The Simple Guide to Generating Real Motivation

herostory Nov 27, 2017

Do you know how to create motivation? Or, like me, do you often struggle to find the motivation you need? If the second option sounds more accurate, then this is for you.

I recently hosted my first webinar called “Discover your Hero Story”; besides a few technical glitches, it was well received (phew!). I'm very thankful for those who joined me for this first webinar and I'm looking forward to the next one.

The participants asked a number of great questions which I did my best to answer (I know I missed one of the questions in the chat box. Sorry. I will address it next week). Today I want to share an expanded, and I hope improved, answer.


The Question: “How do you motivate yourself when you're burnt out pursuing what you want?"


But first a disclaimer: If you are truly struggling with burn-out, depression, or other mental health issues please get professional help. I have found a mental health professional to be a powerful change-agent in my life. If you're truly struggling please reach out for help. Both you and your dream are worth it!

How do you generate motivation, particularly when you’re feeling burnt out? What a fabulous question. If you're like me, you've felt burnt out and have struggled with motivation. In fact, I've found I can struggle with motivation in just about any circumstance; I'm very experienced with the motivation struggle. So I'd like to share what works for me - I'm certain it will be helpful for you as well.

So, how do you motivate yourself when you're burnt out pursuing what you want?

Here are four action steps you can take. They form the word REST: Relax, Energize, Strategize, Take Action.


The first thing we need to do is relax. After all, it takes a lot of energy to pursue our dreams. There certainly are times and seasons when we choose to be "too busy" or "unbalanced" because a dream is worth it. But there is only so much we can squeeze from ourselves before we begin experiencing energy deficit.

The path to achieving dreams often requires some herculean efforts. I find I can get discouraged by all the work yet to be done and tend to make these moments worse by engaging in self-criticism. It's usually the subtle, I-should-have-done-more kind of self-criticism.

Do you ever engage in self-criticism like me?

Stephen Covey, in his remarkable book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” talks about the P/PC balance (Production/Production Capability). One of the ways he illustrates this principle is with the analogy of using a saw to cut wood. In time, the constant production causes the saw blade to become dull. When that happens you can increase your effort to maintain your production output, but this only works for a short while. Eventually, no amount of effort will make up for the lost production. It is then that we must stop to sharpen the saw. (If you haven't read that book I recommend you do so -- there's a reason it’s sold more than 25 million copies worldwide).

I often get stuck in the work-harder trap when what I really need to do is relax, rest, and be kind to myself.

Here's what to do:

Stand up tall, put your shoulders back (in a confident stance), and take several deep breaths.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I really need right now?
  • Do I need to rest? Do I need a short break or a long break?
  • How can I give myself permission to relax?
  • How can I enjoy the relaxation?



The next step I take is to energize myself.

There was a time when I thought motivation and energy were mystical forces that ebbed and flowed in my life. I believed they were fickle companions and I just had to go with the flow. This is only marginally true. In time I realized that I generate at least 90% of my own energy and motivation.

Brendon Burchard, my favourite online guru, very effectively communicates this by observing that the power plant doesn't 'have' energy, it 'generates' energy. In the same way, people don’t have energy they generate energy.

I've discovered that I must generate the energy I need; others aren't going to do it for me.

What I do is ask myself, “what is the story I'm telling myself? Is it a positive or negative story? Am I anticipating success or failure? Am I celebrating what I've accomplished so far?”

We don't celebrate ourselves enough.

I’ve had coaching clients who are frustrated because they didn't perfectly follow through on a new commitment. They often seem to miss the fact that they were successful in sticking to their commitment for twelve out of the last fourteen days. Should this not be seen as a victory? I am amazed at our ability to dismiss the positive and magnify the negative. I do it too.

Here's what to do.

Remind yourself what your dream is and why it's worth going after. Next, make a list of what you've done so far (try to make it a very detailed list). Stick the list up somewhere you’ll see it, like the fridge door or beside your computer and read it at least once a day. Then take a moment to celebrate each tiny step forward.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How can I energize myself right now?
  • Do I need to connect with family or friends?
  • How can I celebrate my progress?
  • Do I need a good laugh? Do I need to watch cute cat videos, or go snuggle a fuzzy, four-legged friend? Or take a walk and enjoy nature?

"Tiny steps will get you to your goal months and months sooner. A little is better than a lot.” Martha Beck



One of the biggest things to sap my motivation is a lack of clarity.

This becomes an issue for me when I've been very busy and am feeling somewhat burnt-out. I was busy getting stuff done. I reached a milestone, but now I’m unclear on what to do next. Simply put, if I'm not clear on my next-action-step, I tend to struggle with motivation.

Motivation that doesn't have a clear path of action tends to turn into frustration and discouragement.

In this process, it is important to assess where I am, what I am trying to accomplish, and where my energy level is at. If my next action step requires more motivation than I feel I have right now, I try to break it down into smaller steps.

Sometimes I need to take a small, motivating step first.

Let me give you an example. Sometimes my next-action-step is to write a blog post that will help others live their hero story, but I have little motivation to do so and a big blank page intimidating me. So, I start by writing a question or problem I hope to address at the top of the page. But instead of focusing on trying to write something meaningful, I simply start writing something insignificant, maybe even a little silly. I get something on the page - anything. I try to have a little fun with it and then I usually find that I can begin to outline some thoughts. Step-by-step I shift to writing something meaningful (at least I hope you find it meaningful).

Here's what to do.

Again, take several deep breaths. Remind yourself what you're trying to do and why you're wanting to do it. Then, figure out what your next-action-steps should be by asking the questions below.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Where am I right now?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • What is the very next-action-step I need to take?
  • What is most important, urgent or timely?



Now I must warn you, the above three parts are useless if we don't take action. Action is the single greatest motivator in our lives.

Some years ago, while chatting with my wife about how my future seemed fuzzy, she suddenly suggested, "You should become a coach."

"Hmm," was all I managed in response, but inside I dismissed it as a bogus profession. But then that little voice called 'experience' cautioned, "her intuitive suggestions are almost always right."

I had no idea how one would become a coach and I was rather cocksure it was the wrong path for me. Low on motivation, and in spite of my shoddy attitude, I decided I had to take action.

On the bookshelf was a book I had yet to read called Leadership Coaching by Tony Stoltzfus -- it was the leadership part that had caused me to buy it. I started to thumb through and found the author’s definition of coaching, a clarion call erupted inside me. He was describing me!

What followed was a progression of action, uncertainty, and clarity that has led me to where I am today. So let me say it again - action is the single greatest motivator in our lives.

Even if you feel stuck or somewhat unclear, take action. Even if you think you might be going in the wrong direction, take action.

Act today! Then reflect and adjust.

Act today! Then get input from mentors.

Act today! And you will have more clarity tomorrow.

Act today! And you will gain confidence, motivation and momentum.

The single greatest thing we can do to generate motivation and turn dreams into reality is to act today, and then repeat.

 Here's what to do.

Determine you will take some small, meaningful action. Define the action. Then do it right away. When it's done ask, what's next and schedule it.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What one simple, yet important action can I do today that will move me forward?
  • What would be a good milestone I could reach in the next few days or weeks?
  • How could I generate some accountability for my action plan? (Is there a friend, mentor or coach I could share this with?)

 I have a simple worksheet that I use with my coaching clients to help them generate more motivation. If you're interested in getting a copy enter your info in the form.

What about you? What tricks and tips have you used to generate motivation? Please share what's worked for you.

And please comment on what you found helpful in this post.

Until next time.



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