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How to Maintain Your Motivation & Strengthen Willpower (Part 1)

Believe it or not, but you have motivation and willpower within you. You may not know it, but you have already motivated yourself many times in your life. During those times of strong motivation and will power, you most likely overcame many obstacles.

The purpose of this article is to show you a success pattern, one you can recreate repeatedly, anytime you want insha’Allah.

We Love New Beginnings

We, as human beings, love new beginnings. We love to move to a new house, get a new job, see new places, eat new food, start something new. This “newness” creates an excitement within, a feeling of freshness. That is one reason why we are so “motivated” during Ramadan time to come up with resolutions to change our lives.

While we have high hopes for new resolutions during times of ‘fresh starts’, too often we don’t lay the foundation of success when making these resolutions within us. As a result, our resolutions don’t gain fruition.

If you know how our body/mind works, then you can treat every day as a new, fresh, energized day! To get the best out of this ongoing series, identify ONE area in your life where you need motivation. Start applying the principles used in these articles on that one area of your life.

Sustained Willpower

What we want is a “sustained” willpower. Lasting change does not happen with an immediate, “just do it” mentality. In order for lasting change to happen, a new attitude and approach has to be gradually ingrained within ourselves.

Setting the stage: Understanding ‘inner’ & ‘outer’ success

Inner success: It is an emotional feeling of happiness and contentment; it is overcoming internal obstacles.

External success:It is achievement and making things happen visibly.

Our goal is to merge both inner and outer success for a more fulfiling lifestyle.

In what area of your life do you need willpower?

Is it to exercise and lose those extra pounds? Or is it to take time to work on your business? Or is it to take time to prepare for your upcoming exam? Or is it pray on time, or wake up for Tahajjud? Or is it to fast on voluntary days? These all appear to be “outer successes”, however, there is an inner success you are trying to achieve by this. Maybe losing those extra pounds makes you “feel better about yourself” (inner success).

These outer successes all require discipline and initiative, and breaking through procrastination or whatever other mental barriers will give you an inner sense of accomplishment and strength.

Make sure you have defined the inner and outer successes you want to achieve. The more you feel success internally and externally, the more you feel motivated in your life (though remember to your success is ultimately by Allah Ta’ala, and keep in mind that true success is success in the akhirah).

A big challenge:

We are now becoming more concerned with entertainment than with results. We read great stuff, say they are wonderful and then we go back to our regular life. We need to realize that if we are to become more productive, we must discipline ourselves and that produce results with the knowledge and tools we already have.

To get what you want, you need to take action. You need to let go of idea that there is instant fix or any magic pills! The tools and traits to achieve are already within you and your faith. You need to tap into that, and we can learn how.

Short term results Vs long term results

Short term results and long term results of an action are typically different. Many times, we sacrifice long term results for the short term pleasure we will get with an action. Gaining discipline requires hard work – if you can do the right thing consistently, you will increase momentum and ingrain self-motivation as a new character trait. Once you gather momentum, it’s hard to go back to the old way of doing things.

Diagnosing the Root Cause

When you have a problem in life, there is a symptom that shows up – a weakness of yours. If you go to a doctor for headache, it can be because of a minor stress, or it may be a symptom of a much more grave health problem. A good doctor will properly diagnose before giving any medicine. This applies to our life as well. Many times we cover up or overlook the real issue and are looking for a quick-fix or ‘tablet’ for motivation. This doesn’t work, at least not in the long term!

Secondary payoff

In psychology, there is something called “secondary payoff”. This theory states that anything a person does that is perceived externally as bad is actually having a “secondary payoff” that the person internally is trying to satisfy. If we just “stop” the bad habit, without finding a different way to give the “secondary payoff”, then it creates friction in our life.

In other words, replace a bad habit with a good habit.

If you are checking your emails, every 5 minutes, you might think this is not good for you. But, there is a secondary payoff your body is trying to get with such an action. For example, checking your email every 5 minutes might be giving you a sense of “significance” or “feeling of connection”. Now, if you just stop checking your email suddenly, your body “lost” the secondary payoff it is getting, and in few days, you return back to the old state. One way to eliminate bad habits is to find a different way to satisfy the secondary payoff. What if we did dhikr every 5 minutes?

Understanding Secondary Payoff is very important if you want to make a change in your habits. Whenever you see you are doing “something” that you want to change, and are looking for motivation to change, try this:

1. Take a deep breath, and sincerely ask yourself – “what am I trying to achieve by doing this?” And pay attention to your answer.

The words you speak to yourself will give you a clue to the “secondary payoff” you are trying to achieve. When you want to make a change in your life be aware that you should have a new avenue for your mind/body to fulfill this “secondary payoff”, otherwise, within a few days/weeks, you will come back to the same old state.

Your Past and Future

You can live another day as you lived your past, trying to hold onto how you used to be. But if you go about life this way, you might not be reaching your full potential.

Tomorrow can be just another day that happens to you, or it can be a day you enter with enthusiasm and energy if you are granted life till then. You can begin each new day looking at how to maximize it with spiritually uplifting worship and productive activities. Changing your outlook could potentially change your life.

Motivation Exercises (To be done immediately after reading this article insha’Allah)

Here are 2 fast track exercises to help you start creating change in your life now.

1) Clearing off your mental desk:

The idea is if your desk is cluttered, then you cannot work effectively. The same goes for your mind with all those thoughts!

This exercise is to be done for 15 minutes: Take a blank piece of paper and start writing everything on your mind. Your mind should feel relaxed after doing so. After you have done this, come back and read the rest of the series as you will need the list you created when we learn about Purpose and RPM time management.

2) Resolving energy-suckers: Incomplete issues that suck up energy from your life have to be resolved. Maybe you had a fight with someone 2 years ago, and you still think of it. Perhaps you started something and never completed the project?

Make a list of all areas of your life in which you feel you need closure. The list should be one page maximum. Once you have your list, go over the list and prioritize them according to which ones are robbing you of the most energy; those issues are the ones we want to handle first.

Instead of saying “I am more motivated” and ending there, think about what area of your life would you like to see change. What specific change will you make in your life and how can you measure that change? Look forward to your thoughts as we go through this series inshaAllah.

Read Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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