22 Ways I keep myself motivated
Most people believe that motivation comes from just getting yourself to do something.
Let’s be real: if you already are able to get yourself to do something then you’d be doing it by now.
Pushing yourself to do something is more than just going out, doing it and then assuming you’re going to keep doing it.
You need to push yourself to keep doing it and create an environment around you that allows you to continually improve the things you are doing.
Let’s look at what happens; we’ve all:
- Watched Netflix for hours a day
- Slept in while we should get out of bed
- Browsed r/funny or any subreddit to fill our heads with useless distractions
- Skipped a workout because we didn’t feel like it
- Postponed a meeting at work to sleep in
- Skipped a healthy meal to eat fast food
- Told ourselves we needed to do better but didn’t
- Continued doing what we know we should quit
- Dropped a workout routine
- Not started a project because we just simply never got ourselves to take the first step
- Done tons of other things that have blocked you from becoming the person you’d like to be
Maybe you haven’t even done all of these, but I have – off and on for years. Which made me realize that there’s another way to do it.
I’d like to help you reach your goals. Just like I am right now. Sure, some of the ways written below might not be for you. But at least they show you what the possibilities are.
Motivation isn’t a one-day thing, a one-hour thing. It’s something that you work on. The more you get motivated, the longer you will be motivated. And that’s kind of the whole point: you have to motivate yourself to be motivated.
You might say “Well, yeah, that’s cool and all, but really actually getting motivated is the whole problem”.
Congratulations: you’re at step 1. You figured out the problem. Now let’s start going to actually fix this.
#1: Start accepting that I wasn’t motivated
As humans, we are fantastic at thinking of solutions. You know what every single solution needs? A problem.
See, the fact that you are already aware that getting motivated is your pain shows that you are aware of the problem.
So start accepting that you are simply not motivated. Because accepting the problem will make you realize that – as stated above – there is a solution to the problem.
Often we get into these thought processes of being against ourselves because we aren’t motivated. Let’s be real, that’s a horrible way of spending your time. Nobody ever got better by looking at the past and hating themselves for not being X or Y.
Honestly, if in the past you could’ve done better then you would’ve done so. But apparently, you couldn’t do better. Don’t blame yourself for that, just accept that it happened. Nobody can fix the past, anybody can shape the future.
#2: Learn that motivation comes after starting
Most Olympic athletes don’t sit on the couch at home and suddenly think: “I want to be an Olympic athlete”.
Instead, they’ve already done the exact type of sport they want to go to the Olympics for. Their motivation comes from the fact they’ve already been involved in that sport for years.
It’s the same for you, as it is for me. For months I’ve been going to the gym, but I also wanted to start swimming again alongside it. I didn’t. Until this past Monday. Got out of bed at 7 am, took the subway to the pool and just swam for an hour.
Don’t expect motivation to miraculously appear in your life. That’s simply not how it works. Real motivation comes after you’ve started something. Simply accepting that fact and then doing X because you want to do X more often is the only way to start.
#3: Gather the right people around you
People don’t become better chess players by playing themselves. They become better by playing other people because they are motivated to be a better chess player.
It’s important to find people around you, they will help you to get motivated because most of the times you just want to beat them. Whether it’s chess, hitting that 300-pound deadlift or just work.
Gathering the right people around you is extremely important. They will keep you sharp. You can use them as a backup when you are not motivated.
I have a hard time going to the gym by myself, no matter how much I want to work out. So I have gathered two people around me to work out with. Either I go with one or both, but I hardly ever go alone.
The day before I text them: “Gym tomorrow 8 AM?”. Sometimes both will go with me, sometimes only one will go with me.
But this also happens: sometimes neither will go with me. And even that is extremely motivating. Because when I then have to go by myself, I know I am ahead of both of them. So even if I have to go alone now, I will actually go.
#4 Use Reddit to your advantage
We all know it: Reddit, what a wonderful place it can be.
But it can also be a sinkhole. Checking out r/all for just a second, right? But before you know it you’re at page 16, looking at those wonderful colorized World War 2 pictures, wasting your time. Yes, really, wasting it.
