I’ve been studying personal finance—and helping people budget—for the better part of 15 years. In that time, the number one reason that people seem to struggle with their finances is their motivation.
Motivation is one of the biggest hurdles we encounter when we want to reach any goal.
We’ve all been there. We hear something, read something, or watch something that inspires us to make a change.
We go at it for a while, making a little bit of progress.
And then we fizzle out.
The motivation is gone.
It’s the reason why we slump back into the same patterns of which we try to get ourselves out.
It’s the reason why 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail.
Where does the motivation go?
Three Things That Affect our Motivation
There are three major areas that I’ve found really affect motivation. If you’re wondering where you’re motivation has gone—or even where it is coming from in the first place—take a look at these areas in your life.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
– Jim Rohn
Your relationships, people you hang around with, even the cleanliness of your home can all affect your motivation.
If the people in your environment are unmotivated, have no larger goals, and just want to sit on the couch all day, you’re not going to be very motivated to do anything in your own life either.
At the same time, if your home or life is a cluttered mess, you’re going to be too overwhelmed by all the “stuff” to be motivated to do anything.
Take stock of what and who is in your environment.
Your View of the World
“Whether You Think You Can Or Think You Can’t, You’re Right.”
– Henry Ford
How you view the world around you plays a huge role in motivating you.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck outlines the fixed mindset and growth mindset.
A person with the fixed mindset says things like:
- That’s just how I am.
- I think it’s really cool what you’re doing but I’d never be able to do that.
- I get all worked up when I talk about money.
A person with a growth mindset says things like:
- I haven’t learned how to do that yet.
- I think it’s really cool what you’re doing. I’m going to learn how to do that!
- Money has been a sore subject for me in the past but I’m growing more each day.
At the same time, especially in personal finance, there are two other mindsets that can shape our motivation—the scarcity mindset and the abundance mindset.
When you have the scarcity mindset, you tend to hoard money. You think money is scarce.
You won’t be very generous because you think there isn’t enough to go around.
You get it, keep it, protect it, and guard it with your life.
This applies to other areas of your life too and can lead to you missing career opportunities and having a “what’s the point” attitude.
The abundance mindset, on the other hand, says that money is plentiful. It’s not afraid to take risks and fail because failure isn’t permanent, even if it means losing some money.
There is always more.
An abundance mindset leads to more generosity, more confidence, and less fear.
The abundance mindset and the growth mindset compliment each other very well. If you view the world with these two mindsets, your motivation will be higher.
If your worldview is one of scarcity or is fixed, you’re not going to be motivated because there “wouldn’t be a point” in trying.
Your View of Yourself
“As a man thinketh, so he is. As he continues to think, so he remains.”
– James Allen
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and told yourself you’re beautiful?
Have you ever?
When was the last time you told yourself you’re good enough just the way you are?
If your self-esteem is low—if you think you’re not good enough or can’t improve—you’re not going to want to even try.
On the other hand, if you’re confident in who you are and that you will continue to grow, you’ll put yourself out there and be motivated to strive toward your goals.
It’s ok to want to improve yourself. There is a lot about myself that I am trying to change. There’s a lot about my self that I have changed already.
But every time I get into a funk of wanting to change because I’m not good enough or I don’t have what it takes, it completely saps my motivation.
Don’t view yourself as anything less than perfect just the way you are.
All of the improvement you want to make is just icing on the already delicious cake.
How to Stay Motivated
Now, that we know the three areas that affect motivation the most, the goal is to find ways to affect those areas so you can stay motivated.
Here are 10 ways to keep yourself motivated.
1. Have a Goal or Vision in Mind
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to set yourself a goal or vision.
Not only do you want to have a goal in mind for where you want your finances in mind, but you also want to keep it in mind as you move toward it.
One of the biggest lessons I was taught when learning to drive was this.
In order to easily stay in between the lines, focus on where you’re going.
Don’t focus on trying to keep the car in between the lines that you can barely see in front of the car.
Focus on the goal.
It was a huge lesson for me and one I take into other areas of my life.
Keep your eyes forward and fixed on your goal. It reminds you of where you want to be.
This will change your view of the world because when you always have a goal in mind, you subconsciously start to figure out ways to make that goal happen.
You start looking for the opportunities that will bring you closer to your goal.
You start to see obstacles in your way as challenges to overcome and grow you rather than walls that will stop you.
Keep your eyes fixed on your goal and where you want to be.
2. Just Start
“You Don’t Have To Be Great To Start, But You Have To Start To Be Great.”
– Zig Ziglar
For years, I always thought that confidence and motivation come from practicing and perfecting before you put yourself out there.
I was wrong. Way wrong.
Motivation definitely comes from confidence, but the best way to get confident is by doing.
So just start.
Stop doing whatever it is you are trying to do before you get started, and just start.
Maybe you’re trying to save up a little more money before you start paying off your debt.
Maybe you’re waiting for a little more income in order to go back to school and modernize your skills.
Maybe you’re wanting to move up in your career but you’re waiting to feel more confidence before you start networking with the right people.
Start small at first if you want, especially if it’s something like school where you know you can’t afford to quit your job and jump into learning full time.
Start with taking just one or two classes a semester.
Star with paying off your smallest credit card balance little by little and then snowball from there.
The only thing that holds you back is you.
Take it from a guy who waited way too long to take his dream of becoming an entrepreneur seriously.
Just start. The rest will come.
3. Find a “Point of No Return”
One thing I’ve learned from studying writers and entrepreneurs is that one of the biggest motivators is what’s called the “point of no return.”
An example of a point of no return is when you’ve been thinking about a career change since your current field is dwindling.
You’ve made some very slow progress in learning a new skill to help you achieve the career change.
Then, you walk into your current job one day and find a box on your desk. Your boss calls you into his office and informs you that you’re being let go.
That is the point of no return.
There are no more options and no more waiting. You have to make a move now.
At the point of no return, suddenly all of the things you’re invested in take the forefront in your mind.
Your family is depending on you. You need to keep your home or apartment. It’s a sink or swim moment.
Now, your point of no return doesn’t have to be so dramatic, but you can recreate this to give you motivation.
How? The key is investing.
Invest in something up front. Have a stake in the game.
If you’ve been wanting to follow your dream of becoming a coder for a big tech company, start by spending actual money to invest in learning that skill.
Don’t just dabble with learning code online in your spare time. Be intentional about your point of no return.
By investing in a coding class, you not only invest your money by paying for the class, but you invest your time by committing to going to class.
Have you struggled over and over again with your finances and are reading every blog post you can get your hands on?
Invest in a course or book (I’m coming out with one soon!) to solidify your learning and get more formal training.
Invest and create “a point of no return” so you have no choice but to take action.
Then, you don’t have to worry about being motivated.
4. Change Your Environment
“The environment is more powerful than your internal resolve. As a human being, you always take on the form of the environments you continually place yourself. Consequently, the best use of your choices is consciously designing environments that facilitate your commitments. Actually, if you’re really committed to something, this is exactly what you’ll do.”
– Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work
One of the areas that can really take a toll on your motivation is your environment.
In fact, in his excellent book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Author Benjamin Hardy argues that environment is the most important factor for keeping yourself motivated.
Stay motivated to reach your goals by creating an environment conducive to that goal.
Sometimes this will mean big changes and sometimes it will mean little changes.
For example, if you want to pay off debt, you might need to stop using credit cards. Change your environment by taking all of the credit cards out of your wallet.
This leaves you with no choice but to not use your credit cards.
Here are some other changes you can make:
- Change the color of your room or home – Lacking energy makes it hard to stay motivated. Brightening up the colors of your home to a lighter, or even white, color will help your energy levels.
- Change the light bulbs in your home to daylight bulbs – This is something I did and I love it! That natural awake feeling you get when you are outside on a beautiful sunny day happens inside now too. This is especially good for seasonal depression.
- Move somewhere else – This can be extreme but necessary for some people. If your home life or hometown is toxic, you may want to think about this one. Even beyond that, moving to Nashville if you want to be a musician or simply moving where there is more sunshine if you want to be a writer are both great ways to change your environment to motivate you.
