Self Improvement and Motivation

Ellena Arroyo

Self Improvement and motivation are usually in a yin and yang relationship. They can at times be locked in a combat for supremacy, but other times self improvement and motivation are traveling buddies, arm-in-arm, each carrying the other.

Self improvement is the goal and motivation is the means to get there. Sometimes the horse gallops, other times he’s kicking and bucking you off his chaffed saddle. To say that one depends upon the other is an understatement, as it may be said we only ever do that which we’ve been motivated to at any given moment.

Even given a situation in which one finds him or herself under heavy duress, people can find themselves committing either acts of heroism or villainy, seemingly against the odds.

First, let’s consider the objects of this dynamic relationship. The obvious problem is that it is we who are the objects of such a discussion. It is our self improvement and motivation that is under question, and therein is our biggest problem. We are ever-changing and helplessly dependent beings. We begin life derived from our parents. Our existence and mood depends upon things mostly out of our control. We may pack an umbrella and predict the next storm but are powerless to stop or start the deluge. As our frustration at the daunting reality of being a frail human tempts us to lose focus of our goal (self improvement or otherwise), our mood becomes an ocean liner’s anchor on a kayak and drags us down.

What to do in this bleak situation? Are we doomed to failure at every turn? How do we succeed in motivating ourselves to improve ourselves?

Knowing our limits is really the first step to freedom from perpetual depression and frustration, actually. It has been my observation and personal experience that solving any problem begins with its identification. Problem: we are unable to change everything we would like to change. Why is that so important? Simple: it frees us from the tyranny of trying to move Granite Mountains by banging our heads harder into them. Our solutions to our obstacles in life then become more realistic. Instead of moving the granite monolith mocking our progress by pulverizing our skulls upon their immovable faces, we can simply climb. We can go around the long way. We can hitch a ride upon any number of vehicles designed to overcome such obstacles. We have options! This realization further frees us from the tyrant of frustration. We aren’t as helpless as we’d first thought.

We are only doomed to failure and misery if we attempt the same thing a thousand times, complaining all the way that our attempts are getting us nowhere. Naturally that would be the case, granite doesn’t mind if you pound your flesh upon its face. You will lose every time, and perhaps complain that it hurts. Whatever you do, once you’ve identified such a blockade to progress, find another path around or over the obstacle. Exploring options, even grim options we may not have bothered to consider heretofore, will go a long way towards motivating us to continue. The quest for self improvement at this juncture is stymied: delayed, but not lost. There is hope.

Continuing the journey of self improvement will require a dogged determination to reach the goal, even if it feels as if our engine of motivation has quit along the way. By the way, motivation isn’t merely “feeling like going on,” rather that is merely emotion or mood. Mood is a very important character in the play, but often a doppelganger for motivation. Motivation is that dogged and central drive within us that is connected somehow to adrenaline and other hormones in our body. We fight or flee when we’re most motivated to do so. Motivation is sometimes helped and other times hindered by mood. Running the marathon of self improvement means our motivation must not be confused with our mood. Only when our mood becomes the wind driving our motivational sails can we allow mood to play a key role. Other times, mood can become a champion fighter in the opposite corner of the ring. We must fight against it or ignore it when our motivation to continue is subdued by a negative mood or attitude.

Practically speaking, it’s rather elementary to discover ways to motivate ourselves. Just about every motivator we know was introduced to us in grade school or in our mother’s lap. We are motivated by love, motivated by the prize of time and quality of life…and we’re all motivated a little differently. To one, money is a huge motivator. To another, simply eating a square meal propels him forward. My advice to you is this: when you set out on this course of self improvement and motivation becomes an issue, think of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Set your face like flint against going back to who and what you’re “improving from,” the old you, and remind yourself why you thought self improvement and motivation were really all that important in the first place.

To get you motivated, set up milestones, little goals for yourself along the way, and celebrate like mad when you’ve reached those mini goals. Defer things such as a date night, and use it rather as a carrot to motivate you to complete a milestone. That term “milestone,” by the way, can be a simple baby step. It should be an attainable goal, such as getting up half an hour early each day or cutting back on the third serving. If the milestone is a change in habit, then celebrate when you’ve gone a week consistently making progress in that change.

Whatever happens, there is no turning back. Keeping yourself motivated by keeping yourself focused on the prize and not the problems along the way will be the wind at your back. Remember that the biggest motivator is hope. Cling to hope. If you can’t find any, ask someone to help give you some. There’s plenty to go around, and you’ll find that even the smallest morsel of hope becomes a feast when you’ve been famished for it. Enjoy the trip, self improvement and motivation will soon become more reward and less work as you accomplish your goals along the way.

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