On this episode of The Motivation Mindset: The Daily Tune-Up, Risa Williams and Stevon Lewis, therapists/authors, dive deep into the complex topic of motivation. They discuss how motivation is not a switch that can be turned on and off, but rather something that kicks in after you start taking action.
-The Flow State, an optimal state of engagement and focus that many people strive to achieve.
-Mental Rehearsal and Mental Prep Work
-Removing barriers that hold you back
Tools Discussed: Flow and Activation Energy (from Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience), First Step Finder, Goal Setting, and Goal Tracking (From Risa's book, The Ultimate Self-Esteem Toolkit).
Related Episodes: Habit Stacking, Season 1/Ep. 25 and Episode 22
Hosts: Risa Williams, www.risawilliams.com, @risawilliamstherapy and Stevon Lewis, www.stevonlewis.com, @stevonlewismft.
For info on books, workshops, guests, and future episodes, please visit: risawilliams.com.
*All tools discussed on the show are meant for educational purposes only and not as a replacement for therapy or medical advice.
Welcome to the award winning productivity podcast, the Motivation Mindset. Learn to get stuff done without all the stress in these coffee break sized episodes that can help you tune up your daily mindset. And now here's your host, Risa Williams. Hello everyone and welcome to the show. I'm Risa Williams. I am a therapist and the book author of the ultimate time management toolkit. And this is season two of the motivation mindset. Today on the show we have a special segment called The Daily Tune Up where guest host Stephan Lewis, a therapist and book author, will be joining me to talk about how we can get in the mindset of feeling more motivated. Today on the show, we're talking about a very special subject that is the name of this podcast, motivation and how we can find it and motivate ourselves more easily and more consistently in our everyday lives. And joining me today is Stevon Lewis, who is a very motivational person and he's going to give us some tips on how we can motivate ourselves. Welcome, Stevon, to the show. What's up, Risa? Happy to be here. Like when you said we're doing motivation and it's the dame of the podcast as well, I'm like, oh, Mr. Burns, excellent. So motivation is a tricky topic. It's my personal belief that motivation kicks in after you start moving. And I try to communicate this to my clients because often we have an unstated belief that we hold that motivation is a switch and it just turns on and off and I should feel passionate about doing this thing and therefore I should feel motivated to do it. Like if I said to you, I'm going to write a novel, I should feel passionate about that because I like writing and that motivation should just kick in. I should just sit there and like, type, type, type, type. And we all know it seldom works like that. I'm not saying it never does. But thinking that it's going to work like that with everything is a trap we fall into. I find that you have to motivate yourself first using different tools and then once you're off and flying, then you get that feeling of being motivated, like, oh, I can't wait to start doing it. How does that work for you in your life? I agree 100% that I think there's this belief that motivation will happen naturally. We just kind of wake up and we're inspired to go do and create and make things happen. And that's not really what I've seen. I mean, there are things that I like to do, like I love to ride my bike. I am motivated to do that to a degree. But there are days that I want to do it and I wake up and I'm like cycling gear. I got to put the bike in the car if I'm going to drive somewhere to the ride. And I'm like, oh, I got to wake up early. I don't really want to wake up early, and I've got to push past all these things that you wouldn't expect to be there because it's this thing I want to do. And I think people kind of underestimate how much of, like, they have to kind of just push past stuff unpleasantness in order to become motivated to do or to engage in the activity that they want to do. It's not all going to be positive. And I think that's, like, the thinking error that people engage in is that I'm motivated to do something or if it's something I want to do, it'll all be positive and it'll just go streamlined and be great, right? It goes back to that extreme thinking that people tend to fall into with so many things. And I think motivation is one of the main ones, which is not only do we think it's a switch that just automatically turns on and off when we feel motivated, it should last forever. And like you're saying, you've been cycling for years, but it's not like just because you're good at it that the motivation matches the skill level. It comes and goes depending on your mental energy, your physical energy, and all the other responsibilities in your life. We have to look at it holistically rather than just pinpoint, well, I'm really good at this now. Why can't I just every day, why don't I feel like doing it? What's wrong with me? And then we turn it on ourselves, right? You nailed it. Nailed it. That's exactly the thing I was going to say, is that what happens then is that we start to beat ourselves up for not being motivated in the way that we think we should. Like you said, the example about writing a novel is that you're going to wake up and you're going to just feel like typing at the computer for hours and hours and hours and write pages every day. And it's like you're going to have to drag yourself away from the computer because you're so motivated. You're so hyper motivated. And if you ask any professional writer, that is not their process at all. I mean, maybe one in a million people, that's their process. They could just do that. Or like a composer considered a piano and make a million symphonies that are great. That's not how it is for most people. Most people, it's a slog. It's like you make this commitment that you're going to do it. Like you're going to go for a ride every week and you're just going to do it right. Or I'm just going to sit and write a page and I'm just going to do it until I hit that flow state. So when we talk about flow state, that's a concept invented by Cheeksent Mihali, who wrote a book called Creativity, Flow and the Psychology of Discovery. And he says that's where we're all trying to go because it feels like the happiest state for people to be in. And that's when you're actively engaged in something, using your focus in a positive, happy way. So that is often what people are trying to go with, feeling motivated. They want to get in that flow state because they were there once and they want to get back there. They just don't really know the map of how to get there. So he talks about in his book that you need something called activation energy, which I like to explain to people as a concept. Like, in order to get motivated, you have to activate yourself. You have to get ready to get ready. In other words, you have to prime your brain, start thinking about I'm going to put my cycling clothes on or I'm going to get the bike ready. And you have to do all these things to cue and prep your brain. I love the way you kind of frame things because I understand the same thing you're saying in a different way. You're absolutely correct. Like you have to get the cycling clothes out and you got to get that stuff ready. As you're doing that things, you get motivated. And so the way I understand it is there's like research, I forget who did it around. When you see someone engage in positive activities that you find kind of like noble and you want to model for yourself, you think that that person has this higher level of motivation and they are just like dialed in. You think they're magic? Let's be honest. You think they are magic. They just turn it on and they're a genius. Absolutely. Like, they just wake up and they're like, oh, I'm going to go work out for 3 hours. That's not how it works. What happens is that they've removed all the barriers, as many of the barriers as they can of things that would prevent them from engaging in the activity. Soif I want to wake up at 06:
00 a.m and go run, then if I wake up and then I'm like, oh, I got to find my shoes, I got to find this, I got to get my outfit, and I don't want to wake up the person next to me, or it's still so early. All those things would be, like, screwed. I'm just going to lay back down. Whereas if you like, oh, I've set the alarm. I got my workout clothes on already. My running shoes are right by the bed. All I got to do is brush my teeth. The car keys in my gym bag are right by the door. That's the mental prep I'm talking about. You're just doing it naturally. You've learned if you don't do that, it's too easy to just stay put. We will always just stay put. Yeah. We haven't set ourselves up to feel motivated. Yeah, we've got to factor in again, I think that's the unpleasantness. No one wants to get ready. Nobody wants to feel like it's hard work to get to the thing I want to do. So there is some work involved in getting the things you want. We've got to factor that into our definition or understanding of getting to a place we want to get to. So, like, that end goal doesn't just happen because you woke up that day. You have to do things to get there. Not all of those things will be fun, right? So a lot of it is, like, physical things you actually have to do to prepare. And then the second piece is, what are you saying to yourself in your head? Like, the more you're fighting yourself over doing the thing, the more chances are that you will just stay put and not move forward at all. So if you're adding thoughts like, oh, well, it's cold and I don't want to do that, I might be so sweaty and tired, or I don't want to. Yeah, then we're fighting ourselves. It's like adding more barriers, and our brain already will look for any barriers to not do it. Right? Exactly. Because, again, working hard is not easier thing to do. It's easy to just sit around. So I watch a lot of documentaries on stuff, and so there's this bodybuilder named CT. Fletcher, and he makes this great statement about bodybuilding. He's like, I don't eat the food I eat because it tastes good. Right? He's like, I eat the food I eat because of the results it will have in my body. Exactly what is the outcome we're going towards? Yes. And so you're like watching him