3 Ways to Hack Your Mind for Powerful Motivation



Motivation is a funny thing.  Some days you wake up on top of the world – pumped up and ready to tackle everything you need to do.  Other days, it vanishes and you can’t get yourself to do anything at all.

I usually consider myself a well-motivated person.  But still, I come across days when my motivation dries up.

On those days, I’ve learned a few ways to get myself back on track.

Hack Into Your Motivation

Before we get into the ways to build motivation, it helps to understand what it is.

The earliest definition of motivation comes from Aristotle.  He said motivation is an “appetite” which develops in response to your desired outcome.  This desired outcome is formed in our minds by our thought processes, memory and imagination.

In other words, the way we think about our goals influences how much motivation we have to do them.

It’s all in our minds.  That’s where motivation is built and that’s where you need to look when your motivation starts to drop.

Over the years, I’ve developed three thought patterns which bring out the most motivation.

Whenever my motivation starts to dip, I just put my thoughts and goals into these ways of thinking.  And usually that’s all I need to get that motivational spark going again.

1. Imagine yourself when you’re older

So let’s say you wake up one morning completely unmotivated to do anything.  You have plenty of things you need to do, but you feel like wasting it away watching TV.

Instead of giving in to that impulse, imagine yourself in the future when you’re 80 years old.  Imagine your 80 year old self is giving you advice.  Listen to what your older self would say to you.

Would your older self like that you’re going to waste your day away?

Would your older self regret this decision?

When I get that old, I want to look back on my life and be proud of the things I’ve done.  I don’t want to think of all those times I didn’t do something simply because I didn’t feel like doing it.

Imagine all the regret you’d feel at that age if you procrastinated on your decision now.  Imagine telling yourself to take action simply to avoid that feeling of regret when you’re older.

You can think of this approach as future-regret avoidance.  Simply reminding yourself of the potential for regret can often be all you need to help you build your motivation to do it.

2. Imagine the competition

The last time I played a board game with friends, I found that I worked pretty hard to beat them.  It was a friendly game, but something about the situation made me work a lot harder than I normally would have.

I thought about it for a while and then realized why I worked so hard: it was the competition itself.

I think most of us have that drive to win.  The thrill of beating another person can be a powerful motivator.

The problem is that many things in life don’t feel like competitions.

Think about it.  There’s nobody to compete against when I write.  I’m not competing with anyone when I go to the gym.

But these things require motivation in order to accomplish them.  If I had someone to work against, I could tap into that powerful competitive mindset.

So I often just create competition in my head.

I imagine I’m competing against someone and if I don’t work hard enough, they’ll beat me.

It often helps to put a face to the competition, someone specific.  Imagine they hope you don’t do it so they’ll win.  Imagine they’re downtrodden because you did do it.

Sometimes that’s enough to get me into a competitive spirit.  When you feel like it’s a game and someone is working hard against you, it’s easier to get yourself to do it.

3. Put goals in a best case/worst case scenario promoting action

Finding motivation for daily habits can be really hard.  The trouble is that there often isn’t a huge payoff to individual actions.

Regular habits have little consequences on their own.

When I lift weights one day, I don’t usually see immediate results.  If I skip a day, I don’t see immediate consequences either.

Whether I actually go or not doesn’t seem to matter because nothing seems to shift enough either way.

That makes it too tempting to skip them entirely.

You can change that by exaggerating the positives and negatives of individual habits in your mind.  Build up the bad and good things that will happen as a result.

For instance, if I don’t go to the gym, I’ll build up the negatives like how it puts me behind schedule and is messing up my entire routine.

If it’s something like writing, I’ll exaggerate the positives and build up the benefits.  I’ll imagine all the brilliant things I will write if I only sit down and do it.

Build up the positives behind the action to get yourself to do it.  At the same time, accentuate the negative things that will happen if you don’t take action.

If you can do that, your daily habits don’t seem as trivial; they have real importance.  As a result, you’re more likely to do them.
photo credit: la L

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  1. Steve – you’ve no idea how much I needed to read this today! My supposed lack of motivation has been impacting me over the last couple of months. I’ve waited to ‘feel motivated’ to work out. This is very unlike me. Perhaps I just needed a break?

    What I like about your suggestions is they appeal to 3 different mind sets – the worst case scenario thinker, the ‘what if’ thinker, and the competitive personality.

    I fall into the latter !

    • I’ve noticed that if you wait to feel motivated, you sometimes wait way too long. You sometimes have to go out and get yourself motivated to do it. Do it even if you don’t feel like doing it. I can’t count how many times I’ve woke up unmotivated and uninspired to do any writing, but get motivated just by changing the way I think.

  2. These are some great thoughts! Successful people do the right tasks with or without the motivation. I’ve learned by taking the first step (Or starting) in what I need to do can get me motivated. Sometimes that means writing or working on a project before I feel it.

  3. Cool ideas for motivation.I am all about trying to stay positive amd motivated.

    One thing that does it for me is the Brain Tracy, “eat the frog” method. I knock out the most difficult task first thing, and then I am motivated to do more in the day, because everything else is easy afterward.

    Another more “hack” type of motivation is to gamify your tasks. Something like allowing yourself something enjoyable only after you have comepleted X,Y and Z.

    Ultimately it comes down to taking that first step, which is always the hardest one…

    • Eat the frog…I’ve never heard it called like that before, but I know people who take that approach and it works well for them. I actually do the opposite. I tackle some of the easier tasks (or highest priority) to build momentum. I often find the easy tasks are a good way to get yourself into the working mindset. But I suppose the way that works best will depend on the person.

  4. Motivation can be very fleeting. That’s why I try to rely mainly on will power and persistence.

    But regardless of those traits, nothing can get you more excited and pumped up like proper motivation.

    It’s in those highly motivated states where breakthroughs occur. I’ve done several of these exercises along with playing out the long-term consequences in great detail if I choose not to pursue a goal. It’s extremely effective.

    Thanks for the kick in the ass :)

    • Yeah, it’s definitely fleeting. Some days you have a lot of it and others you don’t it at all. Anything you can do to get it back when you lose it is great.

  5. I refer to #1 as what “future Tom” would say. It is okay to put things off for future Tom to deal with, but you need to realize that is what you are doing. Great post! I’m feeling motivated already.

  6. I’m going to share this!

    I really like this page.


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