Big vision, but small steps2 min read

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Whether you want to change careers, grow a business, improve your relationship, save money, eat healthier, do inner work, or achieve enlightenment, you will need motivation.

Motivation is the desire to take action. It is an emotion that energizes us to stay focused on a given task or activity, because we anticipate a reward. The bigger is the perceived reward, the more focused and motivated we will feel to take action.

The biggest rewards of all are typically connected to your long-term goals and your big vision of life—what I call aspirations in Mindful Self-Discipline. They are the journeys that have the potential to be the most engaging and most rewarding in your life. The problem is that the reward is far away into the future.

This is a challenge because our brain will always choose the action that leads to the highest perceived reward. In our day to day life, the highest perceived reward is often not our aspirations but the easy stuff around us, and all the infinite opportunities for instant gratification that we have. These rewards feel more real because they are right in front of your eyes.

The name for this is “hyperbolic-discounting”: the farther away a given reward is in the future, the smaller is our immediate motivation to achieve it. We are hurting our future selves without even realizing it.

To solve this problem, we need to increase the perceived value of actions that are connected to long-term rewards. Here are some ideas on how you can do that:

  1. Learn how to love the process itself (e.g. enjoy going to the gym for it’s own sake and not only for the future health, energy, and appearance benefits);
  2. Re-connect emotionally to your aspirations and values, and feel how much they matter to you. You can do so every day via affirmations, journalling, self-reflection, meditations, pictures on your wall, etc.;
  3. Connect long-term aspirations with short-term projects, and take baby steps toward them regularly, so you enjoy the satisfaction of small wins and of the feeling of making progress.

Exercise

What is a vision that you have, and that you are not taking much action toward? Which of these three methods will you try this week?

Going Deeper

To learn more how to translate long-term aspirations into actionable habits, review chapters 9 and 25 of Mindful Self-Discipline.

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