6 Secrets of Highly Motivated People

Have you ever met one of those people who always seems to be energized and enthusiastic—as if they had an endless supply of motivation and passion?

Well, highly motivated people have a secret source of motivation. It’s so secret, in fact, that many of them don’t even realize what it is…

Highly motivated people build habits and routines that consistently generate new motivation.

As a psychologist, I’ve made it a point to carefully observe and study people who are consistently motivated and energized.

And here’s what I’ve learned:

Anyone can feel motivated from time to time. But highly motivated people build routines and habits into their lives that generate motivation consistently.

In other words, instead of waiting around to hit the motivation jackpot, they design their life around energy-giving activities and habits.

Thankfully, we can all learn from people like this and their habits to improve our own levels of motivation and energy.


1. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

Highly motivated people know that the currency of motivation is energy.

Most of the productivity and habit building advice you hear offers tips and tricks for better time management. With promises of making you more efficient in your work, they suggest all sorts of techniques and strategies for carving up and diving your day to manage your time better.

But here’s the thing:

Motivation isn’t a time problem. It’s an energy problem.

You can have all the time in the world but if you’re doing things that drain you of energy, you’re not going to feel motivated.

Luckily, the reverse is true:

Even if your time is extremely limited, you can accomplish a tremendous amount with enough energy and enthusiasm.

So forget about managing your time and learn how to manage your energy instead:

  • Start your day with your most exciting tasks. Not only will this give you momentum for the rest of the day, but it will also make it easier to get out of bed and hit the ground running because the first thing on your list is something you’re genuinely excited about.
  • Outsource energy-draining tasks. You don’t have to be a multinational corporation to do outsourcing. Get creative about delegating essential tasks that drain energy, confident that you’ll recoup the expense with the added energy and motivation you’ll get as a result.
  • Batch process your energy-draining task. Of course, most of us can’t outsource all our energy-draining tasks. But we can minimize their influence. Instead of spreading them out across your days and weeks, get them all over within one or two days so they don’t contaminate your energy-giving tasks.

When you plan your days, make your overarching principle energy, not time.

The difference between one man and another is not mere ability . . . it is energy.

― Thomas Arnold

2. Surround Yourself with Motivated People.

For better or for worse, the people we surround ourselves with impact us greatly—and highly motivated people use this to their advantage.

In small, everyday interactions, you probably already realize how much impact other people can have on your levels of motivation:

  • One positive interaction with a supportive and enthusiastic friend can supercharge your own energy and motivation almost instantly.
  • On the other hand, just one interaction with a really negative, critical person can drain you of energy and sap your motivation for the day.

But there’s a bigger principle here:

The people you habitually spend time with affect how you habitually feel.

If you really have to interact with energy-draining people, you can’t expect to feel energetic and enthusiastic on a regular basis. But, if you habitually interact with energy-giving people, you can’t help but have some of their enthusiasm and motivation rub off on you.

So be thoughtful about the people you choose to spend your time with:

  • If you’re dating, be careful of starting a relationship with someone who consistently takes lots of energy.
  • If you’re applying for a new job, look carefully at the energy levels of the people you’ll be working with.
  • If you’re starting a new project or business with someone, try to find someone who gives you energy. And if they don’t, their other assets better be really worth it!

If you want to feel more motivated and energized in your life, surround yourself with energy-giving people.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

— Jim Rohn

3. Celebrate Your Successes.

One of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to feel more motivated is to take time to celebrate your successes—even very small ones.

It’s a basic law of human psychology that behaviors followed by a reward are more likely to happen in the future:

  • If you successfully run your first 5K and have a handful of close friends at the finish line to cheer you on and congratulate you, your motivation to run future races in the future goes way up.
  • If you’re willing to be vulnerable with your spouse about something that’s bothering you and they let you know they’re proud of you for bringing it up, you’re going to feel more confident talking about difficult things in the future.

The lesson here is obvious:

Learn to build a tiny habit of celebrating your own successes, and you’ll create a steady stream of motivation for future goals.

Thankfully, you don’t have to buy yourself expensive things or throw a giant party in order to celebrate your successes and build motivation.

It’s a funny quirk of human psychology that the size of the reward doesn’t matter nearly as much as the timing. More specifically:

A small reward delivered immediately beats a big reward delayed.

For example:

  • Tell yourself that you are proud of yourself after getting an A on that recent test.
  • After nailing a presentation at work, close your office door, put on your favorite song, and throw yourself a little dance party.
  • After going for that early morning run, splurge on a fancy cup of coffee and muffin.

Build the habit of using small, immediate rewards for your accomplishments and your motivation will surge.

Rewarding yourself for a job well-done doesn’t make you vain. It just means you’re psychologically savvy.

4. Be Compassionate with Your Failures.

There’s no better way to kill your motivation than beating yourself up after a failure or setback.

People with chronically low motivation almost always have a habit of being harsh and judgmental with themselves after failures and mistakes:

  • They criticize themselves with negative self-talk.
  • They judge themselves as being weak and not worthy.
  • And they punish themselves in a misguided attempt to motivate themselves in the future.

But being a jerk to yourself doesn’t motivate you to do anything but be more of a jerk to yourself.

Luckily, the reverse is also true:

Nothing helps you recover quickly from a setback like a little self-compassion.

