If there’s one thing I’ve always been painfully aware of throughout my life, it’s my work ethic. As a high schooler, my work ethic was so strong that I would often get up at 4am to do my daily workout if I wouldn’t have time during the day, or I’d be up late writing term papers that weren’t due for weeks. Today, as a self-employed person for nearly a year, I’m finding it really hard to motivate myself to work or even exercise on a daily basis. This all comes despite the facts that I love what I do, and I truly love working out. Just what happened in the last 10 years?
I can begin to my decline in motivation back to my first job out of college. I was so gung-ho upon earning a full-time job with better-than-average pay right out of college. Once I landed the job, about a month before graduation, I felt like all my troubles were over. No more studying, no more worrying about employment. I was set for life! Several months into my job, my excitement had faded drastically. The incentive for working hard in a corporation was squashed. I hated the idea that after working to climb the ranks for 21 years, I was at the bottom again, and for a much longer stretch of time. Who can survive in that situation, working 40+ years? Certainly not me.
Some of you might be reading this thinking, “suck it up, kid. That’s how life works.” Part of me was saying that, which got me through a full year working at that job. But after a while, I was convinced life needn’t be that way, and I was determined to make it so. Four years later, after lots of job hopping, I was finally in a position to be self-employed, something I’d never desired for myself until entering the workforce after college. Nearly a year later, my business is doing quite well, but my personal habits are not. Sometimes, being your own boss isn’t the most ideal thing, unless you can really discipline yourself. Today, while out on a rare run, it dawned on me. The reason why I was so motivated in high school was because I had an ending point. In my mind, working my butt off for 4 years was worth it to get a high school diploma. I didn’t even think about what lay ahead after that; the point was, in 4 years, it was over. Applying that today, maybe all I needed to do was start thinking like a high schooler.
Put yourself on a schedule.
When in school or at a traditional job, you have a definitive start and end to your day. Without that daily time structure, your days can be completely wasted I’ve definitely become that person who sleeps in til 10am and stays up working into the wee hours of the night. In some ways, it’s almost ideal. Working at night is quieter and the emails and phone calls are pretty nonexistent after 10pm. The main problem is the fact that everyone else I know is on a 9-5 schedule and my work habits don’t leave me much time for socializing, never mind visit a gym. In short, I’m out of shape and could do with a better social life. The solution: get back on a schedule. Instead of 9-5, which I never really cared for, I’m on the school schedule with my day starting at 7:45am and ending at 3:45pm. For some reason, it just suits me better to start earlier and end earlier, not to mention it lets me get to the gym before the 5pm crowd comes rushing in.
Make goals, both short term and long term.
I’ve never been a huge goal setter, partially because so many awesome things that have happened in my life are completely unplanned. But that’s no reason to not set goals as a form of motivation. It turns out that goal setting is pretty infectious because once I made one, it wasn’t long before I had a page full. After listing the goals, the next step was to arrange them, for me in terms of importance, and then by how long it would ideally take to achieve them. Even if you’re not into goals, I encourage you to just start with a few and see if you can take to them.
Remind yourself of your goals.
It’s not enough just to make goals and a timeline; you need to be reminded of it constantly. Think about how often it was drilled into your head that the reason why you suffered through school was to get that diploma! In some sense, you need to become like your parents and teachers, and remind yourself of how important your end goal is. Do it in motivational picture form, or by writing it out on your bathroom mirror–anything that will get seen by you constantly. At the very best, share your goals with your parents or friends and beg them to remind you of your goals constantly. That should get you out of bed every morning!