Many of you set intentions or goals for 2019. As we approach July, the enthusiasm of the first half of 2019 has worn off. Many of you are left wondering how to get that spark back and ensure that you are staying motivated with your 2019 goals.
I'm sharing a technique from my coaching toolbox today that I use with high performance athletes, students and entrepreneurs when they are mid-season, mid-project or mid-semester. It is the time orientation technique.
We operate in three dimensions:
1.) The Past
2.) The Present
3.) The Future
As we plan our future and walk around in the present day, we can’t help but reference the past.
A great example is going to the gym for a workout (2019 goal of course!)
We can’t help but reference the last time we worked out, and then we reference our overall feelings about the gym. How hard it was, how it felt, how we felt afterward. It may be positive or it may be negative.
“That workout was SO hard. I remember how much my legs burned and I felt like I was hit by a bus afterward.” Past negative.
"That workout was hard but it challenged me and I feel awesome about the growth, I’m trusting the process.” Past positive.
Remember that every time you go to take an action step, your brain will go through a split second rifle through the filing cabinet to figure out if that was a past positive or past negative.
The brain likes to think about the past.
unfortunately, it prefers to reference past events that will discourage you from taking risks or doing uncomfortable things.
That’s not good, is it? Because when we want change we have to enter temporary discomfort until we adjust to the new normal.
Your brain WILL go to negative past references. If it does a good enough job, these references will also influence your future thinking. If that last workout was filed away as horrendous and useless, it will most certainly affect your present and future thinking.
Yes, your workout probably was shit if it was well programmed to get you out of your comfort zone but you just intentionally file away moments as positive experiences to trip your own wiring.
We can choose to file any moment away as a positive experience.
If our brain is going to go digging around in the past, we want to have a collection of motivational thoughts, positive reframes and intentional moments. People often roll their eyes when a friend offers a positive spin or positive affirmation. It’s not being ridiculous, it’s being strategic. They aren’t even doing it for you - they’re doing it to hack their memory banks.
If you want to reinvigorate yourself and sustain motivation in the last half of 2019, take this insight and get more intentional with what you chose to take away from EVERY action you are taking toward your goal.
Look for, NOTICE and ACKNOWLEDGE three great things that came from working on that goal that don’t have to do with the goal itself. Not for the same of doing it or being that positive person - but because you are engineering your past. You are rewiring memories so that they fuel your present actions.
Training for a race?
Maybe the weather was great that day, and you spent the run appreciating nice scenery or the refreshing breeze that happened to be the perfect temperature. You took a quick photo in your runkeeper app.
Maybe you had a delicious coffee while you worked on your project and wrote down a few “progresses” or “successes” instead of the to-dos. You took a moment to enjoy the taste of the coffee that day and the fact you anchored such an enjoyable thing to what is an ordinary work task.
Examples from my own practices:
I used to file away past negative thoughts about trail runs - and then talk about them (the first km of concrete legs) which served to demotivate me the next time I step out. All I’d remember was the parts I filed away under past negative. Rock in the shoe. Burning legs. Hard. Tired.
So, I started adding photos to each run log. I can go through any run in my app now and see a photo and all that I remember of that run was something particularly beautiful about nature that day. Running now has a very strong association with flow state and enjoyment in nature. It didn’t happen naturally. It happened intentionally.
If you study successful people and their habits, many of them have a journaling practice that supports locking down past positive memories. Tim Ferriss explains the five-minute journal technique he uses here in this youtube video for example.
Now get out there, take action and start locking in positive memories, so that the past can fuel your present instead of drain it.