Yet, Reddit can be a wonderful place as well. Look at r/getmotivated, the perfect place to actually get motivated.
And there are tons of other Subreddits that can teach you a lot!
First things first: block r/all on your web browser. There’s nothing worth spending your time on. Unsubscribe from all the useless Subreddits with images you’ve seen a million times before.
Start subscribing to Subreddits that actually interest you. There’s pretty much a Subreddit for anything. Want to go to the gym? Subscribe to r/fitness. Start your own business? r/entrepreneurs, r/startups, and r/Shopify are your places to go.
Use Google (damn that Reddit search) and find Subreddits related to what you really want to do.
And start reading. Read everything you possibly can. Think Wikipedia is cool for information? Subreddits are filled with information by people who are doing it, who’ve experienced it, who know a lot about it.
Look at the top posts of all time, then go down to the top posts of this year, read the recommended posts in the sidebar. Read anything that seems interesting to you.
#5: Use post-its to remind yourself of good days
This one has worked perfectly for me: my wall currently has 31 post-its, each containing numbers 1 through 31.
Every good day that I have, I add another post-it with the next number.
There’s solid reasoning behind it: I realized that if I have 100 good days, my life is so much different.
Not just that: I wake up and the first thing I see are those post-its. It’s not hard to have a good day when there are already 5, 10, 20 or 30 post-its hanging there reminding me of the good days I’ve had.
Some days I add a little icon to it, reminding me of why that was a good day. Then I can look back at the wall, see what I have done in the last few weeks and realize it’s actually not that hard to have a good day as long as I keep doing the right things.
#6: Eat healthy food, most of the time
You’ve heard it so many times: eat healthy food, it’s the solid base to a healthy life.
Just because Trump can eat McDonald’s every now and then doesn’t mean it’s the right way to live. Politics aside, a good diet is extremely important to become the best version of you.
That’s great and all, but sometimes I just really want that chocolate chip cookie with my coffee.
I’ve been there: eating unhealthy food. Every. Single. Day. Don’t believe me? You’re reading a post written by someone that used to weigh 220 pounds (not very muscular either) that now weighs 176 pounds (and is so much more muscular).
Find a way to eat healthy foods often. r/paleo is great if you want to lose weight, as it is based on what humans used to eat (no surprise: it’s mainly unprocessed foods). That Subreddit made me lose 45 pounds of fat – thanks, guys!
Sure, that Frappuccino with extra cream, some chocolate syrup on top and the brownie along with it taste great. And you have all the freedom to eat it. But if you want to be motivated in life, it’s better to just lay it off.
Food is the base of your body. Your organs aren’t going to perform well when you stuff yourself with sugar all the time. Far from it, you will just ruin your body while not even getting better at life either.
Eat healthy foods. My breakfast: yogurt with honey. My lunch: salad with tuna, avocado, tomato, greens, etc. My dinner: pasta with salmon or spiced rice with marinated chicken.
Find what works for you. Nowadays you don’t have to be in the kitchen all day long to actually eat healthy meals. There are tons of meals that require 5 minutes of preparation and contain so much nutrition.
#7: Read books that actually interest you
Let me get real with you for a second: I was horrible at school. Elementary school, best of the class. High school? Worst. College? I dropped out after year 2.
Where am I today? Well, most people expect you to be either homeless or Bill Gates. I’m in between, but a lot closer to Bill Gates than being homeless. I run two agencies and spend my time between both of them.
Why is this important? Because high school and college made me hate reading. I would rather spend my days playing video games than reading a book.
But it wasn’t until I started reading books that I found interesting that I found my way back into reading and studying.
See, school teaches you to read books for information that you will then get tested on and potentially forget all of it by the end of the semester.
Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of degrees that you need a ton of knowledge for, but not every degree is like that – and what if you end up not wanting to pursue your degree after college or potentially aren’t able to because there are no jobs available right now?
Reading is a fantastic way to develop yourself and to train your brain. Obtain knowledge about things that really interest you. Dive deep into the wonderful world of your interests, form your personality based on it.
Sure, maybe nobody around you cares that you know who killed Napoleon’s first general. But as long as you care because you are interested in Napoleon and his rise (and fall) then it’s something interesting to know.
I have very specific interests yet they are in different fields. How the different parts of the brain work, how stocks work, reading about successful entrepreneurs and companies, what food does to your body, how to live a more Stoic life.
That’s just a few of them and there are more. And there’s so much information to read on these topics. Visit your local bookstore or library (I started out sitting at the library for 10 hours a day a few years ago to work and read) and find the books worth reading.
#8: Set up a night routine
Meditate for six hours, drink five liters of camomile tea, take a bunch of Xanax and fall asleep right away. You don’t have to go that far, but at least find a routine to commit to before you fall asleep.
For me it’s watching a bit of British comedy, drinking a cup of camomile tea and call one or two friends before I go to bed. It eases my mind, gets rid of the stress I potentially might experience while trying to fall asleep and it’s just a satisfying feeling overall.
For some it’s to meditate, others might go out for a walk, just do things that take your mind of whatever you have done today or doing tomorrow.
Before I start the night routine, I go over the next day: what are the most important things I want to accomplish tomorrow? What are the things I should not forget?
I start planning the hours of the day and write down what I will be doing the next day (more about this below – #11).
#9 Get enough sleep
This can’t be new to you: sleep is extremely important to function well. 8 Hours of sleep is what I try to get every single night. I don’t make it every day because I get home later than anticipated or a phone call might be so enjoyable I continue far beyond the time I scheduled to go to bed.
That’s fine, it happens. Just try to get 8 hours every single night. Sometimes that might be 7 hours, sometimes it might be 9. You won’t feel awful the next day if you don’t get the full 8 hours, but just balance it the next day by going to bed an hour earlier.
Here’s the trick when you always sleep late: stop telling yourself it’s ok to watch another Netflix episode, play another round of that video game or any other distraction. It’s simply not worth it.
Do you really think you’re going to feel great tomorrow – and will get out of bed on time – when you spend another hour that you should be sleeping on something that is giving you short-term dopamine?
Ask yourself this, once you are nearing your preferred bedtime and are on the verge to decide whether to watch the next episode or play the next round: would I rather feel horrible and unproductive all day tomorrow and do this right now, or feel fantastic tomorrow and spend some of my hours of feeling great to watch that episode or play that extra round?
#10 Take a nap during the day
Let’s go back to being our inner baby: daytime naps are the best thing ever.
But really, they are. See, when you take a nap during the day, between 13 to 20 minutes, you don’t need as much sleep during the night.
We’ve all heard stories about people taking power naps. Now, if you thought that was just for people who are extremely busy, you are wrong. Because even for less busy people, it is the greatest thing you can do during the day.
When you take a power nap you are basically just laying there, while your body takes a short break by resting and your mind is just wandering. I sometimes get my best ideas simply from resting for about 15 minutes during the day.
A power nap is not like meditation, where the purpose is to basically free your mind of any thoughts and understanding that if you have a thought, where it is coming from. The purpose is to just lay there, not moving your body and taking a small break.
I always listen to this Spotify playlist while taking a power nap: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWZd79rJ6a7lp
#11: Schedule your time efficiently
24 Hours a day, that’s all you have. Use it well.
By scheduling your time you allow yourself to take breaks between activities and to ease your mind on what tasks you should do next.
This is recognizable to anyone: you have tons of things to do, at work and in your private life. Finish that paper, vacuum the living room, doing groceries, and tons of other activities.
When you look at all these activities in a bunch, it seems like a wall that cannot be taken done.
But when you schedule your activities according to the time you have, you allow yourself to break up that mental wall into smaller pieces. This allows you to get the things done when it’s time to do them.
Sometimes you stumble upon tasks of which you are not certain how much time they might take. That’s why you schedule extra time for these. If you think it takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours, schedule 2 hours. If it ends up taking 30 minutes, you use the extra 90 minutes for a break and to put some time into tasks that aren’t as important.
Writing this post is like a wall: it’s a huge list of different things. I could either look at it thinking “Wow, this is going to take me so much time”.