eat boneless skinless chicken breast seasoning broccoli, and he's like, I'm not eating it for it to taste good. This is not my favorite meal. But the results that we'll have in my body is what I'm going for. And I think that that's part of it is that we've got to also factor in the idea of the results we want to get. And again, what work is going to have to happen for us to get to that place. And people oftentimes don't want to do the unpleasant part eating this meal that doesn't really taste good. It's not the cheeseburger with the bacon that I want. Exactly. Because they want the quick hit of dopamine or whatever in their brain of this is rewarding. But when we start stretching out the time frame, like, I am experiencing frustration right now to save myself from feeling way bigger frustration a year from now when I'm in the same state, I think that's where people go wrong is their time frame is so limited to the now, and they're not stretching it, like, a year from now. If I keep this up, where will I be? And sometimes even talking to a client and asking them that, you see them pull back, and they're like, oh, I didn't even think about a year from now. I'm just thinking of, like, how am I going to get through this week doing this thing over and over again. And that's why when I think about motivation and I think about kind of creating new habits, I ask people, well, how long have you done it the way you've been doing it? Get them to start thinking about, like, well, if it took you two years to get to where you are now with not doing things this way, how long do you think it'll take out of that, right? Just starting there? Because people if we take an example of losing weight, it's like, well, did you gain 20 pounds in, like, two days? How did that work been over the last year? I've put on 20 pounds. Okay, so then if that's the case, it took you a year to put on 20. How quickly do you think that 20 is going to go off? You got to get rid of it. Are you going to lose that in three weeks? Maybe not, because it took way longer than that for you to get it on there. That's what I mean. Our sense of time is so wonky. The more I talk to people about time, the more I realize this. Our sense of time is very strange. When it comes to goals, we always want things to be instant or what we perceive as reasonable, which is usually, like most people will tell you, two to three months or less than a month is their reasonable version of a goal. And yet to build that muscle or to learn that skill often takes beyond that. And that's where we hit our own frustration tolerance, because that idea to us is so not pleasant, right? That idea that I'm going to have to do this for longer than a month, my brain can only hold a month. I mean, I do that too sometimes with a new thing. Like, I get frustrated and I have to remind myself, well, a month goes by really quickly. Why am I getting so hung up on this short time frame? What is that doing to my mental state that's not making me feel motivated if I think of things like that, for sure. And I think that's the part you're really getting at is the idea that motivation can be really intense at the outset. Like, we're super excited about this new goal that we've set for ourselves and going to be purposeful and all that. In that moment, we aren't thinking about all the things that we're going to have to endure to get to the end goal. And so when we start to run into these hurdles that we have to get over, like, I don't feel like getting up this morning, or it's really cold during the winter, so maybe I don't really want to be outside as much as I need to be to yeah. Then it's like motivation starts to wane, and I think what separates people from the ones who lose motivation and kind of stay engaged. It's like they recognize the end goal. It's going to take some adversity, right? Like, to get to something, there's going to be adversity and your job is to figure out how to overcome the adversity that's going to be presented. And it's different for different people. Oftentimes. I think what we do is we look at someone who's already gotten to where we want to get to and we don't factor in all the stuff they maybe have all the adversity, they. All the hard work and arguing with themselves and early morning or whatever they had to do. They're not broadcasting it, lack of support. Any of the stuff that they had to do to kind of get there, the sacrifices they've made. We don't know that. We're just like, oh, they're so amazing. I want to do what they did. Yeah, because people aren't communicating that usually to anyone else, unless they're talking to a therapist or something. Like, you're not seeing all the things they're doing every day and all the times they wanted to give up and they felt a lack of confidence along the way. You're just seeing the end goal where it looks like magic. Like, oh, my God, they're so amazing. How did they get this far? Because you weren't tracking their progress over the last two years, you were just ignoring them. And now they're posting on social media and it looks like magic. It does look like magic. No one sees. I tell people, for me, that's a good one, like social media, because I've done well