By Salma Awwad
How to make the most out of our greatest human strength.
Witness the role of motivation in your everyday life: from the moment the alarm sounds to getting prepared on time for your daily office grind and pushing through a workout later that evening. Being focused on a goal and exercising your willpower to reach it is something that we do so frequently that it almost takes place subconsciously. Our lives are full of temptations that tax our motivation and resolve.
Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney, authors of the bestselling book 'Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Human Strength', believe that willpower is like a muscle. It is something that we can build up through the right sustenance and exercise, and it is also something that can get worn out.
In other words: Willpower is limited.
In today’s world, technology comes with the promise of greater efficiency and continuous connectivity yield to a lack of downtime. We are all caught up in trying to get as much done in as little time as possible with sheer motivation and willpower. But it’s time to get more realistic about what we can and can’t achieve and approach this in a much calmer manner. After all, life is not a race, it is a marathon.
Here are some quick tips to boost your mental strength and fortitude and help you balance life’s obligations against your p[personal expectations:
1. Force yourself to start – The motivation will follow: Many people tend to wait for the right moment to start a task, aka, when they feel truly inspired or motivated. But the reality is that this moment may never come and the more a task gets procrastinated, the more the feeling of looming dread heightens. Start by writing a task list for the rest of the day. Prioritise and break things down into small components. Get everything out of your head and onto paper. It’ll only take a few minutes – and everything will look much more manageable. Don’t expect too much of yourself: This is a little trick that helps you approach things with a lighter heart. Once you get started, the motivation will kick in and you will be on a roll. (Try this in the gym. Tell yourself you will only go for a 20 minute brisk walk on the treadmill and see how you feel when you reach that 20 minute mark).
2. Tackle the toughest tasks first: Our motivation depletes throughout the day. By getting the tough stuff out of the way first thing in the morning, you’re preventing yourself from going back on those tasks later in the day. Look at your task list and decide which tasks are the most difficult or unpleasant for you. Productivity experts suggest that one of the most effective ways to get urgent or difficult tasks done is to tackle them first thing in the morning.
3. Anticipate Roadblocks: When you start pursuing a goal, consider what might interfere with your plans. Always assume that glitches will come up and that your motivation may falter when they do. Rather than making a decision when the time comes, if-then planning allows you to plot out your defense ahead of time so that you’ve already made the right decision when the time comes. You may not be faced with the exact road blocks you anticipated, but at least you will be in the right mind-frame when the time comes.
4. Reflect: Telling someone to calm down is probably the least effective way to get someone to actually calm down, but if you want to give your motivation a fighting chance, it needs to be done. Sometimes, your motivation wanes because you’ve been working too hard for too long. Even a few minutes away from your computer can help you unwind. This is also a great way to recover a sense of perspective, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand.
5. Do the Opposite of What You Normally Do: If you have several tasks on your daily list, pick two and alternate between them. If you work on one for 10-15 minutes then switch to the other, it will increase your level of efficiency, engage your mind and help keep you moving. Mix things up, it will strengthen your mental resolve.