Instead, I can look at it like this: “If I separate it into parts of 5, I can easily schedule an hour every day. By scheduling one hour a day, I can finish it in 4-5 days”.
If I end up writing 7 ways in 1 hour, I am a little bit ahead. If I end up writing only 4, I can balance it out with the next day.
#12: Get rid of useless distractions
You might think: “but I like my useless distractions. I really need that hour of Netflix at night to calm myself”. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are just messing with your own mind.
See, calming yourself is pretty easy and doesn’t have to take an hour. It can take 10 minutes before you go to sleep. “But how am I going to know whether Ted ends up marrying Robin?”. Who cares, really? It’s more important who you’re going to marry, or what your life is going to look like in 2, 5, 10 or 20 years.
Let Ted live his life, drop the useless Netflix episodes. There’s a time and place for everything, but useless distractions are – as the word already states – useless.
Do you really need that 15 minutes of Imgur in the morning before getting out of bed or could you take that 15 minutes to clean your room?
Cleaning your room will give you a lot more happiness than those 15 minutes of short-term dopamine than Imgur gives you.
#13: Drink coffee or anything similar
No, again: not that Frappuccino with three shots of espresso, some whipped cream on top and that caramel syrup that tastes so well.
Coffee is great for motivation. Every time I sit down to work on this list, I drink a cup of coffee before I start writing. But I don’t need those three extra shots of espresso. Really, it’s not worth the pumping heart rate and the huge crash you will get in about two hours.
Instead, use caffeine to help you during the day. Coffee contains the right substances to be really productive and motivated to get your tasks done. But you don’t always need it, you just need it when you need that extra boost to complete your tasks.
Not an avid coffee drinker? Green tea is a great supplement for coffee, plus it gets rid of the huge crash that you get after two hours of not drinking coffee.
If you think green tea tastes bitter, you are not preparing it correctly. Boil the water and let it cool down for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the tea bag to the water. Green tea tastes best when you add it at about 80 degrees Celsius (176 Fahrenheit).
Want to get more out of your coffee or tea? Add a scoop of coconut oil to it! Coconut oil contains several fats that help your brain to perform better. And a better brain means you are more motivated to complete your tasks.
#14: Work out in the morning
This one is extremely logical: if you start your day being active, you will be active during the day.
Working out at the start of the day has been an important influence on my mood. If I work out after I wake up, I feel much more energized during the day.
There’s a ton of different workouts that you can do: going to the gym, swimming, running, even walking.
My favorite workout is the 7-minute workout. Researchers have figured out that the 12 different exercises within these 7 minutes boost your heart rate in the best way, activate almost every muscle in your body and allows the right blood flow.
Don’t believe me? Read this New York Times article on it. Trust me, it will change your life. If you want to look great, you have to train every muscle in your body.
Now, if you think 7 minutes is too short (like I do), then nothing is stopping you from doing it more than once. I do the 7-minute workout 3 times in a row (over a timespan of 30-40 minutes) and use the resting breaks to think. This allows you to combine meditation and working out, as I feel a huge calm over me during the breaks due to the clear mind you get from the exercises.
Best part: you can just do this in your bedroom, living room, backyard, pretty much anywhere. This means nothing is stopping you to have completed this workout in 10-15 minutes from now.
#15: Clean your house
Most people hate it (I am one of them). Walking around picking up things, getting rid of dust, it just seems like the most boring and unnecessary activity to fill your time with.
But it’s important. Look at it like taking care of your body. If your room is trashed, you will feel trashed as soon as you come home.
Take 30 minutes of your week to clean your room and about 5 minutes a day to keep it clean. You might think that you cannot fix the huge mess in your room or house within 30 minutes. That’s probably because you haven’t been cleaning it for a while.
In that case, start with 30 minutes today. Do another 30 minutes tomorrow. Another 30 minutes the day after that. If you have already put 30 minutes in it today, that’s already a huge motivation to do it again (you’re already almost there anyway, so you might as well do it).
#16: Be the best version of yourself
Let’s be real: the real reason you wish to be more motivated is that you believe there is more to life than what you are experiencing right now.
There’s a better version of you out there, somewhere, and you believe that putting in a certain amount of time and work will allow you to become that person.
And on top of that, you might feel bad right now because you just cannot figure out a way to change because you lack that motivation.
If you want to change, if you really want to be the best version of yourself, you have to start being exactly that. “How?”, you may ask. By doing exactly the things you hate yourself for not doing.
Recognize this thought? “I wish I’d go to the gym more because I am just not in shape at all and I would be more satisfied with myself if I did go”. Then go. really, just go.
You owe it to yourself to become that better version of yourself. Somewhere out there, in the future, there’s a better version of you. And you’ll meet him or her someday. At least, that’s what you might think right now.
But that version of you, the person that you’d like to be, that person is already inside your head. When looking in the mirror, you are already looking at that person. Because the second you take the responsibility to take action based on what you believe you should be, you are being the best version of yourself.
This whole motivation process isn’t just going to end once you hit your goals. You want that six pack because you believe you’d look better? Well, once you reach it, it’s not like you can just drop all the things you’ve done to get there. You have to keep going and have to proceed with the activities that got you there.
#17: Listen to the right music
Music is a huge factor in motivation. While writing this post, I am listening to live version of concerts from some of my favorite bands. It puts me into this flow of productivity, to just keep writing.
I’m not sure whether it’s the huge crowd cheering and singing along that is motivating me to keep going. Or the fact the live versions sound better than the album. But it’s helping me to stay focused and motivated to finish this post.
Finding the right music is beneficial for your state. I have a very broad taste in music and figured out that certain types of music fit with certain types of activities. Reading a book? That heavy metal song isn’t going to help you stay focused. But that classical song by Mozart will.
Trying to sleep? That dance music isn’t going to help you, it will just keep your brain active. Listen to sleep music. This is why Spotify is such a great help: you can find playlists based on any type of activity: sleeping, walking, traveling, working out, being productive, anything. Don’t have Spotify? YouTube is also filled with playlists like this!
#18: Spend less time with demotivating people
Recognize this? “Hey, let’s go to that bar/club tonight, grab some drinks and have some fun!” First thing in your head might be: “Yes! Let’s do that!”. But, if you want to get that good night of sleep, you can’t actually do that.
I’m not saying you should become a Monk, living on a mountain, separating yourself from all the external factors that might negatively impact you and take you away from what you want to be. Parties are great, but again there’s a time and place for that, and the night before you have to get up at 8 AM isn’t really the right time.
Do you really need to go out that Thursday night, party till 2 AM and then expect yourself to be motivated to go to the gym tomorrow? Let’s be real, there’s about an 85% chance you won’t go to the gym. And even if you will, there’s a small chance you will perform at a level you’d like to.
Distractions are everywhere. And especially people that are demotivated are bringing them along as much as they can. Start being selfish, start looking at your life like you own it.
You’re not becoming the better version of yourself, the version you’d like to be, by giving in to those distractions. Of course, if your goal is to sleep in until 10 AM, skip that gym again and again and put that fake satisfaction on your face, then you have every right to give in to it. But if your goals do not align with those external factors, skip the distracting activities more often.
Don’t completely get rid of them, just spend less time with people that get you into that negative flow. It’s not that hard, it’s simply starting to value the purpose of self-development over the specific activity your brain tells you is so much more satisfying. More about that in the part below.
#19: Get your mindset straight
You know which people really live towards becoming the best versions of themselves?
The ones that are crazy enough to believe they might actually make it a reality.
Your mindset is key to becoming the best version of you. It’s easy to give in to short-term dopamine, to, again and again, choose the short road to ‘happiness’.
But, if you’d really like to get somewhere, the short-term satisfaction isn’t going to bring you anything. Short-term satisfaction is what brings people to do things that alter their mind just so they don’t have to think about the fact that there’s a better life out there.
Develop the type of mindset that allows you to look at the long-term. The mindset that aligns with the person that you’d like to be. How do you think you’ll ever be the person to go to the gym three times a week when your current mindset isn’t even allowing you to go once?
