How to spark the motivation engine

Motivation is an illusion. You need to know what you want and a mission.

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Since switching from being a full-time employee at a major news agency to working from home as a self-employed freelance journalist, I’ve decided that motivation is a farce.

As full-time staff, the environment creates both the pressure and forces discipline on your routine. Once those structures fall away, you have to generate steam to power the motivation engine. You can’t just roll out of bed, rock up to work and grind out the day. You need to continually spark motivation, or it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t just appear magically every morning. No, I’m motivated because I’m tapping into what I want and my mission.

Motivation is the reason for doing something; it's Latin route is the word ‘move.’ Movement drives us to take consistent action towards something we want. So, you need to find out what you want, first.

Besides being a freelance journalist, I wanted to be an author. So, . My desire, my want, sparked my motivation. Once I had figured out what I wanted, it lit a flame, and no amount of crappy Netflix shows could stop me from achieving that goal.

So actually, motivation — for me at least — boils down to figuring out what you want. That’s the tricky part but here two strategies I’ve found useful:

Motivation is curiosity

Find out what you are naturally curious about. How do you do that? Write down 100 questions you would like to answer.

Now, sounds simple but it’s tough. Your head will steam; there will be repeats in there; some won’t make sense but, that’s okay keep trying to reach 100 and patterns will begin to emerge. Once at 100 go over them and highlight the ten most inspiring ones. Once you have those, rank them by order and then center your activities on answering and making those questions come to life.

I didn’t come up with this tactic, by the way, it comes from Michael J. Gelb’s .

Reflect on your future self

Who do you want to be? Another great exercise to find out what you want is imagining you’ve reached the ripe old age of 106 (you can go higher or slightly lower, my Grandfather lived to 106, so I’m partial to that number). Now imagine you get a time machine and come back to today and have 30 minutes to chat with your current self. What do you tell yourself?

Set a timer for 30 minutes and write as much down as possible, questions, comments, anything, just let it spill on to the page. Doing this will help crystallize what you want and eliminate the trivial from your life to give you that laser focus.

Again, not my Jedi mind trick but Tal Ben-Shahar’s. .

So, motivation comes from knowing what you want. Once you’re clear about what you want — and these can be short-term or long-term goals — your mind will be at work even as you sleep to make it happen. You still have to get up in the morning, put your ideas into action and work but it’ll be a ton easier.

Constant reminder

Once you’ve sparked motivation, you need to keep the flame from going out. The easiest way to do that is to surround yourself with like-minded people and the type of person you want to be.

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Arguably, an overused quote, I know, attributed to Jim Rohn. Writer/philosopher Maarten van Doorn :

“You can accelerate your personal growth in whatever direction you desire by spending time with people who already are who you want to become. That will infect you with the behaviors and attitudes that helped them achieve their success, making it more likely that you will realize similar results in your life.”

That’s one of the reasons why I started The Journalist., a private Facebook group for the aspiring journalist which connects aspiring journalists with established professionals. When I started on the path of becoming a journalist, I lacked direct access and mentoring from people I aspired to be and a strong network. The Journalist. aims to give you both. of like-minded journalists and growing base of elite journalists to help launch you on a path to success.

If you’re an established journalist and want to give back by mentoring, let me know.

Originally published at .

I muse on being a journalist, author and on life. Husband. Father of two beautiful girls. Tennis & CrossFit.