I wanted to do something epic with my life, but somehow, no matter how hard I tried, I kept running into walls…
For every painful step forward, it felt like I was slipping 2 steps backwards.
The more I tried to accomplish my goals, the more I ran into a pesky little rebel that kept sabotaging my dreams.
I think he actually enjoyed it too!
Do you battle Procrastination? Distractions? Low Motivation? Self-Sabotage? Low Energy? Anxiety?
This is normal, welcome to humanity!
I dealt with all the same crap most of my life, so here’s my secret that helped me take control of my life and obliterate the prison that held me back.
This is what finally boosted my motivation, increased my willpower, and got me back in control of my life:
1. I started to notice that the people I surrounded myself with affected my work ethic. If I was around lazy / retired people, I would unconsciously mimic their behavior. If I was around a bunch of hardworkers, I would unconsciously mimic their work ethic to a certain degree. Changing my friends made a big difference. Once you fix this part of your life, it’s also a big relief because you don’t have to keep worrying about it. Performance will almost automatically improve without you putting in much extra effort. I know it’s hard to change your friends, but it’s worth it if you are serious about doing something with your life. So start surrounding yourself with hard work. Hardworkers on Youtube, hardworking friends, hardworking newsletters, hardworking magazines, hardworking accountability buddies, etc. Adding hard working friends is just as important as REMOVING TOXIC LAZY PEOPLE FROM YOUR LIFE. Their attitude is infectious. Your brain will start to move towards the average of the people you associate with.
2. I also noticed that formally writing goals down helped me reach my goals. But some goals didn’t work out for me, so I looked back on which goals succeeded to find out why. I noticed that when I only picked one goal, I was able to succeed, but choosing to focus on more than 1 goal somehow made it impossible to achieve anything. So start removing goals. If you have a video game goal, remove it. If you have a weight lifting goal, remove it. Date night goal? REMOVE IT ALL! You get the idea. Keep removing goals until you are only focused on the ONE main goal.
3. Writing down your goal is a great first step, but you can increase its power by being extremely specific. You can actually double the odds of achieving it by doubling your clarity. Write down exactly which actions you are going to take. When will you start each day? How will you perform those actions? What will you be wearing when you perform those actions? Where will you perform those actions? When will those actions be due each day?
4. I found that I could increase the chance of taking action by formally committing to the goal by signing off on it. First I would write down a consequence for not achieving the daily minimum workload. This could be a natural or self imposed consequence. For self imposed consequences you could burn a $100 bill if you fail to meet your daily minimum. Or you could donate $100 to a charity that you hate. You could admit an embarrassing personal fact to everyone on facebook, etc… Something needs to be at stake. Then sign off on it.
5. I found that repeating my goal to myself every morning, afternoon and evening made it even more likely that I would do it. Write it and rewrite it often to keep it fresh in your mind.
6. I’ve also noticed that breaking my goal into smaller steps made it more likely to get the ball rolling for me because smaller steps are easier (low ability required) and less overwhelming (less fear and procrastination). By small steps, I mean as small as you need to go. If you need to break your task into 5 minute micro tasks to get started, then do it! If you need to break it into 1 minute tasks, then do it! AS SMALL AS YOU NEED TO GO. The smaller it is, the less threatening it is, and the more likely you will actually START.
7. On days that I’m really not motivated even one tiny bit, I noticed I can start taking action easier by counting down from 5 and then just start making small movements. Even moving a finger will start getting the motor part of the brain going. Then move your hand, then your arm, then move your body.
8. Walking outside for a bit helps me clear my head and get the motivation chemicals going in my brain like dopamine, serotonin, etc. Speed walk or start jogging to get the heart pumping and gain even more of those motivation chemicals! The motivation lasts for hours after a short jog.
9. Momentum seems to help with motivation and keeps the actions going once you get started. So it’s important to start taking action as much as possible to build up momentum. Make it sustainable momentum by enjoying the process and the progress. Build daily actions up and keep maintaining the daily momentum as a priority. If you lose momentum, brush it off, you’re human… Just get back up by starting as small as you need to, and work yourself back up again one task at a time.
10. I’ve also noticed that removing internal and external distractions keeps me more focused on my goal. Removing external distractions requires changing your environment, removing unwanted apps, noises, etc… but to remove internal distractions I learned that I needed to listen to my emotions and write all my thoughts down so my brain was more empty than full.
11. If a distraction or temptation comes along to throw me off my goal, I found that resisting it and ignoring it amplified its power, but putting it off and procrastinating it for 10 minutes tricked it somehow. It stopped bothering me, and usually drained its power enough over time to prevent it from taking me off course.
12. Some temptations are so big and enticing that they can easily derail us from our goals. So what can we do about it? Here’s the thing … I started to realize that my temptations were kind of like false advertising. They promised a lot, but were not painting an accurate picture of reality, leading me to disappointment. For example, I might be worried about a client project, so at the end of the day I would feel tempted to watch a new show on Netflix. It sounds enticing, so I go binge watch it on Netflix. But 3 hours later, did I really feel any better? The truth is, I felt worse. We’re doing things like this all the time. We follow our temptations because they promise us happiness, but we fail to recognize that they don’t really satisfy us. They don’t help us get closer to what we really want out of life. Rather than beat ourselves up over this “failure” and promise ourselves to do better, it’s important to pause and pay attention to the real cause: My brain’s reward system misfired. It promised me bliss, but it lied to me, and lead me to a disappointment instead. In these moments of disappointment I learned to update my brain by asking myself: “Is this what I really wanted? Can I trust this kind of temptation in the future?” The next time my brain tempted me, I would remember that this exact temptation lied to me before, and can’t be trusted. Some healthy skepticism towards our desires is useful, and will help us stay on track!
13. I also trained my brain to reduce overall distractions and to stay focused by meditating each morning. During meditation my goal is to try observing the sensations in the body, the breath and the thoughts. The point is to be an observer and not get lost. If you get lost in your thoughts, then catch yourself as early as possible each time and focus back on the breath and body. Become the observer of the thoughts, not the thinker of the thoughts. Don’t judge yourself, just watch the thoughts as they come and then let the thoughts go on their own. This training improved my focus and self control. I still do this and have made meditation a part of my daily routine.
14. I built a morning routine to help me automate a lot of actions without exhausting my willpower. This helped a lot because I’m not a morning person. How did I build my morning routine? Repeated training helped a lot. For example I started doing my morning routine 10X per day to make my morning routine stick. My morning routine became more automated over time, freeing up mental resources for more important tasks like working on my goals.
15. Asking myself questions seemed to tap into my unconscious wants and desires, giving me more willpower so I could function optimally. I ask questions like “what do I really want?”. “what can I work on next to reach my goal?” or “will I get my most important task done?” Somehow these questions made a part of me spring to life, ready to take action.
16. I also noticed I am weaker when I try to “control” or “fight off” my thoughts and emotions. I learned to work WITH my emotions rather than AGAINST them. I became much more capable when I learned to accept my thoughts and emotions as they are. I don’t fight them as much anymore, but that doesn’t mean they control me. I don’t agree with everything my mind comes up with. I realized I don’t have to believe or act on my thoughts and emotions. I can act in spite of them via visual/kinesthetic expectation. I can simply think about what my body is going to do next, and just do it, no emotion needed. It’s not “fun” this way, but it’s not “negative” either. It’s just “movement of the body”, and it’s enough to get started which usually brings emotions and momentum along afterwards. It gets the work done when your thoughts and emotions are not cooperating with your big goal. I used to think I needed my emotions to fall into line first, but I think it might be the opposite: actions first, emotions second.
17. I also found procrastination was stopping me from achieving my goals. I found out that procrastination was just an avoidance response, so when I feel like procrastinating, I ask “What am I afraid of? What am I avoiding?” Once I get clear on that, I realize my procrastination is usually just plain old anxiety stopping me. And luckily anxiety is my new super power.
18. I finally learned that anxiety and stress are just a form of energy (or fuel) for the body. Depending on how we judge it, we can make stress work for us or against us. I found a way to turn anxiety into courage and put it to work for me. It starts by acknowledging the anxiety and focusing on its effect in my body. I welcome the anxiety as evidence I care about something. I ask myself “What is it that I care about?” This helps me get focused on the goal. In this moment of anxiety I pay attention to my body and notice that my body is getting stronger, getting excited, my heart is pumping more oxygen to my brain, and sending more adrenaline into my system, giving me the energy I need to face the challenge with courage. Then I smile and use that energy to take action towards my goal immediately.
19. One day I noticed that I was exhausted and couldn’t get anything done, but SOMEHOW I was still able to help others … strange right? I didn’t know what I had tapped into at the time, but later I found out that the brain’s reward system releases dopamine when “caring for others”. This dopamine can be used for motivation and courage. Later I started realizing I could hack the brain’s motivation system with this knowledge. So if you need to get something done, just think about the people you care about while performing the actions. For me: “I’m doing this for my kids!!” is a great way to boost motivation! 🙂 This also has a bunch of other great side effects such as lifting your mood, and increasing your sense of purpose and meaning. Selfishness has the opposite effect … who knew!?
20. I also found that if I can remember my why (the thing I really want) and visualize it more clearly so that my long term goals are right in front of me, then I’ll tap into more willpower and energy to act on my goal.
