How to Get Motivated in the Face of Failure

Finding your sources of motivation

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.― Ralph Waldo Emerson

A lag in motivation

It’s hard to keep motivated in the face of failure.  On some days I wake up ready to go and other days I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I have self-doubt and that creates a lag in my motivation.

Easy motivation strategies

In my many, many, many decades of life, I’ve used different strategies to get myself back into action.  Now, these strategies aren’t difficult but they require persistence and dedication.  Here’s a list of strategies that might be helpful.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.― Arthur C. Clarke

Get started

I’m going to borrow the Nike slogan but it’s true, you just have to do it.  Getting started is most of the battle, once you get started you can use your momentum to keep going.  I start by being consistent, having a daily routine and adding to the routine in small increments.

After a while, it gets easier to do things, like going to the gym, because I make it a routine and started with an easy workout.  The motivation is carried by the habit.

Start small

Procrastination, my old friend. Such a comfortable friend. Until the deadline comes and there’s no more time.  I’ve been guilty of procrastination, it happened in Pharmacy School as well.

One way to battle procrastination is to start small.  Breaking things down into smaller parts is a good way of learning and project management.  It also helps when tracking progress.

If small steps don’t work, I make the steps smaller.  I might have overestimated the sizes and need to readjust. The important thing for me is that I keep moving forward, even if it’s slow, patience is important.

Put down the smartphone

Distraction is a motivation killer.  Nothing passes the time like looking into the warm glow of a smartphone. Breaking smartphone use can help increase motivation by removing an unproductive distraction.  Turning off notifications and putting the smartphone on silent is a good way to reduce this distraction.

Smartphones aren’t the only distraction. When you have easily accessible distractions all around you then it becomes hard to focus. One thing I would do is close the office door, or if not in an office find a conference room to sit and concentrate.

Get feedback

There are two ways I get feedback: keep a log or personal feedback.  Keeping a log or journal to track your progress is a great way to keep motivation.  I use workout apps to track my progress and it keeps me going because I see how I’m doing over time.

Using a journal helps me track my progress with goals in support of my vision. This isn’t an everyday journal though it can be.  It can be used two or three times a week to track my progress and it’s nice to look back and see progress.

I also keep personal accountability through the people in my life.  I say what I want to do and I’m kept on track. It helps keep you honest with yourself when someone reminds you of things you want to do.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Removing the negative

I try to be positive but one thing I try to do is keep positive people around me.  Negative people are an emotional drain.  Some people are negative and always look at the dark or apathetic side of things. It’s hard to be motivated when dealing with negativity so I stay away from it.

Keeping positive

Now that I try to get negative influences away, I have to let in the positive influences.  I’m not into motivational books but I do like TED talk podcasts that talk about overcoming adversity or people creating new challenges for themselves.  This always creates a positive feeling for me and increases my motivation.

I also try to find something positive in a negative situation. What can I learn from the event? What opportunities are there for this event?

When I failed out of Pharmacy School, I was really hard on myself.  It was bad. One thing I’ve learned from that is that you have to be kind to yourself when you fail.

It’s easy to fall into the cycle of beating yourself when you fail. How does this help? It doesn’t. It only takes up useful time and energy and kills motivation.  I have to use failure as fuel for my motivation.

Remember the “why”

In the Get Feedback section above I mentioned keeping a journal.  This is a great location to keep notes on why I’m doing things and why I have these goals. It’s a great reminder to myself to look back when I’m feeling unmotivated and don’t have the energy to keep going.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something but this can help as a reminder.  Another way to keep sticky notes, have them at your desk or on a monitor as a daily reminder.

Have gratitude

In the holiday season, we are reminded to be grateful for what we have.  Coming out of the holiday season shouldn’t be different.  When I’m feeling unmotivated or start to think negatively, I think about the things I’m grateful for. This helps put things into a positive perspective and keeps motivation from declining.

Monotony is a motivation killer

In the Get Started section above, I talk about getting into a routine.  This doesn’t mean living on autopilot.  Mixing things up by adding or taking away from a routine can help maintain motivation.  For example, if a daily routine involves something like making sandwiches or shaving in the morning, add music or a podcast.

Little changes like this make a difference when you add tasks to your routine.  Listening to podcasts related to goals is even a better way to keep motivation.

Clean your workspace/living area

Working in squalor is a motivation killer.  Having to walk into a cluttered work area or cluttered living area is one way to kill motivation. It takes only a few minutes a day to keep an area uncluttered and it’s worth it.  Plus it decreases the chances of distraction.  Start small, clean the desk area or a small room and keep it clean. Then work outward from there.

Pick your head up

Taking a short break once in a while isn’t a bad thing. It’ll keep your mind fresh and your work productively. This means you’ll have the motivation to keep going.

I take a 2-minute “meditation” break. When my mind gets tired or I feel overloaded, looking outside for 2 minutes lets me take the opportunity to rest my mind.  All I do is look at nature or the sky and let my mind relax. This helps me refresh my motivation to keep going.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Final thoughts

There are many ways of keeping motivated, you have to find the right combination of methods.  Also, the combinations may be different for different goals.  Give yourself some credit for the goals accomplished, have a realistic time frame for doing things, and track your progress and you’re on the right path for keeping motivated.


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Spring board for aspiring fiction writers. Using free time to write sci-fi / drama.

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