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Q/A How To Motivate Yourself

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Q: How do you motivate yourself to do something you love to do, or have always wanted to do? I have a new sewing machine that has been sitting in the box for years. What is the best way to begin?

A: To motivate yourself to accomplish a task, you need to break it down into small, measurable goals. Using your example of the sewing machine, let’s dissect this. Start by scheduling 2-3 times a week to address your desire to sew. As a suggestion, on M, W, F from 4 to 4:30 pm, you devote 30 minutes to setting up the sewing machine. On Monday, you take it out of the box. On Wednesday, you accomplish the first part of the instructions to make the machine function, etc. Do not go past the 30 minutes allocated. On a scale from 1-10, rate yourself on how you feel before the 30-minute ritual begins. Repeat this process after the 30 minutes is completed. For example, it is 3:45 pm and you begin to focus on your goal to sew. Are you dreading this? If so, you might rate your feelings as a 2. At 4p.m. you begin to unpack the machine. By 4:30, you have unpacked the box and you stop. Now, rate yourself again. Using the same 1 to 10 scale, you might rank as a 7. Why? Before you began, you had not accomplished anything. You just felt like a big project was in front of you that you might not know how to tackle. But after the 30 minutes when you have successfully completed the task, you feel good. You accomplished the one goal you set for yourself that day. When a behavior produces positive emotions, we are more likely to continue with the thing that caused the good feeling, because we know there will be a high return on our investment. Small, measurable, and specific goals are the most likely to be completed because they are predictable and manageable. With any project you start, begin by breaking the entire scope of the idea into bite sized pieces. Write these down. When you see that your big goal is nothing more than a bunch of smaller goals, it does not feel so overwhelming. It is the staggering feeling of a huge project that keeps us from moving forward. If you rank yourself low on several occasions after your allotted 30-minute scheduled time, you should re-evaluate how important the goal is to you. You might dream of making a beautiful dress, but the time you will need to invest is not worth the trade-off. This will help you evaluate how important your goal really is. We all dream big, but that does not mean every dream is to become reality. It is fine to let a goal go. Donate the machine to someone that might not otherwise have this chance. You will have done a good thing. When you do what you love, time flies. But when every minute feels like an hour, you may not be experiencing something you love. Find your passion, and you will be motivated to persevere.

Patti Hatton, MA, LPC


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