Writing fiction is a long and lonely road….There are patches when one encounters writer’s block and you only see the white computer screen staring back at you, with the cursor blinking in accusation because you haven’t typed a single word in the past half hour. This same feeling of reaching a brick wall with no way beyond or out can be translated into different situations in life. We often find ourselves at different crossroads, and one of the biggest laments i have heard from people all over the world is the difficulty of staying motivated. Whether it be looking for a new job, or beginning that new course of study we have been planning to undertake for the past two years…whether it is completing writing that novel we began with so much enthusiasm or finishing the quilting project we took on with huge excitement six months ago….whether it is finding the time to plan that holiday of a life time or simply finding the time to re-connect with long-lost childhood friends…whatever our individual aspirations might be, it is a well-established fact that pursuing our long-term goals requires not only hard work but a major part of overcoming our long term goals is motivation.
So how does one stay motivated and focussed on one’s goals in this ruthless modern-day life which leaves little room for inspiration or motivation? Here are a few steps to ensure we keep our eye on what matters:-
~ Never lose sight of the bigger picture !
If your long term goal is finishing a certain course of study, but you are unable to find the time or energy to commit to it right at this given moment, it is ok to push it forward to a point in the future when it will be more feasible. A lot of people push it to a vague point in the future but then forget all about it. How will we achieve our long term goals if we simply banish them out of sight and therefore out of mind? Keeping the bigger picture in sight, as in reminding ourselves at periodic intervals, what it is that we wish to achieve, helps us stay focussed. It also helps us steer away from frustration because we know that it is simply a matter of time before we can take up the course of action we have been working towards.
~ A Journey of a thousand miles begins with…..
Often people get demotivated because they tend to look at their goal in its entirety which makes it appear huge and unsurmountable. Break down your goal into small, manageable portions…it will seem less daunting. For instance, ask yourself ‘What is the one thing i want to achieve?’. Once you have that answer, ask yourself what are the tiny steps you can take to lead you to your final destination? If your goal is to finish painting all the rooms in your house (all by your lonesome self), then thinking about how huge this endeavour is going to be will be enough to put you off even beginning. Think of it one room at a time…perhaps even one wall at a time. Surely painting one wall of one room by the end of the day is a manageable goal? Don’t worry about the rest of the house. Tomorrow is another day. As the chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said: ‘A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step‘
~ Handling negative criticism
Rest assured, whenever you choose to take up something new (be it a new project or simply a new way of life), there will be those that cheer you on and those that do the very opposite. Learn to accept negative criticism in the right spirit. While our personal cheerleaders lift our spirits when we are feeling low in confidence, the critics and their brickbats make us stronger and help us strive to better ourselves. Life would be no fun if we only had positive feedback all the time. It is the negative feedback that makes us pause in our tracks, take a good long look at what we are doing or working towards, and then helps us make concrete and conscious decisions about how to move forward from that point in time. Accept the brickbats with the same grace as you would accept the bouquets.They are both essential to your personal growth.
~ Take regular breaks !
When i was a child i used to often hear people say that they studied for their exams well past midnight, sometimes not getting to bed until two am…It used to fascinate me, because i was always one of those who could not study beyond seven pm each day, no matter how close the exams were. After a lot of soul-searching i figured out that even if i did study until midnight, most of what i read after seven pm would not sink in. And i would have to re-read it the next morning when i was feeling refreshed. This discovery taught me a life-long lesson, one which i continue to follow till this given day. This lesson was that one must take regular breaks at the right time to be able to function at optimal level. Working endlessly round the clock will not necessarily bring you closer to your goal. It may instead burn you out with fatigue.
~ Give yourself a pat on the back
We should become our own best cheerleaders…Whenever you have accomplished any task, however small, that takes you one step closer to your long-term goal, stop and give yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself a treat. I often tell myself that i will read the next chapter of that absolutely delicious novel that i am currently reading and which i just cannot put down once i start reading only AFTER i have finished this, that or the other. It gives me something to look forward to while i go through the drudgery of doing a seemingly boring task.
Staying motivated is easy when one knows how to side-step the pot holes. Like in the game of tennis, you can only serve an ace when you have your eye on the ball. It is the same with Life. You can only reach the finish line when you have your eye on the goal at all times. Marking the goal posts and then moving towards them strategically is indeed the name of the game!