A woman looking up.

How to Stay Motivated, According to Common Sense

Once you see it, it’s obvious.

The key to motivation is all around you. You just need to look for it. That’s one reason why I love biographies so much. They force you into the lives of well-known individuals. You see them through their struggles and triumphs. And it’s those struggles I find fascinating. No one identifies with a perfect record. You identify with the failure. The person who came up short. And the more they failed, the more their story resonates.

In Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, the author recounts the founding of Macy’s department store. The store’s founder, Rowland Hussey Macy, launched a handful of businesses prior to Macy’s. Each one failed. He went bankrupt. Years later at the age of 35 things finally began to work out. But until that point, it was one defeat after another. What kept him motivated to keep going?

In Leonardo da Vinci, author Walter Isaacson uncovers the story of da Vinci in great detail. Well into his thirties, Leonardo complained of his shortcomings. Often writing of despair and misery. Here is someone exceptionally bright. Yet, like Rowland Hussey Macy, he too faced obstacles. Leonardo struggled to gain recognition, respect, and the means to provide for himself. What kept him moving forward?

You can learn much from biographies. Some things, however, can be learned just as well by looking around. Motivation is one of those such things. Here is how to stay motivated using simple common sense. Note: First I share a story from my life. Then I share a lesson from the world to back up my claim.


Swim over strength

I love to exercise. I enjoy swimming, running, hiking, etc. Being active is something I willingly undertake. I dislike strength training though. It’s boring and repetitive. I like to sweat. I don’t sweat enough lifting weights. And so if I was forced to lift weights for hours each day, I’d never do it. Instead, you’d find me on the couch watching Netflix. Passersby would call me lazy. They’d be incorrect. I’m not lazy. I’ve just been assigned something I don’t like to do. Lack of motivation follows.

Conversely, I have very little difficulty getting excited to go for a swim. I just get up and go. If you want to get and stay motivated, do things you enjoy.

You may not have heard of Robert Moses before. Turns out, he is the figure responsible for “658 playgrounds in New York City, 416 miles of parkways, and 13 bridges.” In an era of stagnation and depression, he built and built and built and built. The New York Times described him as the person “who played a larger role in shaping the physical environment of New York State than any other figure in the 20th century…”

In The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Moses was said to work long days. Many times, the only way his staff would get him to go home in the evening was to call his wife. She would show up and drag him out, yanking his ear. He was passionate about his work. Motivation came easy because of it. Do things you enjoy and motivation becomes natural.


Grow towards the sun

My first business flopped. My second business flopped. Businesses three and four flopped. I’ve since lost track of the number of businesses I’ve started. Knowing the total doesn’t help things. However, my blog, QuickBooost, shows promise. Of all my ventures, it is the most rewarding, fulfilling, and exciting. It is also the one with the most results to show for it.

With any business, one major challenge is marketing. It’s getting people to know you exist. In the beginning of my blog’s life, Pinterest was the place to be. Then it was Google. Then it was onto the next platform and the next from there. With each change in focus, my blog got a little better. The writing improved, the products were refined, the audience resonated with my message more. As time went on, I put more effort into those areas that gave me results. I reduced time in areas that didn’t.

It’s easy to do something when you’re seeing progress. Focus on those things and motivation will be yours.

According to ScienceDaily, “Plants have developed a number of strategies to capture the maximum amount of sunlight through their leaves. As we know from looking at plants on a windowsill, they grow toward the sunlight to be able to generate energy by photosynthesis.” Plants instinctively do what I do with QuickBooost: they grow towards the light. They move towards what feeds them. In turn, they are able to grow further still and absorb even more light.

A plant doesn’t complain about motivation. It grabs the light and then reaches up to get more of it. When you focus on things that give you results, motivation will come to you naturally. Especially when you aren’t trying to live in the shade.


Fast instead of food

I was fasting with no issue. Then we went to the grocery store. The fast got a little harder. As my wife picked out lunch for herself and our daughter, the voice in my head told me to quit. I did. Fast forward to later that day and I went from fasting to full-on feasting. I regularly fast for 24-hours. It’s easy. But I’ve learned there’s one foolproof way to crush my motivation: be around delicious food. Learn from my mistake. To stay motivated, remove temptation and distraction from your environment. Or better still, add friction.

Author James Clear explains: “If you find yourself watching too much television… then unplug it after each use. Only plug it back in if you can say out loud the name of the show you want to watch… This setup creates just enough friction to prevent mindless viewing.” Add friction so as to make an undesirable activity harder. Remove friction to make it easier.

I recently visited a friend. Their home didn’t have a couch yet. Because of that, the natural urge to take a seat and relax was gone. In its place was the feeling that we should be out doing things. And that’s what we did. To stay motivated, remove aspects that cause you to feel unmotivated. Build in things that cause you to do what you want to do. If you want to read, keep a book by where you relax. If you don’t want to break your fast, avoid the grocery store.


Moving forward with motivation

Observe the world. Let common sense show you what to do. If motivation is of concern, apply the lessons from this article. For your reference again, they are:

  1. Do things you enjoy
  2. Focus on what provides results
  3. Avoid things that cause you to break

Don’t let lack of motivation slow you down any longer. And don’t worry about overcomplicating it either. Instead, keep it simple. You know what to do. You just needed me to remind you of it. So moving forward, do things you enjoy. Drop things you don’t. Focus your efforts on what moves you forward. Stop working on things that don’t. And finally, avoid the distractions that leave you on the couch. In their place, make it even easier to do what you want (and need) to do.

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