The First Step to Getting Motivated - a Visualisation
I get a lot of questions about motivation. Specifically, how to get motivated and overcome laziness. These questions can be hard to answer as they are so general. For example, there could be a million reasons someone doesn’t feel motivated to take action in their lives. That person could be burnt out or exhausted, meaning they don’t have the energy required to do the task. That person could be anxious or stressed meaning that their fight-or-flight response is activated making them want to run away from or fight against the task. Equally, that person could be feeling directionless, thinking that they know what they need to do, however lacking the motivation as the end goal is either unclear or not entirely what they want from life.
I could go on with the list. However, I think the most important place to start is with the latter point. Without a good reason to engage in a task, it can be almost impossible to set your mind to it, let alone summon the required energy. So, let’s spend this post thinking about what you want from life, what you really want. Not just what you think you want. This is going to be different to the things you think you should do (read this article to explain about the things you think you should do, and this article to explain about the things we are socialised into believing are important).
What does future you look like in an ideal world?
This exercise requires you to visualise ‘future you’. What future you does, feels like, where future you lives etc. This is the ideal future you.
Set aside approximately 20 minutes to do this task. Find a quiet place. Get a pen and paper ready and close your eyes. In an ideal world, someone would be reading these instructions to you, if you don’t have someone to do this, read each section and close your eyes and envision the answers.
The set up:
Close your eyes, or look at a patch of ground in front of you.
Listen to the sounds outside of the room.
Listen to the sounds inside the room.
Listen to the sound of your breath as it enters your nose and leaves your nose.
Feel your breath, notice the sensations of the inhale and the sensations of the exhale.
Take 5 slow and deep inhales and exhales.
Imagine a day 5 years from now (you can do 1 year if you want, however, 5 gives us a sense of more freedom over our thinking) from now, the perfect day. Imagine you have woken up in your bed, where are you? Where is this bedroom? What do you notice as you wake up? What does the room look like? Is it bright or dark? Is there someone else there? Are there windows? What is the weather like? Imagine all the details and the feelings of the room, and how you feel in that moment.
Imagine getting up, what is your morning routine? What do you do first? What do you do second? Imagine the whole routine. Imagine going into your kitchen, what is in there? What do you do for breakfast? How do you set up your day?
Imagine what you do for the first few hours. When do you start your workday? What do you do for work? Where do you go for work? Imagine the surroundings? Are there other people there? Are they colleagues? Employees? Other? What skills are you using? What makes you want to work here? What drives you? How do you feel while you are working? What kinds of conversations are you having and who with?
It is lunchtime. What do you do for lunch? Where do you eat? Who do you eat with? Imagine the surroundings, the sounds you would hear. Are you outside or inside? Do you have plenty of time to relax, or do you grab a quick bite? Remember this is an ideal day.
Lunch as finished. What do you do? Do you have to return to work? Or will you do something else? If you are working, where are you working? What are you doing? Does this feel different to this morning? If you aren’t working, what are you doing instead? Where are you doing it?
Imagine it is the early evening? What do you do? Have you got plans? Are there people you want to see? Places you want to go to? Do you go out? Or are you at home?
Where will you have dinner? Who will you have it with? Will you cook? Will someone else do it? Or will you be out? What will the atmosphere be like? Will dinner be an event or is it just functional?
What do you do after dinner? Do you have a routine to follow? Something you do every night? Or will it be a spontaneous affair?
It is getting closer to bedtime. What do you do to help yourself relax? What are the steps you take to prepare yourself to sleep?
You are back in bed, how do you feel having lived this day? What feelings do you notice in your body? What thoughts are in your mind?
Open your eyes. Write down everything that came up for you. The details and the feelings. You can keep going back to the image in your mind and creating more detailed ideals.
The next step:
Consider the following questions:
Was there anything that surprised you about what you imagined? Was there anything that you wouldn’t have expected to have wanted or to have felt?
What does this visualisation tell you that you want from life? What have you learnt about yourself?
What would be the first step you could take to make your life head in that direction? Break it down into really small steps, what are the incremental changes you would need to make to reach this point. Write them down.
Close your eyes again. Tune back into your body and your breath. Now think, how would you feel if 1 year from now nothing had changed? If you didn’t take that first step towards making your ideal happen? What do you notice happen in your body? In your thoughts? Is there a tension rising inside you? A feeling of discomfort? Open your eyes and write this down too.
Decide to take the first incremental step today. If you aren’t sure what that is, the first step could be talking to someone you trust to ask how you would go about moving in the direction you hope for.
This exercise is intended to connect you with your best hopes for your future self. It is intended to give you space to really tap into what you actually want for yourself. So many of us take time to actually focus on our hopes, the ones we really want rather than what we have been told we want.
The final part, which involves you thinking about what it would feel like if you didn’t take the steps to make change is not designed to make you feel bad about your current situation. Quite the contrary, it is designed to help you elicit how much you want change to occur. For example, if tension arises during that moment, or fear or panic (or many other emotions) it shows that you are determined to start moving towards this goal. It shows that the motivation is in there, you just need to take the first step. Sometimes we need the discomfort to drive the change.
Good luck. Give it a go. Then decide on the smallest step you can take today. Just one step. Do that. Then in a few days decide on the next, and so on.
P.S. If you cannot imagine the perfect day, place, job, life etc that’s ok. It may take you a few attempts. Equally, it may be that you can imagine the feeling of the ideal day, without exact details. For example, I do this exercise on occasion. I can never pinpoint my location exactly however, I know the feeling I would like to have. I know that the locations are light and airy. I know that there is sunshine and laughter at meal times and I know that I feel freedom in my choices and control over destiny.
I am a Clinical Psychologist trying to get psychology out of the therapy room and into everyday life. I do this by offering free advice on my Blog and on Instagram. I also offer private therapy online over video link.
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Disclaimer: Please note, the information in these posts is not intended to be therapy and does not constitute a therapist/client relationship. If you are in need of support, please contact your doctor or mental health provider.