a really great post. What comes through for me is one needs to accept that staying motivated is work, requiring an understanding of oneself to develop creative ways to avoid the “good enough mindset”.

  14. Great post Ludvig!

    I liked the metaphor of the little kid. You have to teach your mind that it won’t get away with being lazy. Brilliant man.

    Do you still do mma?

    • Haha thanks Sebastian. I like it too. That’s how I think of my brain when it comes with pathetic rationalizations and excuses to be lazy or succumb to instant gratification. Like an annoying kid that’s screaming.

      No I don’t do any MMA. I quit when I was 19. I’m still decent at wrestling though.

  15. Thai Nguyen says:

    Great article Ludvig! Very much related to your whole approach, something I have found helpful are “Pre-commitments.” Not only committing to the choices, decisions, and plans I set out for the day, but also visualizing a successful day as I fulfill those pre-commitments.

  16. Interesting thing about breathing. I once read a book by Susan Powter (a sworn Feminazi) where she had the same recommendation. Breathing is also a big deal in Yoga. Breathing is one of the few body functions that can be completely automatic and unconscious, or totally under voluntary control, and it can switch back and forth effortlessly. Yet 99% of us leave it entirely up to our autonomous nervous system and never give a moment’s thought to how well it is working. It seems humans have a tendency to lazy breathing; yawning is a response to inadequate ventilation which occurs when automatic breathing has been slacking off. During sleep apnea, automatic breathing gets so fucking lazy that it may shut down entirely for a minute or more while every cell in the body is screaming for oxygen. Autonomous breathing is the union worker in the corporation (pun intended).

    The power of writing things down has also been long known. When I was a kid, teachers would punish miscreants by forcing us to write a sentence over and over, like “I will not throw spitballs in class”. Strangely, it often worked. I would guess it’s because of the way language is tied to cognition – it’s very difficult to express something in words without also feeling it, just as it’s difficult to think without expressing those thoughts in internal dialogue.

    Also: a framework would be described as “philosophical”. Typically in English, words ending in -ic are nouns, while words ending in -al are adjectives. Compare for instance “skeptic” and “skeptical”. Of course, being English, there are numerous exceptions and idiomatic usages, and sometimes it’s just a matter of preference. Demonic, demonical, demoniac, and demoniacal all mean the same thing.

    • Abgrund,

      Fascinating stuff.

      “Autonomous breathing is the union worker in the corporation ”

      — Hahaha.

      “I will not throw spitballs in class”.

      — I believe you. Writing works well for me at least. But it didn’t work on Bart Simpsons though.

      “Also: a framework would be described as “philosophical”

      — Thanks for the advice!

  17. If motivation was a prerequisite for success then I would never make it in a million years. I’m still in the early stages of developing a healthier attitude towards work, and it’s starting to pay off. Like you I was a pretty smart kid. But I never really had a wake up call until after I finished my bachelor. If I had embraced my lack of motivation at an earlier age, and learned to work around it, I would probably be at a completely different place. But then again, I might have needed to experience rock bottom to realize I needed to change.

    • Plus motivation always seems to show up after you’ve actually gotten into the groove.. so as long as I can set up systems for starting properly every day despite mood or energy levels, I’m golden.

    • Ragnar,

      “If motivation was a prerequisite for success then I would never make it in a million years”

      — Haha!

      “Plus motivation always seems to show up after you’ve actually gotten into the groove”

      — Yeah. It’s all about achieving a point of cumulative focus/concentration. (I got a post about that some time in the future). That’s when your brain suddenly makes the shift from “this might be cool, but I’m not sure”, to “this is what I’m doing today”, and it feels cool.

      “as long as I can set up systems for starting properly every day despite mood or energy levels, I’m golden.”

      — True.

      P.S: Thanks for the link!

  18. I agree on NEVER leaving motivation to chance. Amateurs do that, pros don’t. I think Pressfield explains this best.

    I like to use a system. Once you get it going, you just won’t want to break it. It’s like a game, you know, like how long can you last? Haha. Another thing I do, is I write my goals, habits, and affirmations down in a book. When you look at them, it really gives off a very empowering feeling.

    Achievements as well. I don’t compare with others, so long as I think my achievements are significant enough for my own standards, I write them down. It’s easy to feel unmotivated when you don’t get results, so by writing them clearly down, it really helps with maintaining momentum and with striving to always move forward.

    • Jeremy,

      “Once you get it going, you just won’t want to break it. It’s like a game, you know, like how long can you last? ”

      — Haha! I find that most people who are into self-development have at some point been gamers. It’s a competitive thing I suppose.

      “Another thing I do, is I write my goals, habits, and affirmations down in a book. ”
      –I do all that stuff in my journal. But I don’t look through it often enough. I can see the value of doing it in a book, as I do with my book summaries and a few other things. I might experiment with this soon. Thanks for bringing it up.

  19. Ludwig, first, let me say, it took me 8 minutes to read your article and 2 hours to read the comments after. and another 12 minutes to scroll down to this comment box. lol

    Let’s see – for me, I tend to get motivated with things that I am passionate about. So, doing more things in my life which I actually enjoy doing and scrapping the rest. What do I do when I’m not motivated? Ha, good question. I’ve usually basked in that period of non-motivation til it wears off. And to get me motivated again I take small steps and do them consistently to move things forward. I guess if I’m not getting something done, like you, I step back and see what the wall is – is it something I don’t like, do my values coincide with it, does it conflict with my life purpose. If I have an answer, I listen to it. If not, I go back to the small steps/consistency strategy.

    Thanks for sharing your system-oriented strategy. You seem to be pretty motivated about motivation (and we need more of that in the world!)

    • Haha.

      “Let’s see – for me, I tend to get motivated with things that I am passionate about. So, doing more things in my life which I actually enjoy doing and scrapping the rest”

      –> Reminds me a lot of Scott Adams’s (the creator of Dilbert) system. I believe he says “I only do things that increase my energy”. And energy to him means positive emotions, endurance, or health.

      “Thanks for sharing your system-oriented strategy. You seem to be pretty motivated about motivation (and we need more of that in the world!)”

      –> I am indeed! Thanks for reading Vishnu!

  20. Interesting post. I think all of our motivation ebbs and flows, but this seems like a good method to deal with the ebbs.

  21. Hi Ludvig. First time reader and commenter of your blog. I’m still trying to keep up with your posts but I particularly like this one. You’re right in saying that motivation is a habit, not just a one time thing so I’m just here to second that. Keep up the great work. Loving your site so far. :)

  22. Great advice here Ludvig. When needing motivation I personally take time to learn about something related to leadership (my niche area) or just start taking action. Many times I’ve started to write a blog post without any motivation but by the end of writing the post had tons of it. Action can create motivation.

  23. Great post Ludwig!

    I use a similar strategy in my day-to-day discipline. I’ve found kite enlightening the “no matter what your mood is, just stick to the plan”.

    You are doing a great work.

  24. Hi Ludvig,

    I also have a ‘to do list’ when I’m feeling less motivated. This way i’m always getting things done.

    The key for me to stay motivated is to start my week with a good attitude. I HAVE to get up earlier on a Monday, be on time and know exactly what I’m doing for the day. When I have a good Monday I have a better week. If I don’t, I struggle to pull my motivation upwards.

    Naomi

  25. One of the things I’ve realized in my life is that we assume the role of a victimized individual too quickly. As a result we immediately seek medical interventions, when we can solve the majority of our problems through changing our lifestyle and outlook on life. A thought has no power in and of itself, only if you choose to believe in it. You can just as easily convince yourself to believe in the positive thoughts which arise in your mind, as you can for negative thoughts. The only difference is one thought allows you to behave in ways which put you on a path towards becoming the strongest version of yourself, and the other causes you to engage in destructive behaviors leading to self sabotage.

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