December 10, 2018

Anyone else a little over those, “10 Important Tasks All Successful People Complete Before 9 AM”-type stories?

You know, the articles that make it seem as though to be successful, there is this innate willpower you must possess in order to get up at 4 a.m. and crush the day before even stepping foot into the office.

We’ve been told time and time again that motivation stems simply from having determination, logic, and self-control. But, trust me, every night before bed I’m “determined” not to hit snooze the next morning, yet when that alarm goes off and not a drop of sunlight is peeking through my window—more than likely I’m tapping for five more minutes.

Quite frankly, it is much more emotion driven than that, which is why it takes a bit more effort for the rest of us to stay motivated in our day-to-day.

What drives us to be motivated are specific emotional states: feeling grateful, having compassion for not only others but ourselves, and developing a sense of pride in what we do.

What drives us to be motivated are specific emotional states: feeling grateful, having compassion for not only others but ourselves, and developing a sense of pride in what we do.
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Psychology professor David DeSteno told The Atlantic that these three emotions serve as the foundation for that determination, logic, and self-control we seek in order to stay motivated.

When we feel grateful, we feel more content in the present, which, coupled with compassion and pride, builds confidence as we move towards our future. We are beings filled with emotion—so it only makes sense to take them into account.

So, let’s remix that morning snooze scenario.

The alarm begins to ring at 6 a.m. and instead of reacting, I decide to tap into these three emotions. I begin by taking a deep breath and acknowledging the fact that I am tired, it has been a long week, and I have a right to feel this way, it’s normal—that's compassion.

I then remind myself that I am thankful to see this day because it is yet another opportunity to start over and another opportunity to work on my goals—that's gratitude.

These two emotions then help encourage me to get up without hitting the snooze button, therefore getting my day started a little earlier. From there, I feel a sense of pride for having been able to do that which was so daunting.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these emotions aren’t always easy to tap into, but with practice they can become habit. Here are some actionable tips on how to incorporate gratitude, compassion and pride into your daily routine.

Gratitude

It may seem as though folks are talking about gratitude journals at every turn, but that’s because they truly do work–it’s scientifically proven. And not in a cliché “count your blessings” way, either. Gratitude journals help us see the significance in ordinary everyday occurrences.

Instead of writing down the same items each day—like being grateful for your job, or the roof over your head—try writing about the person who smiled at you on the train or the fact that the weather is finally warming up after a long cold winter.

Taking five minutes each day to jot these things down will boost your levels of joy and satisfaction with life, thus contributing to motivation.

Compassion

The first part of self-compassion: Paying attention to your self-talk. In difficult or unfavorable situations, your immediate response may often be “ugh, I’m so dumb,” or “wow, you messed up again." But try to counter that thinking with something more affirming. “Yes, I made a mistake but I’m only human it will be okay. Let me think of how I can fix or learn from this.”

Immediately becoming more self-positive is tough, so in the meantime just practice gently acknowledging certain moments and reassure yourself that you are not bad or broken. It'll slowly become a habit.

To become more compassionate towards others, practice looking at commonalities. When faced with someone who is acting out or upsets you, take a step back to recognize what you may have in common. “Similar to Claire, I’ve had a long week in the office. I’m sure it’s getting to him as well.”

Also, try pairing this with random acts of kindness towards others, which can be as simple as giving a compliment or as much as volunteering.

That satisfaction of helping those around you generally leads to joy within ourselves and in turn we’ll feel more motivated.

Pride

When it comes to pride, the seemingly minor moments are what truly make an impact. Practice being proud of your journey, not just the outcome. That is, be proud of yourself for putting pen to paper and fleshing out your ideas for something you’ve always dreamt about. Or, for deciding to bring lunch this entire week instead of buying, which put you closer to your savings goal.

Pride isn’t always about the big outcomes, but sometimes the process that got you there in the first place.


Read next: 10 Things That Steal Our Motivation—and How to Get It Back

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