“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote towards which you are ceaselessly striving.”
–Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air
I believe that dreams are things that should be unattainable.
Unattainable in the sense that, we are always setting bigger and better dreams for ourselves as we get close to achieving our current goal. That way, we are always growing, and improving ourselves, and are never stagnant. The moment our dream becomes realized is the day we stop growing.
However, this requires us to continuously be on the move, taking action.
How do I cultivate the habits necessary to gradually get closer to my dreams, when I can barely get myself out of bed each day?
Here I share some of the rituals that I do to continue forward. They certainly aren’t the “best” way, nor are they necessarily the “correct” way; however, it is what works for me.
- Micromanage your goals
- Keep a reminder of your goals
- Cycle between work and rest
- Learn to smile
- Eat good food
Micromanage Your Goals
Generally, there are two ways to set a goal: through micromanagement, and micromanagement.
Macro management focuses on the long-term goals, while micromanagement focuses on the short-term. Either work; however, long term goals seem so far away and out of reach, only exacerbating my lazy habits
Micromanagement on the other hand has me starting small. I take time at the end of each day to plan for tomorrow: giving thoughts/ taking note of what I want to achieve the next day. Then I go to sleep and after waking up, I try to make it happen.
Certainly, there are days you feel very unmotivated, but because we account for our goals daily, it is easy to fit in a day or two of rest. The smaller goals also make me feel an almost tangible growth, and that realization of completing what I set out to do brings me a sense of achievement and willingness to continue.
Keep a Reminder of Your Goals
It is important to remember the reason you are doing what you are doing. Time dilutes the motivation and drive that was initially pushing you forward. So it is necessary to remind ourselves every once in a while.
I like to write things ranging from a large banner to small notes that I stick to my wall, or on my desk in my room where I do my studying/work.
- A simple “I can do it” or a more complex motto or quote you wish to live by.
- A list of those who are cheering for my success.
- A reminder of a deadline for a goal (if there are any dates that are important to keep).
- The goal(s) that you are striving for.
Cycle Between Work and Rest
As important as making progress is, it is equally important to take a rest. The state of your mental health could be the dividing line between success and failure. Therefore, finding the right balance between work and play is an essential ability.
In recent years, I came upon a type of study technique that works wonders called the Pomodoro method.
Essentially, when you plan to study for many hours at a time, you break that study session apart into smaller periods (typically in short periods of 25 to up to 45 minutes). After every period of study, you get a short period of rest (around 5 to 15 minutes). Then the cycle repeats.
This may require a bit of discipline on your part because depending on what you decide to do during your break (e.g. watching youtube videos), it can be hard to get back into the study mentality.
If you are able to follow this method, know that it has been proven to allow us to remain more focused while increasing the quality of our work.
In addition, if you ever feel mentally exhausted during a study session that needs to have continued focus, get up for a moment and stretch, or even better, do a quick exercise like a few push-ups or jumping jacks.
Getting your heart pumping a little will improve blood flow to the brain and lead to an overall increase in concentration for a period of time. So you will be able to get more out of your short study session.
Learn to Smile
When you are overwhelmed with stress, and you feel depression at every turn, life sucks.
It’s at this moment in time, that it becomes crucial to be able to smile.
Probably easier said than done.
After taking Anatomy & Physiology, and the Psychology of Happiness back in college, I learned a few things about smiling.
Firstly, it’s more an effort to frown than to smile. This is considering that it takes 43 muscles to frown versus the 17 it takes to smile. So smile more!
Next. Smiling, even a forced one signals to your brain to release molecules known as neuropeptides to help relieve stress. In turn, other neurotransmitters become more active, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that work to increase feelings of pleasure and block off pain and depression.
Ultimately, smiles are a weapon to fend off displeasure and weakness. Learning to smile in your darkest moments could be all you need to rise from the ashes and continue your fight for your dreams. Lingering in negativity is never the answer.
Eat Good Food
A common saying: “you are what you eat.”
Your diet is equally as important, if not more important than what I’ve previously listed. Keeping your body healthy and happy, will help your mind and soul be healthy.
Some brain food to consider:
- Green veggies
- Fatty Fish
- Nuts & Seeds
Natural foods, more so than processed foods, are more nutritious and simply efficient fuel for the body. Supplementing your work/studies with these will surely boost your ability to focus, and the addicting tastes are an additional, pleasant bonus.
Do you have another preferred method to stay motivated? Let me know in the comments!