External Motivation Doesn’t Work

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Quite often, I’ve written about how my family has been a tremendous motivation for me.

My infant son was there at the moment I decided to get my financial house in order.

My daughter was there at the moment I decided to commit full-time to my writing.

My wife and children serve as a constant reminder of the things I want to change in my life.

The thing is, my family isn’t enough by themselves to provide adequate motivation for change in my life. They certainly help, don’t get me wrong, and they can often convince me to make a better choice in a given moment.

Lasting change, though, has to come from inside. If I’m not internally committed to doing something different, then it won’t happen.

I often look at motivation for change as being a lot like having a big rock at the top of a hill. My family might be enough to push that rock over the top and get it rolling down the hill, but the momentum of that rock comes from inside of me. It’s made up of my own desire for change.

If that’s the case, how do you make change happen in your life? I can’t comment on what motivates others, but I can certainly tell you what pushes me to make changes.

First, you’ve got to really tap into the problem. It isn’t enough to say that you want to lose weight or that you want to build up financial independence. You’ve got to understand why you’re not achieving those things right now and you’ve got to understand the dangers of staying on the current path.

The way to do that, at least through me, is studying the issues. If I stay on my current path, what will happen to me in a few years? What will my life look like if I don’t commit to change? Is that a future I want? Is that devastating future really worth the small pleasures of staying on the path I’m on?

Next, you’ve got to understand what the correct solution is. There are so many recipes out there for improving your wealth or losing weight or getting in shape. What’s the right one for your situation? Often, this involves digging into the core principles to see what is actually tried and true and really works for people.

Fad diets? No. “Millionaire by thirty” investment schemes? No. Spend the time to really understand what works.

Once you understand the solution, do everything you can to minimize the resistance to that solution. Throw out the food that doesn’t match what you should be eating. Pull money out of your checking account so it’s not so easily available for spending.

Then – and this is the most important part for me – put constant reminders everywhere of the reason you’re doing this. Put copies of your overdraft statement in your wallet. Put pictures of yourself at your fattest on the fridge. Put pictures of your heart exam on your candy stash. Put your student loan statement around your credit cards.

Your willpower makes all the difference, but you can take action to make the bar as low as possible. In the end, it’s up to you.

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