If you feel it, you can do it
In 1954, Englishman Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. It was a feat many believed impossible, but in front of about 3,000 spectators at a meet between the British Amateur Athletics Association and the University of Oxford, the then 25-year-old medical student pushed himself to complete the race in three minutes, 59.4 seconds. After the race, Bannister said: 'Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt.'
Forty-six days later, Bannister's rival, Australian John Landy, smashed his record by about two seconds, and since then, many other athletes have gone on to achieve the 'unachievable'.
'No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that',' Bannister says of his achievement. 'The human spirit is indomitable.' Dealing with naysayers is one thing, but what if the voice that tells us we must not do something is coming from inside us?
We don't all set out to break records every day, but Bannister, Landy and the countless other athletes who succeeded them are living proof that if one is motivated enough, anything is possible. Whether it's losing weight, saving money, completing a project or anything else we've decided to do, if there is no drive, no zeal, then our goals will not be met. Motivation is the force that galvanises us into action and spurs us on to complete what we set out to do.
If you think motivation is linked solely to mental ability and staying power, think again. According to Elisabetta Franzoso, author, and well-being trainer and coach from the Singapore-based InsideOutYou Coaching & Training, emotions are what bring you forward in life.
'The doers are the people who are more in touch with their emotional side, because emotions are what drives a person to action and inspires them to keep at something,' Franzoso says. 'People who merely talk about doing something but don't act on their intent use their intellectual side. All talk but no action can lead to negative thinking, and this is why many people stay stuck with their goals. You can have an intention, but if it remains just that, then it is nothing.'
According to Franzoso, some people are more motivated than others because they know how to harness their emotions. If you're excited, passionate and enthusiastic enough about a new project, for example, you're more likely to start it and see it through. Your desire is what propels you to get it done. The stronger the desire, the more motivated you feel.
But it's not just positive emotions that drive us. Negative ones, too, hold a certain power, says Franzoso, but they must be channelled correctly or they can have an opposite effect and be demotivating.
'The best tennis players, like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, are fuelled by the healthy side of anger,' she points out. 'You can see it in the way their bodies tense up as they play. Anger, when tapped into and channelled constructively, can be a good thing. It's what makes these athletes play harder and more defensively. They play to win because they simply will not accept defeat or settle for second place.'
Anyone who's had to work to strict deadlines will attest that fear, frustration, anxiety and stress can also be strong motivating forces. The same can be said of past failures. 'Your failures can motivate you when you start looking at them in terms of lessons and experiences, and not as failures,' Franzoso says. 'Mistakes are life experiences, but we have been conditioned to see them as a bad thing. Instead, tell yourself that, although negative, these experiences enriched you in some way. Ask how you can learn from them and how these lessons can move you towards your goals.'
If motivation is all about emotional awareness, how can you ensure you are always in tune with your feelings?
First of all, do not be emotionally closed off. Do not fear what you feel, and certainly do not block out your emotions.
'When you avoid your emotions it shows up as self-sabotage,' Franzoso says. You might be on track to getting the body of your dreams, but if you aren't connected to how you feel when you work out (happy, proud, energised), you can lose your motivation and get derailed from your plans.
Soon, you will start finding excuses not to exercise. Likewise, by not confronting how you feel when you don't want to work out (weary, lazy, uninterested), you will find it hard to make progress.
Second, be less self-critical. We are more likely to do something (and stick to it) if we believe we can, says Franzoso, so quit the negative self-talk, get rid of self-limiting beliefs, and try to focus on your more positive attributes and abilities. Focus too much on the negative and you will find yourself feeling unproductive and unable to move forward. For example, if you convince yourself that you don't have the willpower to cut out junk food or that you aren't good enough to be promoted at work, you'll soon start to believe it, subconsciously creating that expectation for failure.
One of the best ways to bring out your emotional side is with art therapy. Music, art, dancing and writing are perfect vehicles to express positive as well as negative feelings. Workshops, seminars and books or audio CDs about self-expression and emotional awareness can also help you tap into your emotional resources, as can sports and relaxing activities such as meditation.
Since motivation makes you act with regards to the feeling, you'll find it easier to achieve your goals as you become more in tune with your emotional side. It's important to nurture this relationship with your emotional self so that you never lose focus. As long as you can keep those positive vibes going, motivation levels will remain at their peak.