Some time ago I vowed to change my life for the better. I set myself targets and listed priorities, I was super-motivated. It seemed easy as my outlook was positive and I could see the results. Then things got more difficult, I had some set-backs and my initial burst of energy and motivation ran out leaving me a little disappointed and frustrated. It was during this process that I honed my methods and distilled what I needed to do into five simple habits; a sustainable programme that I could achieve even when tired or lacking in energy. These habits are for the long-term and, now entrenched in my life, have allowed me to achieve way more than before and feel good doing it…
I focus on the process, not the outcome
The trick here is to keep my mind in the ‘now’, really concentrating on the task I’m working on. If I’m washing up then I concentrate on the glass in my hand, on the hot water and the bubbles. I stop my mind from flashing forwards to the next task. If I’m writing, then I absorb myself in the words and phrases, in the meaning of each sentence and how they hang together in paragraphs; I then concentrate and appreciate the overall meaning. I don’t allow myself to daydream about who might read it, what they may think, who might publish it and who may reject it. The process is the most important thing at this point; other concerns will come later. This can be applied to everything whether working out at the gym, cooking a meal or knitting a sweater, and it helps in maintaining a calm mind and a relaxed demeanour. The habit to cultivate is remembering that there is absolutely no pressure for any specific outcome in the future, just a ‘flow’ experience in the now.
I remind myself of my motives
I find it helps to remind myself of my most important reason for doing what I’m doing, often even going as far as writing it on a post-it and sticking it on the wall in front of me to reinforce the motive. Whether it’s to pay the bills, to help a friend, for self-improvement or simply to relax, it really helps me to regularly remind myself of why I’m spending time on that particular action. I focus better and I fulfil the task according to that remit, without letting other goals get in the way.
I always try to be my best self
Whenever I feel conflicted about how to deal with a problem, I remind myself of who I really am, or at least who I truly would like to think I am: a kind, honest, moral person. If I must make a choice in dealing with a difficult situation then I remind myself of the qualities that I admire and I apply them to the dilemma and do my utmost to act in a way that is consistent with those standards. In doing this, I seldom disappoint myself or feel guilty about my actions at a later date. I can feel good in the fact that I did my best and tried to uphold my own high standards. This is particularly important when facing a personal or professional difficulty that stimulates a strong emotional response, such as criticism from someone I admire or the feeling of being let down or betrayed by a close friend.
I am kind to myself
I acknowledge that I’m human and cut myself some slack. For example, if I’m tired, I don’t push myself but instead allow myself to break big tasks into smaller ones and just do a smaller amount. In doing so, I’m still moving forwards and making progress, just a little slower and a little easier. Sometimes just taking pressure off myself is enough to kick-start my energy and motivation. If I still feel tired then I know that I really do need to be kind to myself and I program some downtime where I can read, take a long bath, walk in the countryside or get some extra sleep. Listening to my body is key and actually increases my productivity and satisfaction in the long run..
I celebrate every achievement
At the end of each and every day I look at what I’ve achieved, however much or little, and I give myself a pat on the back. If I’ve been particularly productive throughout the week then I might celebrate with a meal at a restaurant or a posh coffee and cake at a nice tea shop. The thing is to focus on what I’ve done, not what I’ve failed to do. Quite often we set unachievable goals for ourselves, so I recognise that and know that, even if I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do, I did my very best within my own personal limits. That in itself is an achievement worth celebrating. The action of self-congratulations is a healthy habit to cultivate as the most important person’s opinion is my own and I should be the first person to be proud of all of my achievements.
Each of these five steps help me every day to be productive and happy. The goal is never to be perfect, never to compete with anyone else, but simply to cultivate motivation and fulfilment and in this, these habits have proved to be powerful and motivating.