How are you going to start being more productive when you don’t even know how productivity works right now? How are you going to get rid of eating fast food if you are still eating it?
Again: mindset is key when it comes to finding the chance that is needed to become that best version of you.
Realize that, although short-term satisfaction feels better RIGHT NOW, the long-term satisfaction will feel better LATER. And that long-term satisfaction isn’t going away the next day, unlike that short-term satisfaction that the brain is constantly seeking.
#20: Tell yourself why you are doing it
Alright, alright, you’re at number 20 which means there’s probably a really good reason why you are still reading this. Something in your brain is telling you that you want to change so badly that you are still reading what is written down in this post.
That’s good, appreciate that feeling. See, there is a reason why you are still reading it. You’re most likely just fed up with how you’re living right now. Accept that. Look at it like it’s rock bottom: you have finally reached the lowest point in your life.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting that, it’s extremely important to do so. You’re at step 0, the worst step of your life. It’s satisfying to realize that. Maybe you had step 0 a few weeks ago and you are already on the right track.
Internally, you want to change, you want to become X while you’ve been Y the last few hours, days, months or maybe even years. That’s fine.
Now realize that exactly that is the reason why you are doing it. You’re done with the current situation. Well, cool. That’s it, now that you know you’re fed up you can just relax, sit on the couch, watch that Netflix show again and keep on living life.
Nope, wrong. Instead, know that realizing it is just step 0. See, it’s the ‘Start’ position in Monopoly. You’re not anywhere yet. You need to start rolling the dice in your life to move forward. But instead of depending on luck, you decide what the sides of that dice will say and which steps you are going to take.
#21: Pick a time and place to do something
Want to finally start going to the gym, eating healthy lunches or start reading/writing that book?
It is important to tell yourself when and where you are going to do it. For me, starting swimming again was something I wanted to do for months but I never spent the 5 minutes that were necessary to actually plan it.
Last weekend, I looked up nearby swimming pools and found one that opened at 7 AM. I then told myself I would go there on Monday at 730AM.
The day before, because I already planned this, I made sure I went to bed early enough to actually wake up at 7 AM. I packed my swimsuit and a towel.
And, low and behold, I actually woke up at 7 AM, got out of bed right away, grabbed my bag and headed off to the subway on my way to the swimming pool. I got there at 730AM, changed into my swimsuit and headed right into the water.
After months of not doing it, it was extremely satisfying to finally get there. To finally find a way to actually push myself to do it.
It’s not rare to think motivation just comes, that it – again – is a magic spark that will start the internal system to do something. But that’s far from how it really works.
You have to prepare yourself to do something, especially when you don’t have to do it right now but really want to do it in a few days.
Picking a time and place is essential, and it works best if you do it 1-2 days before you are going to do it. You can then mentally prepare and make sure you create the right environment that allows you to actually do it. And once that is set, you will actually do it.
#22: Stop getting phone time in bed
As humans, we crave it (really, you’re not the only one): that lovely dopamine you get from looking at your phone in the morning seeing all the social triggers that were sent to you during the night.
Text messages, PMs on Instagram/Facebook/Reddit, anything that gives you that short-term rush to feel satisfied and to shortly forget the fact THAT YOU SHOULD BE GETTING OUT OF BED RIGHT NOW.
Those 20 minutes in the morning add up pretty quickly. You know how much 7 times 20 is? That’s 140 minutes. Every single week.
In a month? 4 Times 140 is 560 minutes. You are wasting over 9 (NINE!) hours every month to get a short rush of dopamine.
You know what else you can do in 9 hours?
- 9 Hours is about 60 10-minute meditation sessions
- 9 Hours are 40 7-minute workouts with 7-minute breaks
- 9 Hours is about 270 pages of reading a book
- 9 Hours is about 30 pages of writing a book
- 9 Hours is equal to 35 power naps
Every time you wake up, stopping your alarm and grabbing your phone for that short-term dopamine, remind yourself: “Would I rather spend 20 minutes not creating my future or spend 20 minutes becoming a better version of me?”
You’ll quickly realize that indeed, spending that 20 minutes becoming a better you is worth so much more than the useless distractions on your phone.