- Give up friendships that are not mutually serving – Some friends only take and take. Others are discouraging and belittle you for wanting to follow your dreams. Remove these people from your life! These people create unnecessary barriers to your success and it’ll be a lot easier to reach your goals without that extra baggage. Keep your real friends.
- Change your career – Do not keep yourself in a job that will hinder your dreams. Develop skills, save diligently, pay off your debt, do anything you can to get out of a job that sucks the life out of you.
I’ve been wanting to become a full-time writer and entrepreneur for the past five years. I made little to no progress for the first two to two and a half years.
I even folded up my original blog idea because I was going nowhere.
Why wasn’t I motivated to keep going?
I was at a job that made it nearly impossible for me to stay motivated despite my best efforts.
I was hardly able to spend quality time with my family. The times I did spend with my family, I was a tired mess, cranky, and not all there.
The late and long hours I was required to put in guaranteed that I was always sleep deprived.
I had to get out.
I ended up taking a $15,000 a year pay cut to get out of that job. I was willing to do anything at that point so I did.
It not only saved my marriage and family life, but it also gave me the motivation needed to continue learning about business and writing.
Now I’ve been consistently blogging on my blog, Atypical Finance, for two and a half years.
I’m slowly making my way to becoming a full-time writer and entrepreneur.
Changing your environment will change your life.
5. Nurture Your Relationships
Let me get this out in the open. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my wife.
She supports me, loves me literally unconditionally, and gives me the space and time I need to pursue my dreams.
My brother is another person who’s been a big help. A successful entrepreneur in his own right, he’s taught me a lot about business.
I also know he has my best interest at heart.
Beyond that, I have a circle of five or six very close friends who are always there for me.
They motivate me to go after my goals and offer up anything I need.
All of these relationships are relationships I want to nurture.
Their unconditional love and support makes me want to do all I can to give to each relationship.
Jim Rohn says “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.”
That is absolutely no joke.
The Bible says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Find people who you want to be like, learn from them, and allow them to learn from you.
As Aristotle said, “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
Both people grow in the best relationships.
6. Rest and Completely Unplug
This is something I struggle with quite a bit, but I’m getting better at it with practice.
More and more research lends itself to the fact that when we are trying to build muscle, it is actually during the rest phase—when we’re away from the weights—where the magic happens.
This seems counterintuitive, but it isn’t.
By working out, you place stress on your muscles using some form of resistance or weight.
As you rest from working out, the healing process from this stress is what causes your muscles to grow and develop.
If you are continually putting your muscles under stress and do not give them a chance to rest and heal, you will start to plateau and eventually burn out.
The rest phase is a huge part of building your muscles.
Similarly, resting is a huge part of staying motivated.
To reach a goal, you have to make conscious and intentional effort. This is essentially resistance for your brain.
Without rest, you burn out and lose motivation.
With proper rest, you come back to your goal refreshed and motivated and with a fresh perspective.
So what is proper rest?
The key word is proper.
In order to rest properly, you need to be fully present in what you are doing while you rest.
That means put the phone away.
Do something you really enjoy.
If your rest is to go out for a cup of coffee with your significant other, leave the phone in the car and just be.
If your rest is hanging out with your kids, leave the phone in the other room and hang out with your kids.
Social Media can wait.
If reading a good book is what you do to rest, either buy the book in paper form or put your phone on airplane mode while you’re reading.
Whatever it is that you do to rest—whether it’s hiking, reading, eating a good meal, hanging out with friends or family—do it completely by being present and unplugging.
7. Increase Your Knowledge and Skill
Have you ever tried to do something, gotten about halfway through, and then gave up because you didn’t know what to do next?
I have. Many times.
Not having the knowledge to do something can totally derail any motivation you have.
Increasing your knowledge will always give you the motivation to make changes.
I’ve seen this many times when helping people with their finances.
When they learn how to manage their money, they are all of a sudden motivated to make changes they need to make.
They gain confidence and hope.
They start believing that it’s possible to control their money, and in effect, control their whole life.
When you have new knowledge, when your brain makes new connections, clear next steps surface giving you the confidence and motivation you need to take those next steps.
8. Outsource Your Decision Making
Do you want to know one of the best ways to stay motivated?
