A key point from last week is that oftentimes, we wait to feel motivated before we act. But, if we instead substitute other skills for motivation, we can often bypass the need to feel motivated and jump right into doing.
This week’s motivational “bypasser” is
outcome the result
Focusing on the outcome may be particularly helpful for you if you struggle with apathy, or thoughts such as, “It doesn’t matter anyway,” or, “What’s the point?”
For our purposes, you can also think of “outcome” in terms of seeking social support, being held accountable, and using rewards.
Tips for cultivating an outcome focus:
> Define your goal. It can be hard to know if you reached your desired outcome if you’re not exactly sure what it is or it’s an ever-changing target. Be very clear with yourself as to what your goal is, ideally writing it down so it is unambiguous. Perhaps this week you plan to transfer $50 into your savings account, reach out to two friends via text message, or practice your guitar for 30 minutes 3 times. Whatever it is, be clear.
> Track your progress. Hang a chart on your wall, keep a row of check-boxes in your planner, or update a friend each week. Keeping progress toward larger goals can be particularly helpful since it can be easy to lose sight of that far-off goal.
> Accoutabilibuddy. (Say it aloud three times; if you’re like me, you’ve just discovered your new favorite word). Find someone else who can hold you accountable. They can help in so many ways – maybe you simply share your plan aloud, agree to check in with each other every Tuesday morning, schedule some time to work together and keep each other on-task, or make agreements (“I will visit 3 new parks and you’ll read 2 new books this month”). Be sure to choose someone who will (1) remember to check in and (2) who you will feel compelled to work hard for. Your compassionate friend who always lets you off the hook for being late is a great presence in your life, but might not be your #1 choice when you need someone to keep you working hard.
> Compete. If you want something a little more high-stakes than a friendly accountabilibuddy, set up a competition! Perhaps a few people at work will all chip in $10 and the person with the most steps gets the whole pot of money, or the person who misses the least Novel-Writing days in November hosts the celebration at the end of the month. This is best done with goals that are easily measured and quantified, so it is clear how everyone is doing. If you’re not sure who will join you, you can also set up competitions with yourself by trying to beat your own records or one-up your previous habits.
> Channel optimism. Believe that the outcome will be worth the effort you put in. Believe that you can do the work! If this is a hard mindset to channel, chat with a supportive person in your life. You can also pep-talk yourself by writing down your thoughts during a time when you’re feeling most positive and revisiting them in more pessimistic times.
> Be flexible. Sometimes plans need to change. Perhaps your goal just wasn’t feasible or an unexpected roadblock came up. Give yourself some grace, celebrate what DID work, and continue forward.
> Reward yourself. This one is talked about a lot, so let’s break it down as to how to make this an effective strategy.
.. What’s something you enjoy, but often put off for “later”? Perhaps it’s a long nap, visiting a friend, or a visit to your local coffee shop. Sometimes, it can be as small as stretching your legs throughout a longer project. Brainstorm some ideas and see what’s appealing to you right now.
.. Keep in mind that it only counts as a reward if it makes you more likely to do those to-dos – regardless of whether it’s a “common” reward or not.
.. Reward yourself as often as YOU need – some people like a big reward at the end of a long week, some prefer an M&M for every textbook page read.
.. Bring someone in on the fun – if you like surprises and have a willing person in your life, ask them to plan a reward. Give them a few parameters (such as budget, amount of time you have for it), and let yourself look forward to whatever they come up with!
> Savor. This can be so understated, but so essential. After you finish something, let yourself soak in the good feeling of a task complete. Oftentimes we jump right to the next task. Instead, take a few deep breaths and revel, “I did it.”
If you’d like to receive support in implementing these strategies, contact us to be connected with a therapist.
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