with my Instagram and got a bunch of followers. Didn't have all these followers at first, but if you go back to and I leave this up on purpose, like some of my earlier posts, they were getting like 15 likes, ten likes, and now whatever, hundreds of likes are easy to get. But that's the thing. If people just say, oh, well, you get look at all the engagement you get. And it's like, yeah, it wasn't like that when I first started out. And you work really hard at it. You do it every day. It's not like magic. Everything you put out there is a success. You keep trying new things and some of it takes and some of it doesn't. Yeah. And I think that's like part of the faux PA about, I guess, like the, errand, thinking about motivation is that it's not just this magical thing that happens and you stay in it. So when you talk about the flow, like you live there, it's consistency might be the cheat code. Like, you just got to be really consistent with doing something and that's how you get to be really good. It's like you said, the activation is like, you just got to start doing something consistently. Yeah. It's taking those little tiny micro steps every week and just trusting that over time they add up. So I'd encourage everyone a thing that's worked for me because I often had that problem with motivation and feeling like, why am I not there? And why have I wasted all this time? And the beating yourself up is to start tracking the little things you're doing each week. I've been doing this for years now in a journal. I just have a bullet journal, and I write down post it on social media or release this podcast episode. In some weeks, it feels like nothing's happening. Like often in my brain, I'm like, nothing happened this week. Even when we started this conversation, you asked me what happened this week, and I was like, I don't know. Nothing. But when I really think about it, a lot of stuff happened this week. And it's good that I'm writing it down because it's trained me over time to look at things objectively, like we were saying, just the facts. What are the facts? Well, every week I am trying to move things forward. Some weeks it's a huge step. Some weeks it's not. Most weeks it isn't. Most weeks it's a little tiny thing. But over time, I can see that I eventually get to where I want to go. So I think tracking is so important because as we're discussing, we often have a wonky estimate of time for sure. And our brains default to negativity. So we see what didn't happen or where we didn't get, and we assess that to mean that we aren't doing enough stock market. It's up and down, but where's the trend line? That's what we don't really do a good job of is, like you said, tracking that stuff over time. And I don't know, I get why. I think the prevailing kind of belief is that if I pay attention to the stuff that's not going well, then that's how I become successful. And so when I think about motivation, people often try to berate themselves to motivate themselves to do better. And it's the thing I by criticizing themselves and being super harsh on themselves, which we know doesn't work. It doesn't work with other humans either. Right? Exactly. Hey, newsflash, everybody listening. Like beating yourself up doesn't make you better. No, it doesn't make you want to do the thing. It makes your brain not want to do the thing. You're actively training your brain to not want to do the thing. Because all it's associating with this is like, geez, whenever I engage in this activity, I really feel bad about myself. I get beat up when I try to go for a bike ride. I beat myself up. So therefore I don't want to go on a bike ride anymore. That's what your brain is saying. And it's like, okay, brain is like, I control everything in this now I'm going to shut all this stuff down now you're not going to perform as well. We're not going to go the extra mile to put forth more energy. All this stuff your brain is like, Go home. Just stay in bed. Why are you trying to do this thing you're going to beat me up about later? 100% self preservation. Yeah, we shut it down. We'll shut it down. And that's why you don't feel motivated often. It's because of the way you're talking to yourself. It's the way you're saying, I need to meet this instantly and be perfect and be magic. Like, I want to get on my bike and just do the tour to France. No, I mean, your brain is going to shut that down. It'll be like, that's way too hard. Let's just stay in bed. It's way easier. You talk about this often of kind of breaking things down into very small goals. Sure. You have this long goal of, like, I want to ride my bike 100 miles, and we get to mile 50, and we're like, oh, my legs are done. I'll never make it to 100 miles. It's like, well, let's make the goal like 50. Let's get to 51 and just keep building there. But people don't think of it like that. They're like, I have to get to 100. And it's like, yeah, but also before you get to 100, you have to get through all these other miles. Why can't each one of those miles be a goal? Yeah. And then if you're riding it down, you're seeing that you're at least doing it, and that actually builds more confidence than trying to do it all in one manic go and then burning yourself out. That feeling of, like, pushing yourself too hard and then your brain shutting it down creates less confidence than taking baby steps over a long period of time. Because if you're taking baby steps, what you're telling yourself is, hey, that felt easy. That felt fun. I did that in five minutes. Then you're getting the dopamine hit of reward versus I struggled, I pulled a hamstring, now I'm out for the count. Where's the reward? I don't feel good. And you may have times where you have to push through things and challenge yourself a little more. That's not what we're saying. We're just saying consistently, what is the level of flow where it doesn't feel so harsh? It makes me think about athletes where they have that concept of, like, you've got to go slow to go fast. When they're practicing something, they aren't practicing it at game speed or, like, competition speed. They're doing it slow and methodical because they want to get the movements correct. They want exactly work out all the little kind of kinks to say, I'm now doing this in the way that I'm supposed to do it, and then I add the speed to it after. And the velocity, because otherwise you're going to crash. When I was a dancer, it was the same thing. You walk through the steps before you do the steps, so you'll often see people marking it, and it doesn't even look like they're dancing because they're trying to rehearse. Where are we crossing? How are we not going to crash into each other? If you do that at top speed from the get go, someone's going to fall and get hurt. See? And that's the thing. And it's that part of us, again, wanting that dopamine, wanting that immediate gratification that we can't slow down enough to say, like, hey, if you slow down, you will get to where you want to get to. Right. So how do you incorporate this in everyday things? Like even something silly that you're unmotivated to do, like chores around the house or whatever. It's that element of mental queuing it up or prep or mental rehearsal. Sometimes all it takes is just lying there for a second and picturing yourself doing it. Or picturing the outcome, which can be very motivating. Like picturing the finished feeling, like, that's going to feel great when I fold those clothes or put everything away and I can see the floor again or something. So I don't know if this is correct, but here's kind of what I do. It works for me. It's a combination, I think, of what you're doing. It's about the activation stuff, of like, I've got to start doing something. But the reward for me is not really the finished folding the clothes or having taken the trash out. The motivation for me, like the reward is to get back on the couch and not do anything. Because you want your time back. Yeah. So the faster I can get that done, so it's like, oh, the trash needs to go out. I immediately go, it's like, oh, you don't have to do it now, you can do it later. And it's like, no, I want to do it now so that I can get back to chilling and not doing anything. I think that's true for a lot of people. It's like, then I've cleared the slate. I can sit there, I can play a video game, I can watch my show, and I don't have it hanging over me. I can finally relax. And that's what we're trying to connect with, a future feeling. I want to relax. What do I have to do to relax? I got to put these clothes away. You've nailed it. That's exactly my thought process, is like, not hanging over me. I've cleared the slate. I can now relax because it's not impending on my to do list. I've gotten it done right. And we can approach that with other things. Like, let's say you are trying to write a novel. Well, that's going to be in the back of your head all day long. Why am I not writing my novel? Why do I not feel motivated if you just said, I'm going to write for ten minutes, I'm going to sit down and if all I do is a sentence, I'm done. And I often use this trick with clients, like a ten minute, 15 minutes rule. And that's what the Pomodoro technique was trying to get people to do, is like, just set a time limit. It doesn't matter how much you accomplish, because just that is that activation energy. You've now opened up the document. You're staring at it. You're forcing your brain like, hey, connect. You know, what happens is after a week of doing that, people are often flying. They're not doing ten minutes, they're doing an hour. They're doing 45 minutes because they've tricked their brain. Like, okay, we're staring at the computer. I don't want to do I might as well type a sentence. Next thing you know, you've written a page. That's what I was going to say is that the thing is when you set such a I don't want to say it's a small time, but it. Is kind of like it's like lowering the bar. Right? And what happens is that you end up doing more. It's so weird. Because we're contrarians. I really believe our brains are contrary. If you say you have to be in the Olympics, we won't. But if you say, like, you just have to walk across the room, your brain will be like, okay, I'm going to walk a mile. Exactly. I'm going to do way more than. The thing you do the opposite. Yeah. Am I the only one? My brain works like that. Absolutely. I think about it. If I'm like, oh, I need to work out seven days a week, at least 30 minutes. Like, I'll never do seven days. No, do 30 minutes one day a week. It's like, oh, now I've done an hour. And it's like, I've done that for four days. It's almost like we think we're cheating our own system, and that gives us a reward. Right? I did it. I wrote the paper in five minutes. When I said I was going to do it for 4 hours, I win. I showed you self. I showed you my own brain. Take that. Take that. Take that. You thought you were only going to do five minutes. Yeah, I did 30. I tricked you. You just tricked yourself into achieving more. That's so awesome. But that's what we do. Literally, it's the smaller thing. We're like, no, that's too small, is what we tell ourselves. We want to make it bigger. But the way to really get the production is to keep it small. And you will do more. Yeah. So lower those expectations. Lower expectations. Lower them. You will blow them out of the water. Right? People don't believe it. That's like, contrary to what science says, like, what people believe. Oh, no. If you set too small a goals. You'Ll achieve those, you'll be lazy forever. No, if you set small goals, you'll probably do them. You'll do them, and you'll do more than that. Right. But if you set these lofty goals, you'll never get there. You'll never move, you'll never get started. Because our. Brains want fun. I mean, I think my whole philosophy about everything is like, our brains are always looking for more fun. Yes. So when you're setting it so high, it's automatically not fun. Like, if you say it out loud to somebody and you hear your own words, do they sound fun to you? Or does it sound like, oh, my God, what are you doing to your right? Why am I saying this goal? People don't understand that about their language. When you tell your brain something, it takes it literally, right. That becomes the thing that sounds awful. Why are we setting that goal terrible? So what you've done is like, when you've made such a big goal, it's almost like perfectionism. Like, you've made it such a narrow opportunity to get to the fun that you're talking about. You have to win gold at the Olympics to enjoy this. I'm never going to enjoy it. We're going to have fun. Yeah, well, and maybe the people who are actually doing those things, they've now gotten to the everyday level where they're doing such challenging things that that just feels easy to them. It doesn't feel like what it feels to the rest of us. Yeah, 100%. Like in cycling, we have this saying of, like, if nobody's ever ridden a bike, riding a bike on the beach path very different from riding a bike up a hill. Try it and you'll understand. What I'm saying is that the saying is it doesn't get easier, you just get faster. So, like, going uphill is hurting the other person that's blowing past you. They're hurting too. It's just they go faster while they're hurting. You're just going slower. But it never really gets easy. That's so true. It does get easy. They're not having a fun time. They are not having a fun time. They're hurting. They just go faster while they're hurting. They get to the downhill part faster than everybody, and then they're having fun. And then they're having fun. That's what it is. It just takes you longer to get there. Exactly. Again, the answer then is climb a shorter heel and then you'll get better at heels. Like, just do more of the shorter heels. Just go up a little bunny hill and then you get to the down part faster. And then you can feel like, okay, I got some muscles. Yeah, I built that skill up. And then you'll do it like twice and then three times. Then you're like, oh, I'll just do a longer hill. And then the downhill will be longer and that'll be the thing. Right. So don't wait for others to motivate you to do things. Face your own uncomfortable feelings and then think about how uncomfortable it's going to be to stay still. I think that's the piece. It's like staying still should feel more uncomfortable. The idea that in a year's time you haven't gotten to where you want to go should feel worse than the uncomfortable feeling of just doing these little baby steps forward. And I think if any other takeaway people have from listening to this is just the idea that there ought to be some sort of work or adversity expected or included in your definition of success. So, like, to get to something good and to be successful, it takes some effort and you're going to have to overcome some things to get there. And that's okay. It's going to make you stronger and more confident in the end. That's what you get. One piece I want to leave you with is if you want to end up somewhere differently tomorrow, you have to start by doing a little thing differently today. Thank you so much, Steve On, for being on the show. It was so much fun. Thank you. Thanks for having me again, Risa. If you're enjoying tools discussed on the show, please visit risawilliams.com and click on podcast. There you can learn about books, upcoming episodes and future special segments of the show. You can also follow me at risawilliamstherapy. For contests and book giveaways. I'm Risa Williams and we're out of time. Thanks for listening.