“What you need is a grateful attitude,” my boyfriend advised.
I wanted to smack him in the face.
It was 2002, and I was working like a dog to grow my art business, desperately trying to fill the gaps left by my spousal support. I was quickly becoming exhausted, and whenever my boyfriend came over to my apartment, I was quite vocal about how this was not the life I wanted to be living, which inevitably prompted him to chirp a reminder to have “an attitude of gratitude.”
It was vexing, made worse by the fact that he was correct. Or at least partially correct. Practicing gratitude is a powerful tool for staying motivated in life when you're drowning in work, but it's not the only one.
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After a dozen years, I'm now living a life I truly enjoy, but I still find myself overcommitted at times. Here are 13 tips I've learned over the last decade or so that really help me stay motivated in life, even when I'm super busy.
1. Exhibit enthusiasm
Back in the early 1900s, there was a major league baseball player named Frank Bettger who, according to legend, was demoted to the minors because his manager thought he lacked enthusiasm.
Instead of moping about his bad luck, Bettger took his manager's advice to heart and resolved to establish a reputation as one of the league's most enthusiastic ball players, even if he had to fake it. People began to take notice, and before long, Bettger had landed a position with a better team, press mentions, and a significant increase in his income.
It's worth noting that Bettger's play hadn't improved; it was simply the power of his enthusiasm that caused his fortunes to change.
Bettger's baseball career lasted only a few years, but he went on to become one of the most successful salesmen of his time, as well as a best-selling self-help author. His number one rule was, “Force yourself to act enthusiastic, and you will become more enthusiastic.” He challenged people to try it for 30 days because this one change could easily change their lives.
2. Set aside 15 minutes each day to do something you enjoy
I used to complain all the time that I “never had time” to pursue my interests until I heard an artist I admired say, “If you can't put fifteen minutes into doing what you love, you're making an excuse.”
I'd gotten nailed. That very day, I resolved to spend at least 15 minutes painting every day for the next month. I was astounded at how much my zest for life had increased simply by spending 15 minutes a day doing something I enjoyed.
Try it for yourself. Make a list of everything you enjoy doing. What is beckoning you right now?
Take 15 minutes, no matter how busy you are, to do something that brings you joy, and watch your enthusiasm return.
3. Get enough rest
In our “go-go-go” culture, there is a widespread belief that sleep is for wimps. A popular saying goes, “You can sleep when you're dead.”
In fact, chronic sleep deprivation not only saps energy and enthusiasm, but it can also contribute to serious health issues. When you don't get enough sleep, your learning and memory, metabolism and weight, cardiovascular health, and immune function all suffer, as does your mood.
Getting enough sleep can be difficult, but making it a priority improves everything in life!
4. Take good care of yourself
The typical American diet is not only bad for the heart, bones, and stomach. Blood sugar spikes and drops also have a negative impact on how the brain uses energy. When your body lacks nutrients, it affects brain chemistry, which affects mood, memory, and cognitive function.
Shifting to a plant-based, low-glycemic diet alters how the brain functions, which can improve your mood, help you deal with stress, and make it easier to stay motivated.
5. Get your body moving
Let's face it: we weren't built to sit for eight (or more!) hours a day. Our bodies are designed to move. Exercise is not only important for preventing obesity and maintaining the health of our muscles, hearts, and bones; it is also a powerful mood booster, according to research.
Dr. John Sarno shares study after study in his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, that demonstrate the power of exercise to improve thought processes, attention, and creativity, and even to eliminate depression more effectively than prescription drugs!
When you're feeling down, you might want to curl up on the couch, but instead of lying around, do something that will make you sweat. Go for a walk, swim, dance, or play football with a friend. Anything that gets your body doing what it was designed to do (move!) will help you rediscover your enthusiasm.
6. Exercise self-compassion
Self-compassion is the practice of noticing how you're feeling, remembering that you're human (and thus fallible, just like everyone else on the planet), and treating yourself with the same care you'd give to a loved one. Regrettably, few of us have been trained to respond to ourselves in this manner. When we stumble, we often beat ourselves up, but research has shown (and your own experience may confirm) that self-flagellation is counterproductive.
If you practice responding to yourself with self-compassion rather than aggression, you'll find it's a much more pleasant way to live, and when life is going well, it's much easier to stay positive.
7. Sit quietly and meditate
Meditation (or any type of mindfulness training) has a powerfully positive effect on the brain. Mindfulness training, in fact, has been shown in studies to increase grey matter in brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective taking — all of which are important for maintaining your enthusiasm!
Meditation, which is the practice of constantly — and self-compassionately — redirecting your attention (and redirecting your attention, and redirecting your attention… ) when you notice it becoming absorbed in thought, is the perfect way to strengthen your self-compassion muscles, too!
8. Activate your “what's going well” muscle
Humans appear to be hardwired to focus on what isn't going well. It's critical to notice this so that we can make adjustments, but it's also critical to notice what's going well.
Yes, I wanted to smack my boyfriend whenever he preached “attitude of gratitude” to me, but he was right: the more you focus on what's going well in your life right now, the better life goes, and the easier it is to stay enthusiastic. Instead of focusing on what you wish were different, write down everything you can think of that you're grateful for, and make a habit of noticing what's going well every day.
9. Get rid of the clutter
It's difficult to be enthusiastic when your space is clogged with clutter. You can't find anything (where did that overdue cable bill go? ), you're embarrassed to have people over, and it's difficult to think!
If clutter is a major issue for you, getting started may feel overwhelming and impossible. Simply choose one small area where you will notice a significant difference, and you will be amazed at the new supply of energy and enthusiasm (as well as motivation to continue with the clutter-busting!) that will be your reward.
10. Spend time with people who are enthusiastic
Enthusiasm spreads like wildfire. Because you only have so much time and energy, pay attention to how you feel after spending time with people in your life, and seek out those who fill you up, energize you, and inspire you.
11. Avoid energy wasters
Negativity is contagious as well. If you notice that certain people or relationships are draining, depressing, or making you feel bad about yourself, avoid them!
12. Master the art of saying no
Take note of where your time is going. Make a list of everything that consumes your time and ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it feeding you, or are you acting out of false guilt or martyrdom? People who have learned to be ruthless with their time and energy, and to say no to things — and people — who suck them dry, are the happiest and most enthusiastic people I know.
13. Perform random acts of kindness (but not sacrifice)
Have you ever noticed how good it feels to say or do something nice for another person? Random, spontaneous acts of kindness — even just a kind word or a genuine smile — have been shown to boost self-image, lead to a more compassionate perception of others, promote a greater sense of connection with others, and make us feel grateful for our own good fortune. All of these things make us happier, and when we're happy, we're more likely to be enthusiastic.
But be careful not to get sucked into acts of kindness out of obligation. To have a positive impact, acts of kindness must be offered spontaneously rather than as an act of martyrdom.
Fear of Disappointing Others: Fear of disappointing others is a serious concern. How we feel about other people may not necessarily be how they feel about us. We should never allow other people to determine our self-worth. It's okay to feel like we're disappointing them, but we need to take steps to handle those feelings. If we're honest with those we're close to about how we feel, we can learn to understand one another and build better relationships. Read more.
Types of Guys: It's important to know the different kinds of guys you might meet. Here are the kinds of guys I've met so far. One is a guy who is really shy and doesn't talk to anyone at parties. Another is a guy who is quiet and aloof and doesn't really get along with many people. Another kind of guy is the one who just starts fights, he's always doing that kind of stuff. Then there's the kind of guy who says sexist things and thinks that he can get away with it and there's one guy who has a really dark and gloomy personality and if you bring him up in a conversation everyone will be like "ughhhh." Read more.
How to Deal With Jealous People: If you've ever been around people who were jealous and thought they were better than you, you know how uncomfortable and awful it can be. I know how it feels. I've been dealing with people like this my whole life and it's something very difficult to deal with. It's hard to even talk to people like that because they don't listen and just want to put you down. However, there are ways you can deal with jealous people. I'll tell you what works for me and maybe it'll help you feel better too. Read more.
First Loves: The first love is often the one to whom you are still attached after many years. It is the one you will always compare to others. It is the one that holds your heart in its place. It is special. You can't help it. There are moments when you call, write, visit, think, work, dream, hope, hurt, cry, hurt, love, hate, fight, hate, love, kiss, miss, hug, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate your first true love! Read more.
Ex Dating Someone Else: Being in a relationship is hard work. It is not always easy to find someone who is compatible with you. All relationships have their good times and bad times. But, sometimes the bad outweighs the good. Sometimes the bad gets too bad. Sometimes you realize that you are wasting your time on something that has no future. You may ask yourself what you are doing wrong. Other times, you may look at your relationship and think about how good it could be if you were with someone else. If this is what happened with your relationship, you may be considering dating someone else. Read more.
You have heard it all before: "Live life to the fullest", "follow your dreams", "be who you are" and "if it is meant to be, it will be". These are all wonderful quotes that are meant to help you live a happy life but they miss the point. Our lives are interconnected with each other and with the world.
No matter how hard you think you try, there’s always going to be a certain level of stress in your life. And when stress gets out of hand, it can start to negatively affect your life. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are some easy steps you can take to improve your life in the long run, and we’ve found a few that can help you enjoy a better life and get rid of stress.