One of the most awesome yet arduous aspects of working for or with others is that there is help in feeding the fire of accomplishment and motivation. Unfortunately, many aspects of life require us to stay motivated on our own and finish what we started without cheerleaders or spectators. To be successful, you have to feed your own fire.
For many people, including myself, the beginning is great with the anticipation and excitement of a new endeavor. I am full of ideas and have very little difficulty in firing up a project. Similarly, the glow of achievement that occurs as my aspiration comes to fruition and my goals are realized is enjoyable and spurs me to greater feats. However, the in between in the middle, when the activity is no longer exciting but becomes tedious, when I have to focus on the minutia, not the grade scheme, and when I have to buckle down and consistently perform, this middle often gives me problems.
How do I stay motivated through the treacherous and monotonous middle? How can I continue to keep the fire of accomplishment blazing until the end? How can my motivation burn brightly all the way through my tasks to keep me going? As I asked myself these very questions this week, I found 4 ways to keep myself going. Perhaps they will work for you too!
Use Appropriate Fuel
Just like a fire requires different kinds of fuel to get burning, maintain heat, and die out, goals and projects require different activities along the way. What works in the beginning, may very well be insufficient in the middle. Thus, it is important to have various strategies to fuel the fire so that it keeps going.
Take my current book project for example. I’ve been working on it now for almost a year. Planning, organizing, writing for hours – those were great fuel earlier, but now, I have had to change the process because, honestly, I’m tired of the whole thing at this point.
I have to change the fuel for my fires and be open to change and continued learning. I can’t simply do the easy and familiar, but have to challenge myself and to modify my actions if I want to keep my fire burning. I’ve actually recently started a new educational project which has nothing to do with the book, but it has made me excited about teaching in a new way. Now, I can apply this new excitement as a new kind of fuel and get the book finished.
If you have reached a point in your project where you can see it is starting to wither and not flourish, perhaps you need to find an alternative way to approach it or a new method of work. We have to use an appropriate fuel to keep our fires burning!
Anticipate Problematic Aspects
If you’ve ever camped and had to keep a fire burning for light and warmth, you know that all kinds of factors are a danger for that fire. There’s the wind and wet; there’s a lack of wood; there’s even a lack of skill in starting and maintaining the fire. Basically, keeping a fire going takes a lot of work!
Likewise, keeping our own motivation going overtime takes a lot of work, and there are many possible problems to burn it out. Boredom is a big one for me, so is exhaustion, and, of course, the inevitable trying-to-do-too-much. Everyone encounters different problems, but if we plan for them, then we have a greater chance of overcoming them! There are many ways to anticipate problems. One that I have found valuable is to know myself. My problems repeat themselves in endless loops, so I can anticipate them and even have strategies to overcome them.
For example, I am at a low point of my semester. The excitement of the new semester and getting to know the students has worn off, and now I have to slog through their difficulties and try to help them achieve. Right now, I am smack in the middle of part of my worst time. I have many plans for this problem time both tried and true techniques, and I also have some new ideas I want to try. Changing up my fuel a bit will help keep my fire going.
Even if you are doing a new activity or starting a new project, you can be aware of your weaknesses and plan for those moments of difficulty when you want to give up, which can help you keep your fire going!
Get Others Involved
In our individualistic society, self-reliance is usually rewarded; nonetheless, sometimes we all need help to keep a fire going. Regardless of how much experience you may have or how good you are in maintaining a fire, there comes the point where it is just nice if someone else throws a log on the fire or gives it at stir. Sometimes a new perspective, whether large or small, can make a huge difference in the project. Sometimes we just need someone else to question or encourage. No matter how independent you may be, no one can go completely alone!
While no one in my life is involved in my creative endeavors as much as I (not even Mr. C!) I have many people that I involved in small ways. I am able to get my students involved by offering a bit of extra credit for responding to the blog. I have brought in excerpts from the book to use in class. I talk to my colleagues at work; I discuss aspects of the work with my family. I ask for opinions and advice from friends. Basically, I encourage others to help me feed the fire of creation.
No one will care about your projects as deeply as you; it is, after all, your fire. Nonetheless, involving others, getting others help can enable you to keep your fire burning all the way to the end!
Bank Your Fire
A fire doesn’t have to be raging hot to survive. In fact, keeping a fire low in embers actually keeps it alive, just resting a bit. You can still cook on it, and it still produces heat. We can’t go full throttle 100% of the time; we will burn out. Sometimes, fires and people need a break to perform at their best.
Personally, I try to plan my breaks. I know that I have to renew myself and remember why I’m doing this in the first place! I arrange small breaks every day, a bit of stretching here and a funny Facebook video there. I arrange larger breaks every week. Wednesday is my go to take-a-break for myself day. It’s when I do those small things to reward myself like getting a message or reading for pleasure. Occasionally, I take big breaks, like Saturday when Mr. C and I drove to drive up to Big Bear to enjoy the last of the snow.
These breaks can also change up the fuel for my fire and involve others while such breaks can even give me new insight into dealing with problems! Hence, these breaks are not distracting me from my goals, but are, in fact, helping me achieve them. I am banking my fire a bit so that it can burn more brightly in the future.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks. They will help you keep your fire going for the long term! Bank your fire to keep it strong!
Being motivated, in and of itself, is terrific! Nonetheless, it is essential for success that you persist in your endeavor through the difficult and boring middle so that you can achieve your goals and keep your own fire burning! I hope these techniques which I use in my own motivational process can help you in yours!