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Two Paths to Perseverance: Motivation and Momentum

Notes from the Expert(s Husband) - Part 3

Deep in the heart of every person on the planet lies a desire to do or achieve something in their lives that is essential, or of great value to their world. At times, we lose touch with that desire for one reason or another, but it never really goes away. When we get quiet enough we can feel it there, driving us to make the necessary effort.

More often than we’d like to admit, that effort gets derailed by a variety of external or internal influences on our behavior, such as events beyond our control, bad habits, a lack of belief or courage, or the noise created by the myriad demands on our attention, energy, time, and other personal resources.

painted rock on a fallen leaf

Our Daily Opportunity

The good news is that every minute of every day, we have a brand new opportunity to start again, and all we really need to do is make progress. It doesn’t have to be in the exact right direction, and we don’t have to see every step toward our goal. Once we take the first step, the next will begin to become more clear, and as we move, we can course correct as needed to increase the likelihood that we will get where we want to go.

The challenge is that in order to create real, lasting change in our lives, we have to find a way to make that progress consistent. And that is difficult because those bad habits and demands on our personal resources tend to pull us in a variety of other directions, sometimes all at once. Because this happens, we have to find a way to maintain enough pressure on ourselves to keep us on the track we chose. That need for pressure is where motivation tends to come into play. Perseverance requires motivation.

When we're trying to make progress, motivation helps us overcome the challenges posed by our current habits, life events, and other demands. The question is, how do we get the motivation we need when we need it?

painted rocks on a boulder

Mustering Motivation

One way is to get clear about exactly what it is that we want and what our lives will look like once we have it. In their awesome book about creating lasting change, ‘Switch,’ authors Chip and Dan Heath use the term ‘destination postcard’ to describe one way of gaining this clarity. A destination postcard is a short, detailed description of our envisioned future. And because that envisioned future is one we desire, when we take the time to create a destination postcard for ourselves and then review it frequently, we gain motivation. Take a few minutes to think about the greatest things you want to achieve in your life. Give yourself permission to dream and to believe in yourself. Then draft a description of those great things along with an imagined picture of what your life will look like once you’ve achieved them. When you're done you'll have the first draft of a destination postcard that you can review and refine as needed.

Another great way to muster motivation is to look outside ourselves for inspiration. And if you're like me, you won’t have to go far to find that powerful source of energy. Looking back on my life, I’m amazed at the number of heroes that are available to me as sources of direction and inspiration. I’m amazed by the people who have overcome difficulties that, to me, seemed insurmountable. And on the flip side, I’m amazed by the impressive things others have achieved that to me seemed impossible at the time. Taking just a few minutes to reflect on the achievements of the people I’ve had the privilege to know always gives me the energy burst I need to overcome whatever challenge I’m facing.

painted rock on a fallen log

Another Way

But motivation isn’t the only way, and its generally not sufficient on its own. Perseverance also benefits from momentum. After all, as Newton’s first law of motion states, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. So why not take advantage of this simple fact. I’ve seen it in action in myself and others at many points in the past.

For me, exercise is a great example. Fitness has always been an extremely important part of my life, starting when I was a competitive swimmer as a kid and in college. But, every now and then I fall off the wagon due to an injury or other demands on my time and energy. It happens. And when it does, because it’s important to me, I have to find a way to get back in no matter how long I’ve ben out. Often, because of the power of momentum, that means simply getting started with trying to rebuild a routine and mustering enough motivation to get through the first few weeks or months.

Several times when I’ve started trying to rebuild, I’ve achieved one workout in a week with nothing the next week. Then the week after I found a way to exercise twice before stopping again. Over time and with the addition of a little motivation here and there, I found that my workouts started to become more and more regular as I built momentum. And once they were more regular, it became much easier to stick with it. The trick is understanding the power of momentum and using it to my advantage. Knowing that the more I do a thing, the easier it will become to continue, gives me the leverage I need to get myself going on any given day.

painted rocks on a fallen log

Leverage Motivation and Momentum

Every minute of every day we have a brand new opportunity to start again, and all we really need to do is make any amount of progress. We don’t have to make progress in the exact right direction and we don’t have to be able to clearly see every step that lies between our current and desired states. We just have to find the motivation we need to get started and then build momentum. If you believe that the things you want to achieve are essential to the meaning of your life, take time to leverage these two powerful resources to your benefit so that you make your progress consistent. Then watch as you begin to achieve those things that will be of great value to you and your world.

painted rocks on a bed of leaves

I took the photos in this post using "painted rocks with a message," made by Tracie Schatz of @joshuatreerocksproject.

Thank you for reading! Please consider sharing if you think anyone you know can benefit. And, click here if you would like to read parts one or two from this series.

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