6 Secrets of Highly Motivated People
– Build the right habits and motivation will find you –
Have you ever met one of those people who always seems to be energized and enthusiastic —
as if they had a secret supply of motivation?
Well, highly motivated people do have a secret source of motivation. It’s so secret, in fact, that
many of them don’t even realize what it is:
Highly motivated people build habits that consistently generate new motivation.
As a psychologist, I’ve made it a point to carefully observe and study people who are consistently
motivated and energized. And here’s what I’ve learned:
Anyone can feel motivated from time to time. But highly motivated people build routines into their
lives that generate motivation consistently.
In other words, instead of waiting around to hit the motivation jackpot, they design their life around
Here are six things highly motivated people do that we can all learn from to feel more motivated.
1. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.
Energy is the currency of motivation.
Most of the productivity and habit building advice you hear offers tips and tricks for better time
management. With promises of making you more efficient in your work, they suggest all sorts of
techniques and strategies for carving up and dividing your day to manage your time better.
But here’s the thing: Motivation isn’t a time problem. It’s an energy problem.
You can have all the time in the world but if you’re doing things that drain you of energy, you’re not
going to feel motivated. Luckily, the reverse is true: Even if your time is extremely limited, you can
accomplish a tremendous amount with enough energy and enthusiasm.
So forget about managing your time and learn how to manage your energy instead:
Start your day with your most exciting tasks. Not only will this give you momentum for the rest of
the day, it will also make it easier to get out of bed and hit the ground running because the first thing
on your list is something you’re genuinely excited about. Outsource energy-draining tasks.
You don’t have to be a multinational corporation to take advantage of outsourcing. Get creative about
delegating essential tasks that drain energy, confident that you’ll recoup the expense with the added
energy and motivation you’ll get as a result.
Batch process your energy-draining task. Most of us can’t outsource all our energy-draining tasks. But
we can minimize their influence. Instead of spreading them out across your days and weeks, get them
all over with in one or two days so they don’t contaminate your energy-giving tasks. When you plan your
days, make energy, not time, your guiding principle.
The difference between one man and another is not mere ability . . . it is energy.
― Thomas Arnold
2. Surround Yourself with Motivated People.
For better or for worse, the people we surround ourselves with impact us greatly. Highly motivated people
use this to their advantage. In small, everyday interactions, you probably realize how much impact other
people can have on your levels of motivation:
One positive interaction with a supportive and enthusiastic friend can supercharge your own energy and
motivation almost instantly.
On the other hand, just one interaction with a really negative, critical person can drain you of energy and
sap your motivation for the day.
But there’s a bigger principle here: The people you habitually spend time with affect how you habitually feel.
If you have to consistently interact with energy-draining people, you can’t expect to feel energetic and
enthusiastic on a regular basis. But, if you habitually interact with energy-giving people, you can’t help but
have some of their enthusiasm and motivation rub off on you.
So be thoughtful about the people you choose to spend your time with:
If you’re dating, be careful of starting a relationship with someone who consistently takes lots of energy.
If you’re applying for a new job, look carefully at the energy levels of the people you’ll be working with.
If you’re starting a new project or business with someone, try to find someone who gives you energy. And
if they don’t, their other assets better be really worth it!
If you want to feel more motivated and energized in your life, surround yourself with energy-giving people.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
— Jim Rohn
3. Celebrate Your Successes.
One of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to feel more motivated is to take time to celebrate your successes — even very small ones.
It’s a basic law of human psychology that behaviors followed by a reward are more likely to happen in the future. If you successfully run your first 5K and have a handful of close friends at the finish line to cheer you on and congratulate you, your motivation to run future races in the future goes way up.
If you’re willing to be vulnerable with your spouse about something that’s bothering you and they let you know they’re proud of you for bringing it up, you’re going to feel more confident talking about difficult things in the future.
The lesson here is obvious:
Get in the habit of celebrating your own successes and you’ll create a steady stream of motivation for future goals. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy yourself expensive things or throw a giant party in order to celebrate your successes and build motivation.
It’s a funny quirk of human psychology that the size of the reward doesn’t matter nearly as much as the timing.
More specifically: A small reward delivered immediately beats a big reward delayed.
Tell yourself that you are proud of yourself after getting an A on that recent test.
After nailing a presentation at work, close your office door, put on your favorite song, and throw yourself a little dance party. After going for that early morning run, splurge on a fancy cup of coffee and muffin.
Rewarding yourself for a job well-done doesn’t make you vain. It makes you psychologically savvy.
4. Be Compassionate with Your Failures.
There’s no better way to kill your motivation than beating yourself up after a failure or setback.
People with chronically low motivation almost always have a habit of being harsh and judgmental with
themselves after failures and mistakes:
They criticize themselves with negative self-talk.
They judge themselves as being weak and not worthy.
And they punish themselves in a misguided attempt to motivate themselves in the future.
But being a jerk to yourself doesn’t motivate you to do anything but be more of a jerk to yourself.
Luckily, the reverse is also true:
Nothing helps you recover quickly from a setback like a little self-compassion.
Highly motivated people aren’t merely good at giving themselves energy and motivation — they’re also skilled at maintaining their motivation, even in the face of setbacks.
And the best way to preserve your energy and motivation in the face of failure or mistakes is to practice a little self-compassion:
Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend who was struggling.
Be empathetic and remind yourself that you are more than the sum of your mistakes. Much more.
Acknowledge that making mistakes and feeling bad doesn’t mean you are bad or weak.
Learn to be gentle with yourself and you’ll be far more resilient in the face of adversity.
Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Churchill
5. Create an Energizing Environment.
Just like the activities and people in your life give and take energy, so does your physical environment.
We’re all control freaks at heart. Which means we love the idea that the solution to everything is inside us. And that, with enough insight and willpower, we can accomplish anything.
Your environment matters — a lot — including how much motivation and energy you feel on a regular basis:
Having a messy and chaotic workspace makes it easy to get distracted, procrastinate, and lose energy to do your work.
Trying to resolve a disagreement with your spouse in bed at the end of a long day when you’re exhausted makes it hard to be compassionate and manage your irritability.
Going for a run in cold weather without good gear makes it hard to stay motivated to exercise.
Environmental design is the secret weapon for consistently high motivation.
Of course, you can’t always change your environment. But it’s possible more often than you might think.
And designing your environment to be more conducive to your goals is a fast track to better energy and higher motivation:
Organize your desk every evening before you leave work so that there’s no friction to getting started in the morning.
Set a dedicated time early on a weekend morning to discuss disagreements with your spouse — when both of you are rested and able to engage productively.
Buy good running gear to minimize the dread of going out in the cold.
Accept that the solution to every problem isn’t just more willpower and you can design your environment to support your goals rather than block them.
Every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.
— Benjamin Franklin
6. Be Ruthless About Saying No.
One of the most common causes of low motivation is saying yes to competing motivations.
As we’ve talked about, motivation is energy. When you’re full of energy you feel motivated. And when your energy tank is empty, motivation disappears.
Well, you can’t expect to have high levels of motivation for the things that matter most to you if you’re wasting all your energy on things that don’t really matter:
How can you possibly have the motivation to say yes to that new hobby or side project when you say yes to 2 hours of Netflix every evening?
How can you possibly make progress on your personal initiative at work if you’re always saying yes to other people’s requests for your time?
How can you possibly find quality time to spend with your partner if you say yes to every social event
you get invited to?
You have plenty of motivation. Stop wasting it on things that don’t really matter.
Motivation is largely a matter of priorities:
If that new business idea is really a priority, you would say no to your buddy’s Super Bowl party and spend an entire Sunday writing a business plan.
If your marriage is really a priority, you would say no to poker night with the boys and plan a date night.
If your health was really a priority, you would say no to the comforts of sleeping in and get to the gym first thing.
You only have so much energy each day. If you waste it on unimportant things, you won’t have enough left to do what matters most.
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
Psychologist and blogger.
I help people use psychology for meaningful personal growth.