On those days where you feel amazing and things are going for you, it’s easy to feel motivated and be productive. However, at those moments where you run into obstacles & challenges — and you’re not getting the results you desire or expect (maybe even for years) — it can be incredibly hard to stay motivated and keep momentum.
I was inspired to write this article as one of my clients asked me an interesting question:
Jari, how do you stay consistent and motivated when you haven’t seen any successes for a few years? And how do you overcome procrastination and continue to be productive in those cases?
As I’ve experienced this situation firsthand (more about that later), I decided to share the principles and strategies that helped me to stay productive and motivated even though I wasn’t seeing the results I desired.
Keep Your Eyes On The Prize
Whenever we run into hardships or challenges, we can quickly become demotivated and overwhelmed as we focus our thoughts on how stuck we are. However, especially in those situations, you need to be on top of your game. You need to be as motivated, disciplined and productive as possible in order to rise up to the occasion.
One way to do so is by becoming very clear about your bigger picture goal (aka, your prize). You need to have full clarity about the bigger picture that you want to achieve. You should be able to visualize (and verbalize) your bigger picture goal in detail.
Let me give you a personal example to clarify this:
About 4 years ago, I started my journey as an entrepreneur. And, as you’ll read later on, I started many ‘businesses’ that would turn out to be complete failures.
The reason why I was still able to be highly productive and motivated even though I ran into many failures was that I had a very clear bigger picture goal that I strongly desired to achieve through entrepreneurship:
I wanted to build an online business that enabled me to earn money independently of time and location so that I could live in complete freedom and autonomy.
That was (and still is) my bigger picture goal. That’s my prize. I wanted this prize so bad that, even though many of my ideas failed, I simply didn’t give up. Despite not seeing any successes (in fact, it would take me 18 months before I made my first sale online) for a long, long time, I was still highly motivated and productive simply because I had such a clear bigger picture goal that I so desperately desired.
“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals — that is, goals that do not inspire them.” — Tony Robbins
If you want to keep momentum and stay motivated & productive despite not getting the results you want or expect, you need to have one clear encompassing goal for which you’d do anything to achieve it. This fuels you with the necessary motivation to keep going.
Ps: I want to make clear that your bigger picture goal should truly be encompassing. It needs to be independent of any idea or project that you’re working on right now. Why? Well, your project or idea could fail, but your bigger picture goal can’t. My bigger picture goal is to build a successful online business that enabled me to earn money independently of time and location. So, if one business idea failed, I could simply move on to the next idea while keeping the bigger picture goal alive. Makes sense?
Use Pain, Pleasure and Regret To Your Advantage
Now that you have your bigger picture goal, you need to get clear on all of the reasons why you want to achieve this goal so badly. If your ‘why’ is strong enough, you’ll be able to overcome the obstacles and challenges that are thrown in your path. Get clear on your ‘why’ first, the ‘how’ and ‘what’ will follow.
In fact, your ‘why’ is the driving force of your motivation and productivity. Without a strong enough ‘why’, you’ll quickly become demotivated and fall into procrastinative behaviour as soon as you hit into trouble.
Therefore, you need to get clear on all of the reasons why you want to achieve your bigger picture goal.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
First of all, focus on all of the pleasure you’d get from achieving your bigger picture goal. Think about how your life will look like in a few years if you’d actually achieve your goal. How would your life be different? How would it change your emotional state? Your happiness? Your financial wellbeing? Your health? Your environment?
Clearly visualize (and write down!) all of the pleasures you’d gain from achieving your bigger picture goals.
Pleasure is a good motivator, but pain is an even stronger motivator. Pain drives us to go beyond levels that we never expected we could. Therefore, think about all the pain you experience if you wouldn’t achieve your bigger picture goal. How would your life look like when you gave up on your bigger picture goal? How would it change your emotional state? Your happiness? Your financial wellbeing? Your health? Your environment? Your relationships?
Imagine seeing yourself at 80 or 90 years old, talking to your grandchildren about your life. How much regret would you feel if you didn’t follow through with your goal?
Although this may be hard to think about, clearly visualize all of the pain you’d experience from not achieving this goal. Write down every single pain-based reason why it’s an absolute must for you to achieve your bigger picture goal.
Now, you’ve got a list of all of the reasons why you should never give up on your bigger picture goal. Both the pleasurable- and painful reasons. The driving forces of pain and pleasure help you emotionally prime yourself to stay disciplined, productive and motivated to work on your goal, no matter what life throws at you.
Thinking about how much pain and regret I’d experience if I would need to go back to a 9–5 job because I gave up on building an online business motivated me so much that I just didn’t slack or procrastinate on my work. Of course, thinking about all the pleasure I’d experience when I would achieve this goal also motivated me, but definitely not as strong as pain and regret.
I recommend you review your bigger picture goal and reasons for why you want to achieve it every single morning so that you’ll generate enough motivation (aka, getting yourself into ‘state’) to work hard and crush the day ahead.
Focus On The Small Wins
In order to keep momentum and motivation going, you need to create small checkpoint goals and celebrate these small wins as often as possible. Make sure that, especially when you’re stuck, your checkpoint goals are relatively small and achievable within a week. This way, you continue to feel empowered and encouraged because you’re visually confronted with your progress.
Rewarding yourself for taking action is a very good way to stay motivated and productive.
Also, you’re reinforcing positive behaviour by celebrating it, and that’s a very powerful way to establish new habits. Turning hard work into a habit is probably the best way to be highly productive and stay consistent with your efforts.
I recommend you set input-based goals (something you can directly control) such as:
- Write 5 blogposts
- Record 3 videos
- Call 25 potential clients
Instead of focusing on output-based goals (something that you can’t control directly) such as sales, views or leads.
