October 3, 2016

Screw Inspiration—this is how to Show Up & get Real Work done every day.

Universiteitskrant Univers

Become the kind of person who does not need motivation to make things happen.

Become the kind of person who, no matter what, just shows up and gets to work every day. And once you’re in that place, you can make anything happen.

I wrote my first article in April 2013.

Since then, my writing has been featured on some of the most popular publications in the world. As a result, my readership has grown into the thousands with more people joining every day.

To me, this is amazing. I never thought so many people would care about what I have to say.

And for a long time, no one did.

Because of this, my motivation started to drop. I figured there wasn’t any point writing if I didn’t feel inspired. Sometimes, months would pass before I published anything new. It wasn’t until I came across an interview with painter Chuck Close that I realized I’d adopted the wrong approach.

Close explained the creed he lives by:

”Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

This simple quote gave me an important insight. If I was going to get so good at writing that it would benefit others, I had to practice consistently.

And from that point forward, I committed to achieving a specific daily writing goal. No matter how little inspiration I felt, and how overwhelming the internal resistance was, I pledged to sit down and write my words for the day.

It wasn’t easy. At times, I couldn’t seem to articulate the simplest ideas, the research took forever, and my brain criticized my horrible writing. But all that didn’t matter in terms of my daily output. I still kept writing until I hit my word count for the day.

Because of this practice, I’ve become a much better writer. So much so, that other people are actually finding my articles helpful. And when I get messages from readers telling me that my work is making a difference in their lives, it’s all worth it.

The ”just show up and get to work” creed isn’t just helpful for artistic and creative work. I’m a big believer that no matter what we’re trying to achieve, we won’t get there by “getting motivated” or”’feeling inspired,” but by showing up and doing the work every single day.

After experiencing the power of just showing up in my writing, I’ve used the same approach to starting a daily meditation practice, hitting the gym three times a week and finishing one book every week. I did this by creating a system that has made it second nature for me to show up and do the work every day.

And you can do it, too. Here are the most powerful strategies I’ve come across for doing this:

Create a trigger to remind you to show up every day.

Know exactly when and where you’ll be doing your habit every day. This makes it much more likely that you’ll follow through and do it.

Start ridiculously easy.

Make your initial efforts so small you’d feel silly to say no. Don’t increase your daily effort until you’re consistently showing up every day.

Track your progress.

Measure everything you do and compete with yourself to get better every week.

Reward yourself for making progress.

Research has shown that celebrating small wins is crucial for reinforcing good efforts. So, when you’re successfully sticking to your plan, be sure to pat yourself on the back and be proud of yourself.

Create immediate consequences for procrastinating.

Use a service like StickK or Beeminder to put some money or your reputation on the line. Using a commitment contract like this to make procrastination sting a little can make you much more likely to follow through every day.

Shape your environment.

According to BJ Fogg, the only way to radically change our behavior is to radically change our environment. Make your desired habits easy to do and competing behaviors hard to do. For example, if you want to read more, place a great book next to the living room couch and put the remote control in another room. You’ll be surprised at how effective this is.

Surround yourself with the right people.

We adopt the goals, emotions, attitudes and even BMI of the people around us. So make sure to have role models and supporters in your corner.

Be accountable. 

Start a mastermind group, join a team or club, hire a coach, get a personal trainer or team up with an accountability partner. It’s much easier to show up when someone is counting on you.

Plan for setbacks.

It’s crucial to see setbacks as valuable data rather than failures. There will be obstacles in our way, so be prepared for them. Conduct a weekly review to track your efforts, celebrate your successes, and reflect on your setbacks so you can readjust your approach for next week.

All of these strategies have tremendous potential, but you’ll have to experiment with them to find out which ones are most effective for you. Relying on motivation is a bad strategy, because motivation is a feeling. And feelings fluctuate. No one is motivated all the time. So, when we rely on motivation to take action, we’re essentially leaving our most desired outcomes up to chance. This is not a good plan.

So, let motivation come and go as it always does. And instead, create a system that ensures you show up and get to work every single day. When we commit to a system, we’ll get some momentum going. Once we’ve got momentum, we’ll begin to create lasting change. And when we’ve successfully created lasting change, we’ll start to reshape our perception of ourselves.


Author: Patrik Edblad 

Image: flickr/Universiteitskrant Univers

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock


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