21. I found that being self critical and shameful is useless because it drains motivation, it’s more useful and motivating to see yourself as human: “it’s ok to make a mistake, I’m human”. Forgiving yourself somehow makes you more motivated. This was so counterintuitive to me that it took a long time for me to accept. Basically being overly critical creates guilt and pain that makes the action less motivating in the future. So err on the side of love and forgive yourself.
22. Taking care of your body via exercise, sleep and eating better can increase your willpower easily. For me, not getting enough sleep will deplete willpower and focus the fastest. So now I prioritize sleep like I prioritize breathing oxygen.
23. I also found that difficult tasks can be made more fun by looking for the joy in it. We can even pair unpleasant tasks with something more rewarding, just like a good marketer would do. Promise yourself rewards for doing the difficult tasks, and make it more pleasant with music, movies, popcorn, chocolate, celebrate with a night out, go on vacations, etc. I saw one guy outlast everyone else in the group on a super painful endurance task that had to be repeated daily for months — how did he do it? By doing the painful task while watching his favorite movie. So add a reward.
24. I found out that people who had the highest endurance towards their goals relied more heavily on pride and gratitude. Once I learned this, I started being more consciously proud of my efforts and this began to create a positive cycle of motivation for me. So don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. Be proud of your effort, rather than filled with shame, negativity or indifference.
25. Getting an accountability partner or coach. This sounds like a cheat, I know, but it really works. Having an accountability buddy that you follow up with daily can keep you on track with your goals. It’s probably best if it’s not a family member, but that’s just me.
26. Reciting your values increases your willpower whenever you need it. It’s sort of like reaffirming who you are while having a team of people cheering for you, turning you into your best self. How does it work? Your most inspiring values are a part of your authentic identity and also a part of the priorities shared by others in the group you identify with. So when you activate your values you activate the idea in your mind that you matter, and that your strengths are serving the group, which connects you to your higher purpose. This in turn activates a number of brain systems connected with energy, motivation, courage, focus, attention, learning and serving others. It is very recharging, motivating and inspiring.
27. My inner rebel kept doing the exact opposite of what I asked it to do. I found myself resisting calendars, alarms, plans … everything. Everything I was supposed to do had a huge backfire effect. So I tried an experiment: I told myself I should stop working for a month. I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills, so it triggered a panic response and I heard myself say: “No! You’re not going to stop me from working!!!” and I felt a huge surge of motivation to get to work! Wow… I figured it out. My inner rebel was motivated against things it “should” do because it was standing up for something bigger than a “should”. The rebellion was caused by the feeling that the “Should” side of my brain was bossing around the “Want” side of my brain too much. So all I had to do was use reverse psychology using the word “Should”… and I could control my inner rebel. Although this worked, I later found out that I didn’t need to use reverse psychology. All I really needed was to listen to my long term desires and remember my BIG WHY.
28. I also realized that my energy levels were higher in the evenings. I guess I’ve always known that I’m not a morning person, but for some reason I always fought myself over this and tried to become a “normal” morning person. I never thought to put my nature to work for me. Everyone is different, but basically if you track your effort and productivity hour by hour for 5 days you’ll start to see a pattern… Put this knowledge to work for you! Work on the most important tasks when you are at your peak energy state each day.
29. Reaching your long term goals is about prioritizing them over your short term or impulsive goals. And it turns out we are more likely to do the long term tasks if we care more about our future self. I found that building more rapport with my future self helps a lot. You can do this by visualizing your future self, texting or emailing your future self, putting yourself in your future self’s mind, and feeling what it feels like to be “me in the future”. Get as detailed as you can. Who are your friends? Where do you live? What are your activities? Your clothing? What colors do you see? What emotions do you feel in the future? If you don’t have a positive picture of yourself in the future, or if you are scared of “aging” then you may have a blind spot that is keeping you from bonding with your future self, which may keep you stuck in an impulsive mindset. Try to see aging as a process that makes you happier, wiser and more capable. Reconnect and bond with your future self. See your life from a 10,000 foot perspective. Imagine walking, but each step is a year instead of a few inches. This is your life, and you need to see it more clearly so you can prioritize your actions better. Your future self is awesome and is depending on your actions today!
Whenever you are lost, review this list. You will probably find the answers are in there.
After solving these problems, I was able to scale my business to over $42k per month.
Are you struggling with motivation? Organization? Need help growing your agency? Need help scaling sales and revenue?
If yes, then I’ll be happy to help.
I ran my own successful agency since 2007, helping my clients earn $160M. I started mentoring other agencies fulltime in 2018, and would love to be your ally and friend to help you reach your goals!
If you need help scaling your agency to 6 or 7 figures, or just want to get “unstuck” faster, then let’s talk.
Agency Growth Mentor
Pro Tip: If your agency is not getting enough leads or sales, or if you keep running into scaling issues, then I would be happy to help. Let’s talk.
Chris Johnson, Upscale Method, Agency Growth Mentor