Completely take the need for motivation out of the picture.
Before you start swearing at the screen wondering what that means, let me explain.
Essentially, it means making things automatic.
Take saving money as an example. Most people want to save more whether it’s for a future goal or retirement.
But most people aren’t motivated to save more. Their lives in the present take priority over their future lives in retirement or on vacation or whatever their saving goal is.
Like with everything, balance is key.
In order to save more without needing to be motivated, you simply make it automatic.
Both my wife and I put money toward our 401K every paycheck—automatically. We never see the money because it is automatically deducted from our paychecks.
I am neither motivated or unmotivated to save for retirement because I’ve taken motivation out of the picture.
I am simply saving for retirement and that’s all there is to it.
In your own life, take motivation out of the picture and set things up to automatically happen.
If early retirement is your goal, figure out how much you need total and by what date.
Then, break it down to how much you need to put away each paycheck and set up an automatic transfer.
Every paycheck you’ll be saving automatically so you won’t need to feel motivated to put it away.
This can work for any goal, financial or otherwise.
If you’re trying to eat healthy, set yourself up by cooking meals over the weekend so you can just grab them during the week.
No more temptation to buy lunch instead of making lunch because you’ve already taken care of it—no motivation necessary.
Look for other ways to take motivation out of the picture in your own life.
9. Get Enough Sleep
There are some people who seem like they function even if they only get four hours of sleep every night.
This is not the norm.
I can’t explain to you enough how important sleep is to us.
I’ve seen getting quality sleep improve my own life as well as other people’s lives.
In my own life, I went from getting less than 6 hours on most days to getting at least 7 almost every night.
Here are some of the benefits that I’ve seen from getting enough sleep:
- Improved health
- Mind clarity
- More energy
- My mood is better
- Better self-control
I honestly feel like a different person simply from sleep.
There are numerous other benefits I’ve seen but by far the biggest has been my motivation level.
When you get enough sleep, you see the world differently. You see yourself differently.
You’re all of a sudden looking on the bright side of life. You feel like you can meet your goals.
The idea of starting a company now excites you more than scares you so you can push through the fear.
You now see yourself in that new job you’re going for. Your confidence level is sky high.
Getting enough sleep changes all of the three areas that affect your motivation:
- It changes your environment by helping you take action to change it.
- It changes your view of yourself by giving you the confidence you need to do whatever it is you personally need to do.
- And it changes your view of the world by letting you see possibilities where others see problems.
Help yourself get enough sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. If you want to be in bed by 10 PM every night, set yourself a reminder to get ready for bed starting at 9:30.
You can also invest in a better mattress. My wife and I bought a Ghostbed and love it.
Lastly, turn your phone off starting an hour or two before you go to bed and find something to unwind and relax.
10. Be OK with Not Being Motivated All the Time
Inevitably, there will be times when there is nothing you can do to stay motivated.
I’ve heard it said that motivation is like surfing. Sometimes the waves are small and don’t take you anywhere.
Other times they are big and will take you far.
The trick is to be ready when the big wave comes. If you aren’t prepared for the big wave, it’s not going to take you anywhere you want to go.
When you just keep going and going, burnout occurs no matter how motivated you are to keep at it.
The human body is not made to continuously be on the go.
Being ok with not being motivated all the time frees up your mental bandwidth for when you are riding a big motivation wave.
You’ll no longer be thinking about how you wish you could be motivated all of the time and letting that get in the way of your surfing.
What I like to do is have work set up as a “just in case” type thing. If I’m not feeling motivated I work on that.
This is more small picture stuff like updating a portion of my website that I’ve been meaning to update or going through a small checklist of things that I don’t want to even think about when I’m feeling motivated.
Let yourself be ok with not being motivated all of the time and you’ll be able to think more clearly when you are feeling motivated.
Motivation is a tricky beast, but it can be tamed.
By using these ten tips to change the three areas that affect your motivation—your environment, your view of the world, and your view of yourself—you’ll be setting yourself up for success in reaching your goals faster, getting your financial life in order permanently, and living the life you want to live.
Which of these are you going to try?
Which of these have you used to see the most impact in your own life?