The funny thing about motivation and action. How to create your own upward spiral.

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Since 1988, Nike has been telling the world to ‘Just Do It’. In addition to being a genius tagline, these three simple words hold value for anyone seeking to increase their motivation, in any area of their life. This powerful little phrase got me swimming after years of inaction. If you’re willing to give it a try, it will help you too.

You see, intrinsic motivation is something that only you can create. Coaches don’t motivate teams. Teachers don’t motivate students. Parents don’t motivate children. The most powerful source of motivation comes from inside, and once you stop looking outside yourself for inspiration, the drive to ‘Just Do It’ can be found within. 

… and here’s a funny thing about motivation. It is not only the cause, but also the result of taking action.  

It’s a scenario I’ve become familiar with after working with people who want to make change in their lives for the last ten years. Someone wants to make a start on something that is really important to them, but they just don’t feel motivated enough, often enough, to do it. When they become frustrated enough, they engage a Coach, and ask the Coach to help motivate them. Without going into the detail of the science of motivation (we can do that some other time), one simple thing a Coach can do in this situation, is to facilitate their client to Just Do Something. No more waiting for divine inspiration to shine through from the clouds, no more seeking motivation from books, movies, Instagram feeds, or a Coach.

If you’re looking for more motivation, the most effective thing you can do today is to take action. It doesn’t need to be big, grandiose, or spectacular. It just needs to be something. By temporarily suspending any automatic thinking that is preventing you from doing something, you can create the beginning of an upward spiral of motivation. Here’s how:  

The simple act of getting you’re ‘A into G’ and taking action, is the first step to creating your own upwards motivational spiral. When you take action, a result will emerge. This result becomes your new focal point, a new point on your map you can use to re-orient how you perceive the task at hand. What you learn and what happens as a result of Just Doing It, becomes your inspiration that motivates you to take the nextstep, and the next one… can you see what is happening here? Taking action leads to inspiration, inspiration leads to motivation, and motivation leads to action… and the upward spiral continues.

I’m continually inspired when I see this phenomenon play out in my own life, over-and-over again. Recently, I decided to take up swimming after thinking about it for many years. I was stuck in my head, and this was preventing me from taking action. “What if I looked like a twit crawling my way across the pool?”, “What if I couldn’t even make 50 metres?”, “What if someone else was already swimming in the slow lane?”, “What if I saw someone I knew?”, “What if my skin got all dry and itchy from the chlorine?”, “What if my hair got frizzy?”, “What if I didn’t have time to wax my bikini-line beforehand?”. Yes, these ridiculous and limiting thoughts kept me on dry land for some time.

Then something happened. I decided to Just Do It. I packed my swimming gear, some goggles and my big girl pants and headed to the local pool. I called my husband on the way and asked him how many laps I should try to finish (I had six in my mind). To my horror, he suggested ten. Damn. Now I’d have to do eleven. 

I completed 12 laps that day, after turning up without a towel. I proudly skipped out, towel-and-wax-free, because I was finally on my way. I had a new ground zero; I could now (slowly!) swim 12 laps. I got out of my head, and I just did something… and I am so glad that I did. What I achieved that day was a source of motivation as I re-visited the pool the following week. My mind was no longer consumed with reasons why I shouldn’t or couldn’t, because that one simple action showed me that I could. Those old thoughts were now irrelevant.

This simple, motivational upward spiral is accessible to anyone. The behavioural science behind Just Doing It, can be complex, but what you need to do, is simple. If you want to increase your motivation, ask yourself “What is one small action I can do today?” That’s it. Oh, you then need to actually DO THAT THING you just thought of. Remember? Just Do It.

Got a resume that needs updating? Write down 5 things that people tell you you’re awesome at. Feeling out of touch professionally? Call an old colleague and schedule a coffee. Not sure what you’d like to do next in your career? Scribble down notes about your three most rewarding days at work, ever. Starting your own upward spiral of motivation really is simpler than you think.

People don’t achieve important things because they are any more talented, gifted or blessed than the person next to them. They achieve important things because they make decisions to Just Do Something, then they use the results of their actions, to inspire and motivate them to do the next thing that needs to be done, and so on.

So, the final question remains; "What will you achieve when you put on your metaphorical Nike’s today?"