Highly motivated people aren’t merely good at giving themselves energy and motivation—they’re also skilled at maintaining their motivation, even in the face of setbacks.

And the best way to preserve your energy and motivation in the face of failure or mistakes is to practice a little self-compassion:

  • Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend who was struggling.
  • Be empathetic and remind yourself that you are more than the sum of your mistakes. Much more.
  • Acknowledge that making mistakes and feeling bad doesn’t mean you are bad or weak.

Learn to be gentle with yourself and you’ll be far more resilient in the face of adversity.

Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

— Winston Churchill

5. Design Your Environment to Be Energizing.

Just like the activities and people in your life give and take energy, so does your physical environment.

We’re all control freaks at heart. Which means we love the idea that the solution to everything is inside us. And that, with enough insight and willpower, we can accomplish anything.

False.

Your environment matters—a lot—including how much motivation and energy you feel on a regular basis:

  • Having a messy and chaotic workspace makes it easy to get distracted, procrastinate, and lose energy to do your work.
  • Trying to resolve a disagreement with your spouse in bed at the end of a long day when you’re exhausted makes it hard to be compassionate and manage your irritability.
  • Going for a run in cold weather without good gear makes it hard to stay motivated to exercise.

Environmental design is the secret weapon of consistently high motivation.

Of course, you can’t always change your environment. But it’s possible more often than you might think.

And designing your environment to be more conducive to your goals is a fast track to better energy and higher motivation:

  • Organize your desk every evening before you leave work so that there’s no friction to getting started in the morning.
  • Set a dedicated time early on a weekend morning to discuss disagreements with your spouse—when both of you are rested and able to engage productively.
  • Buy good running gear to minimize the dread of going out in the cold.

When you accept that the solution to every problem isn’t just more willpower and pushing harder, you can design your environment to be conducive to your goals instead of causing friction.

Every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.

— Benjamin Franklin

6. Be Ruthless About Saying No.

One of the most common causes of low motivation is saying yes to competing motivations.

As we’ve talked about, motivation is energy. When you’re full of energy you feel motivated. And when your energy tank is empty, motivation disappears.

Well, you can’t expect to have high levels of motivation for the things that matter most to you if you’re wasting all your energy on things that don’t really matter:

  • How can you possibly have the motivation to say yes to that new hobby or side project when you say yes to 2 hours of Netflix every evening?
  • How can you possibly make progress on your personal initiative at work if you’re always saying yes to other people’s requests for your time?
  • How can you possibly find quality time to spend with your partner if you say yes to every social event you get invited to?

You have plenty of motivation. Stop wasting it on things that don’t really matter.

Motivation is largely a matter of priorities:

  • If that new business idea is really a priority, you would say no to your buddy’s Super Bowl party and spend an entire Sunday writing a business plan.
  • If your marriage is really a priority, you would say no to poker night with the boys and plan a date night.
  • If your health was really a priority, you would say no to the comforts of sleeping in and get to the gym first thing.

You only have so much energy each day. If you distribute it across dozens of unimportant or draining things, you won’t have enough left to do the things that matter most.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

— Greg McKeown


All You Need to Know

No matter how unmotivated you feel, you can learn to be consistently motivated by committing to the right habits. With a handful of motivation-generating routines in place, you’ll have a steady stream of energy and motivation to do what matters most.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

Surround yourself with motivated people.

Celebrate Your Successes.

Be Compassionate with Your Failures.

Design Your Environment to Be Energizing.

Be Ruthless About Saying No.

25 Comments

Add Yours

I consistently enjoy reading your articles. They are always thought provoking and help me to take action in ways that impact my life and the lives of those around me. Thank you!

Excellent article Nick. I think there are three things we need to manage to really be effective with our time:
1. Our energy
2. Our priorities
3. Our focus

Attempting to align my values, motivations, daily to-dos has become my daily discipline. This article re-teaches me about the motivation aspect. Thank you!

I subscribed for a bunch of newsletters… but usually ignore them without reading… Your letters are thoughtful… so, I read them. This one, about energy, especially good. The right angle of view. Thank you.

Excellent article, so much food for thought here. A contradiction to other authors is the first task of the day. You say something exciting, they say the most important tasks. How do you manage your most important tasks? Are they something that excites you?

Usually, yes, my most important tasks are the ones that get me most excited. But even if they’re not, I try to do the exciting ones first because they build momentum and confidence.

Thank you very much, having being reading your news letters made me to manage my time as well as what I feed my mind which makes me realise that my thoughts made up the person I am

And you are right on point we really should watch people we hang around with because they will either build or break us especially if we don’t know and understand ourselves

Best regards

I’m living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and totally understand the concept of energy. I’m excited to read that is the key to motivation vs time management. Starting out the day with something that you enjoy is right on target. I hadn’t realized how these 2 things feed into success. Thank you. I enjoy all your bligs6

I really like what you write and it all somewhere makes sense to me.
Is there like an email Id of yours or something where I can talk more?
There are some things I would like to discuss.

Muchas verdades que están presentes, lo sabes e ignoras por los placeres o la facilidad de ciertas situaciones, es solo cuestión de priorizar siendo realistas del hoy para un mañana son arrepentimientos.

Muy bueno articulo Oso, Saludos.

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