It can be as simple as intending to clean the room or as complicated as quitting smoking. But at the end of the day, it is about wanting to change something in our lives. Change, however, is hard. We have all experienced the infuriating feeling of being stuck in disruptive habit loops, to feel like it’s impossible to make any lasting changes to our lives. It is easier to swim downstream than upstream.
Popularized suggestions for reaching goals come down to making clear and concise goals and starting with small steps. That’s reasonable, but something is missing here. Knowing the path is not enough to motivate us to walk it. Because no matter how intricate and well-structured the plan is, we still have to motivate ourselves to follow through with it.
How then do we motivate ourselves to walk the path of change?
The way I see it, we need to be grounded in a strong sense of purpose. We need to see past the fog and feast our eye on the “us” that awaits on the other side. That’s where we may gather the courage and willpower to convert intent into action and long-lasting change.
Easy To Think, Harder To Act
A way to describe an intention is with a flame of passion burning bright within. We are overcome with a strong motivating force, a voice telling us that the time of change is now. I will start exercising, eat well, get a job, and so on. This motivating force is so strong that we disregard that we have failed many times before. Because that was then and now is now.
But the thing is. This is a flame that needs to be constantly fanned, fueled by motivation. Otherwise, it will soon turn to ash. Because thinking that we want to do something is not enough. There is a difference between simply wanting to do something and being capable of mustering the courage and willpower to make the change happen.
It’s like the “self-help book” phenomenon. There are tons of people who read book after book with information that, when applied, may change their lives for the better, but the problem is that they don’t apply it. Instead, they just read another self-help book, and on it goes.
Anchor Yourself in a Strong Sense of Purpose
I see it this way. They are reading to feel productive, not because they are ready to make a change. We need discipline and motivation anchored to our sense of self to actually stick with and put in the necessary work to make the change a reality.
It is easy enough to want something and even intend to put in the work, but when time is of the essence, that’s a very different thing. That is when we are put to the test. And, if our intent is not sufficiently grounded in our purpose, then we are not likely to put in the effort needed to convert intent into action.
What then is the difference between being grounded in purpose and not? Well, purpose and meaning are always concerning something, and in this case, self-help-related advice caters to improving ourselves. And thus, we need a clear picture in our head of where we are and where we want to be.
We need a way to chase this shining ideal.
To be grounded in purpose is to recognize that to do “x” means acting in a meaningful way toward our purpose.
What has been key to me is to remind myself of the path and that I intend to do this for a reason. Thus creating a strong link between who I am and what I want to become and how doing what I intend may lead me towards that goal.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
The Allure of Novelty
We do things that bring us joy. Because if it brings great happiness, should it perhaps be connected to our purpose? Yeah, that sounds reasonable. But that which brings joy through novelty does not last for long. To continue the flame analogy, the flame burns bright when it is first lit but soon diminishes if we do not feed it. You may go to the gym the first weeks of January, but sticking with it is harder. So once the novelty is passed, what is it that keeps you going?
In many cases, nothing keeps us going. We had the intention and even put in the effort to perform the necessary actions, yet we failed. And what follows you should be well familiar with—a period of self-loathing.
How then does one achieve long-lasting change? Again I believe it is key to remind ourselves where we want to be and slowly and steadily progress toward that ideal. It is important to get grounded in a purpose-driven way of life — a lens through which all we do is interconnected through our “why.”
There are many obstacles in the way of converting intent into actions and long-term change. But, essentially, the answer to overcoming these hurdles seems to come back to the same key concept — a strong sense of purpose. So how do we get past the first hurdle of acting out our intentions? First, we gather motivation to act from realizing that performing x action will get us closer to our ideal selves. Thus we are interconnected through our “why.”
As regards the hurdle of making long-lasting changes to our lives, the answer is similar. The allure of novelty can only get us so far. Thus, we need to be motivated to gather the necessary willpower to make that change, the willpower we can get by considering how our actions lead us to who we want to be.
Anchor yourself in a strong sense of purpose, and you will find that intentions will become actions and, in turn, long-lasting changes in your life.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this piece was inspiring! Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments (: