Celebrate the "Little Wins"
Motivation. What is it and why, oh why, does it seem to come and go? In plain terms, motivation is the direction and intensity of effort. In a nutshell: what are you interested in doing and how much are you interested in doing it? Motivation can be seen as a spectrum, from amotivation on one side to intrinsically motivated on the other side, with a stop at extrinsic motivation in between:
So, what are we to do with this information? Well, each stop along the way can be general and specific. You can be generally amotivated or simply amotivated to knit a sweater. You may be very intrinsically motivated to train for your sport or perfect your lines for an upcoming audition. Extrinsic motivation is based on motives that are outside of yourself: tangible rewards, comparison with others, desire to satisfy the demands or opinions of others, and other outcomes that are less in your control. Intrinsic motivation, on the contrary, contains motives that are inside of you: the joy of a particular activity, the desire to improve a skill, self-actualization, personal growth. While extrinsic motivators certainly move the needle for performers, those rich in intrinsic motivation are most likely to persist through challenges and feel more fulfilled by reaching outcomes.
The question becomes, how do you stay motivated over the long haul? How do you maintain that joy, that desire to get better, over extended periods of time? Here’s a key:
Celebrate the Little Wins!
What do we mean by “little wins?” Rafa Nadal comes to mind. If you’ve seen Rafa Nadal in action, you know he is constantly pumping his fist:
It can be the 2nd game of a 5-set match. If he wins a good rally, Rafa is usually pumping that left fist. He shouts, he gestures, he demonstrates the joy of playing throughout his matches. In doing so, Rafa is keeping his motivation going. He’s keeping his edge. Here is an accomplished athlete who recognizes the value of acting in a manner that reflects a positive emotion. By doing so over and over again he keeps his spirit aligned with his intrinsic motivation to enjoy the game and get better as he goes along.
Think of your motivation like a campfire. When you’re keeping a campfire going, there are a couple of ways to go about it. First, you can get that fire roaring then wait until it is nearly out and put a huge log on it. Well, it will take some time for that log to catch, and you run the risk of it never doing so. By waiting for some great inspiration to fall in your lap to keep you motivated, you may lose your motivation all together. Instead, think about celebrating the little wins as adding little twigs to the fire as you sit alongside it. You’re constantly feeding that fire. You don’t give it a chance to go out because you’re stoking that bad boy all the while.
So, to extend the metaphor, where does my twig supply come from? Where do I find these little wins to celebrate? This is where you goal setting comes in. Often when we talk about goal setting performers think about a finish line, a grand outcome, some far off great achievement that may appear miles off in the distance. And sure, there is great value in having lofty achievement goals. However, the real magic is in the small goals, the mini goals, the daily get-this-done-to-move-the-needle-ever-so-slightly-forward goals. These are process goals. Those goals, repeated over and over again, will get you to where you are going and keep you motivated as you go.
Think through a future desire. What do you want to achieve in your sport, your art, your business, your performance? Then, break it down into smaller and smaller chunks. Map it out so that you are able to piece together a to-do list for the very next day. Then, take a bite out of the smallest chunk you’ve put down and when you finish that chunk, by all means, celebrate that win! You don’t have to do a victory lap but you CAN cross it off your list (or mark it off with a check mark). Perhaps give yourself a small reward at the end of each day if you complete X number of items on your goal list. Repeat this for every step on your list and watch your motivation stay strong. Watching yourself inch closer to your goals will bring great satisfaction on your journey.
So remember, to stay motivated find the joy in what you’re doing and celebrate the little wins along your path! Break down your larger goal into smaller, bite-sized chunks, rewards yourself as you go, and knock those little tasks down, knowing:
“the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
Take good care.