As long as you focus on taking enough action (the input), the eventual results will follow (the output).
Practice Strategic Quitting
Sometimes, certain projects, ideas or businesses simply don’t work out. In that case, don’t hold on to them for too long. Instead, drop these projects or ideas quickly.
This is easier said than done of course, as the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ might take over and make it hard to quit certain projects that you’ve already invested a lot of time and effort in.
Sometimes, however, giving up on certain projects or ideas might be the most productive thing you can do as you free up time, money and energy for a better project or idea.
In fact, one of the reasons why you might not be getting any results is because maybe you’re working on the wrong thing. And it doesn’t matter how hard you work if you’re working on the wrong things. There’s nothing more unproductive than that.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker
Please keep in mind that strategically giving up on a project or idea does not equal giving up on your bigger picture goal. In fact, in many cases, choosing to give up on a project may actually be a choice that leads you closer towards achieving your bigger picture goal.
Remember, you don’t change the end-destination, but only the approach towards that destination. Keep this in mind, and it’ll be easier to let go of ideas and projects that don’t work out the way you expected to.
When you don’t get the results you desire, it may be time to drop your current endeavour, dust yourself off and try another idea. And another one. And another one. Until one of them finally sticks.
If your bigger picture goal is to impact 100,000 people, become a bestselling author, earn a million dollars, build your own 7-figure business, become a digital nomad or anything else that’s worthwhile and ambitious, you might just need to try many different approaches before you found ‘the one’ that works.
In fact, it’s highly unlikely that any of your first five approaches will actually work out the way you expect them to. This is simply because of the lack of experience, which is developed over time through repeated trial and error.
Personally, my bigger picture goal has always been to build a successful online business that would allow me to earn six-figures a year independent of location or a time schedule. Even though I gave up on many businesses that I started, I never gave up on my bigger picture goal. This is the essence of strategic quitting.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many new ‘businesses’ I started that I failed. For example:
- I started a dropshipping business selling cat toys — failed after 3 months
- I wanted to become an online marketing coach (even though back then I didn’t even have a successful business myself, lol) — failed after 1 month
- I started a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu themed T-shirt business — failed after a few days
- I started an online self-development business in Dutch — failed after 3 months
- I tried flipping second-hand products on eBay and Amazon — failed after 2 weeks
I can easily come up with 5–10 more of these examples…
As you can see, I was all over the place with my ideas. And I had to give up on them because of a variety of reasons. Either I felt that I wasn’t passionate enough about the idea in order to stick with it for long enough, or I quickly realized that it was a stupid idea.
All in all, I quit many times on my ideas, but never on my bigger picture goal.. All of my ideas were in line with my bigger picture goal of building a successful online business. And finally, after years of trial and error, one of my ideas stuck: Personal Growth Lab.
You’ll probably need to try out a lot of ideas and projects before you’ve got the one (it’s just like relationships in that sense). Until then, keep your eyes on the prize and throw as much sh*t against the wall until, eventually, something sticks. Continuously learn and readjust. Change the approach as many times as necessary, but never give up on your desired bigger picture goal.
As a side note, the majority of my businesses have failed because I wasn’t passionate enough about the subject. For me, that is a huge determining factor in my level of motivation, productivity and persistence. Talking about self-development is one of my biggest passions, so no wonder that Personal Growth Lab is the first real business in which I see bigger successes.
Practice Daily Peak State Routines
One last thing that I must mention is the power of practising daily routines. Following the routines that put you into the right mental state on a daily basis is an incredibly powerful tool in your productivity and motivation toolbox. Especially when you’re struggling, you need to manually put yourself into a peak state of mind — even though you don’t feel like it.
When you don’t get the results you desire, it’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of negativity. From that state of mind, it’s hard to generate the motivation necessary to be productive and crush the day. While, paradoxically, being productive is the only thing that’ll get you to your goals.
“If you want to make it big, you’ve got to push yourself beyond your limits. You’ve got to pump yourself up and get yourself into a hyper mental state. And you have to do this yourself. Nobody can do this for you.” — Tony Robbins
Therefore, you need to prime yourself for the day ahead, just like a boxer who’s about to fight Mike Tyson in his prime. Get yourself energized, motivated and confident to tackle your tasks and challenges of the day. Get yourself ready to crush it.
To do so, I recommend that you follow a morning routine in which you:
- Review your bigger picture goal (including the ‘why’)
- Set your daily goals and intentions
- Do a quick exercise such as a few push-ups or squats (to pump you up)
- Do Wim Hof breathing
- Take a cold shower
- Read an inspiring book
- Watch a motivational video
- Listen to an inspiring podcast
- Read affirmations
- Visualize about your successful future
You don’t have to do all of these things in one morning of course (I don’t do that either), but if you pick at least 2 or 3 of them you’ll be in a completely different state compared to your baseline.
Instead of feeling down and sluggish, you feel inspired and energized. From this peak state of mind, it’s much easier to be productive.
Now Do it
It can be very difficult to stay motivated and productive when you’re stuck. Negativity can quickly dominate your thinking, which makes it hard to feel motivated.
Therefore, in order to combat this, you need to get clear about your bigger picture goal, your reasons why you so strongly desire to achieve this goal and the pain you’ll experience if you don’t achieve this goal.
Furthermore, you’ll have to practice strategic quitting so that you don’t waste your valuable time and energy — and quickly focus on a new idea until something sticks.
Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins along the line and get yourself into a peak state of mind every single day. This will help you, despite your struggle, generate the necessary motivation in order to be productive and crush your day.
Keep on believing in yourself and never give up on those things that you care the most about.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab