9 Ways to Maintain Motivation When the Going Gets Tough

by Sarah Winfrey on 12 December 2012 1 comment

Life is full of difficult situations. Whether you’re cutting back financially, trying to save a failing business, enduring a difficult job, or walking through a hard place of a more personal and private sort, it’s easy to lose your motivation to keep to moving forward. We’ve all been in those muddled, trapped places where it’s hard to keep going, let alone to feel like we know how to do so.

But you really can stay motivated. After all, it’s the motivated people who manage to see difficult times through to the other side. These are skills worth developing, even if you’re not facing hardship right now. (See also: 25 Ways to Get Motivated Today)

Remember What You Love

We choose to do the things that we do for a reason. Even when we choose to do things that aren’t pleasant in the moment, like cutting back our spending, we do it for a reason. Nearly always, that reason has to do with something we love. We stop spending so we can save to take a vacation, send our children to private school, or know we can buy groceries next week. We work jobs we dislike so that we can have health insurance, or so our children can have a comfortable home.

When things get hard, we tend to forget why we’ve chosen a particular action. We forget what we love. And when we remember this, when we intentionally focus our minds on whatever it is that we love, we find that we have the strength and motivation to get through the hard times.

Celebrate Small Steps

It’s easy to get frustrated when all we’re looking at is the light at the end of the tunnel, and even moreso when we feel like we can’t even see that anymore. But when we realize that every single step we take is a small step in the right direction, even when it’s dark and we can’t see our goal anymore, we’ll find the motivation to push through.

When we celebrate these small steps, we’ll have even more motivation. Making an extra payment on the credit card this month, even when it’s not as much as you’d like, is worthy of noticing. So is cold-calling 10 more people, even when they aren’t interested in your services, or getting through another day at a job you hate. Note these and celebrate them, and you’ll find you’re able to keep going.

Maintain Perspective

When one part of life is going miserably, it’s often hard to see that any other parts are going well. Take the time to look at your life as a whole, to examine all the different aspects, and put the negative parts in perspective.

While a miserable job can make you unhappy while you’re at home, too, it doesn’t have to ruin your relationship with your kids. Not being able to buy as many gifts for Christmas is hard, but you still have family and friends around you. When you see the difficult parts of life along with the good, you’ll be able to keep plugging away even when it’s hard.

Know Your Limits

No one can work at something difficult all the time. When your business is failing, there’s not enough money, or your children are struggling, it’s easy to focus only on that thing that is so hard. When we don’t give ourselves a break, though, we tend to lose our ability to come up with new ideas and solutions, and eventually we burn out.

Learn how long you can spend focusing on a problem before you have to focus on something else. Take a break to be with people, read a book, or do something else that is completely different from the part of your life that is hard. You’ll return to it later better able to think through your problems objectively, and more motivated to try and tackle the difficulty again.

Take a Deep Breath

When our minds worry and struggle, we tend to bring our bodies along for the ride. We get ready to fight or flight, and so we’re tense and amped up on adrenaline. While this is great for situations that are actually dangerous, it’s not a good way to live long-term.

Taking the time for some deep breaths, even one or two, helps us let go of this tension. Being relaxed means that our bodies are happier and healthier, and so we’ll feel better even while dealing with a difficult situation. Feeling crummy is almost always dispiriting, while feeling well gives us energy to put into the task at hand.

Find the Good

Almost every situation, even the most dire and difficult, has something good about it. Taking the time to identify the positive things and focusing our minds on them will help lighten the load even in a hard place.

It’s easy to feel like identifying the good is fake or false or weak, especially when the bad feels so overwhelming in return. However, bringing our minds back to something good in the situation, no matter how small, will eventually help us to feel more positive about what is going on. When we feel positively, we’ll be motivated to make things even more positive by attacking the situation from different angles.

Discover Companions

Walking through a hard place is much easier when you have other people walking with you. These can be people facing the difficulty along with you, people facing a similar difficulty, people who have faced a similar difficulty in the past and overcome, or simply people who love you and are willing to walk a hard road with you.

Asking people to walk with you can be difficult. Working through a hard situation takes a lot of energy, and it’s easy to feel too tired to share your difficulty with others. Taking the time and energy to find companions will pay off when you have people to share your burdens. When the load feels lighter, you’ll be in a better place to go back into your problem with renewed energy.

Tell the Truth

It can be hard to believe, but telling the truth about a hard situation can actually provide needed motivation to look at it squarely and figure out a way through. When we say that everything is fine even when it’s not, we limit our own ability to let a hard situation be hard. We end up hiding, which means we can’t acknowledge the situation for what it is.

While it can feel awful to talk about how hard a situation is, afterwards we’ll feel more freedom. We’ll be able to rest in the fact that we know what’s true about our difficult situation. When we’re not fighting ourselves, we’ll be able to put that energy into sticking with the hard situation.

See the End

When things get hard, we often forget that, somehow or some way, our difficult situation will come to an end. We feel like we’ll be paying off debt forever, or like another door will never open, or like the world might end before we find a workable solution (though that is an end in and of itself).

Keeping in mind the possibility of an end will help us walk into each day with hope. Even if that hope is disappointed time and time again, we’ll know that a solution may be just around the corner. Hope is always motivating, because it give us a reason to keep pressing forward.

When you’ve walked through a difficult, dark time, how have you kept your motivation? What keeps you going when everything feels hard?

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Perfect article for me to read today. It is my day off and my car is at the mechanic awaiting a repair so I can't go out and get groceries (too cold in my part of Canada to walk anywhere today) so I was just thinking maybe I would send out for pizza for supper. No cash on hand so the pizza would end up on the credit card. Not a good plan.

I was surfing for money saving tips and this blog popped up to remind me to stay the course. Lots of food in the pantry so with a little effort I can create something edible without stepping deeper in to debt.