Every meaningful project starts with a dream, a vision that fuels you to get on stage and do something.
However, some dreams wear-off too early, they lose their sex-appeal before you materialize them.
You probably know what it’s like when your enthusiasm goes belly up and you’re left with an unfinished sketch…
You’re not the only one, 90% of projects actually fail because the vision supporting them isn’t strong enough to last until finalization stage.
The good news is this period of discouragement is only a phase, and whatever you’re doing, if it’s meaningful, it can get a second life.
Below: some keys I collected on how to deal with inspiration bankruptcy and resuscitate your motivation.
Dreaming, growing…and dreaming.
First, you shouldn’t be sad: if your dream dried out half way through its achievement, it simply means it was obsolete.
There’s a sense of self-disappointment when you lose inspiration, I recommend not to give in to that melancholic groove.
Chances are since you started your project, you’ve changed so much that your initial vision doesn’t fit the person you’ve become. You’ve outgrown your dream. That’s what happens when you learn a lot working on a project: your vision grows along with your personality.
I had this experience 10 years ago, when I was still a Buddhist monk. At the time I wanted to go on a 3 years, meditation retreat. That was a powerful motivator to me, primarily because I thought meditation was the best way to accomplish myself. It also had a touch of that rough asceticism that sits well with a young guy that wants to prove something.
I kept it my main focus and I worked hard to learn Tibetan and study the Buddhist canons, but I also learned to try and apply key Buddhist ethics in my daily life.
5 years later I didn’t feel like going in retreat anymore. Instead, I was completely obsessed with meeting a genuine master and study with him. My drive to go to a retreat went completely down the drain and got replaced by a project that was much more fit for an hyperactive guy like me. Not a bad deal, if you consider what I really needed for my development.
Your dreams are the mere reflection of who you are, they keep evolving as you change. It’s part of personal growth, understanding that process gives a different meaning to a change in your motivation.
Now, how about a break?
If you lack inspiration, chances are you need to go easy on yourself, just for a bit.
How can you tell if it’s time to take a break?
When pleasure is gone.
If you don’t experience any excitement doing what you’re doing, it often means you lost inspiration and gradually replaced it with “dirty fuels” like willpower, competition, pride and fear.
Of course trying to be the best is motivating, fear of being a loser can also be a compelling reason to act. But these motives generate anxiety and neurosis, they also hurt most of your creativity.
I always prefer doing things with pleasure, I’m convinced that’s the best way to accomplish things.
So I invite you to just create some space, stopping whatever you were doing and make it your mission to take a break. It doesn’t matter if your schedule disagrees, make it a priority NOT to do anything.
Don’t be shy when you take some time off.
You think a month is what it takes to recover?
So be it.
Remember you were obviously not going anywhere being active, anyway…
If you can manage to put a “in construction” flag on your project, and interrupt everything to replenish your motivation, you’re in good shape to move on to step 3:
Enjoyment = second life
You’ve already accepted to take some time off.
Now, Are you ready to revamp your project completely?
To give your idea a second life, the process is simple:
1- strip it of everything you hated
2- keep what you enjoyed
3- move on.
Enjoyment is the best motivator, so I usually redefine my projects around it.
Let’s be honest: doing something out of a sheer sense of duty won’t get you anywhere, unless you’re caring for someone.
To start afresh, only two questions matter:
What did you like best in this project?
What made you want to get out of bed?
Whatever the answer is, go with it, even if it implies radical changes in your plans.
By applying those rules, you might end up with a totally different blueprint than what you started with.
Enjoyment is not mandatory, though: you’re free to remain faithful to the initial project, which generally leads to failure and frustration; or to leverage the understanding you gained through hard work and take your project to the next level.
If you’ve honestly tried to refresh your motivation, you probably should already be back on brand new tracks.
Here’s an extra tip that’ll help you have fun during this new phase by using how your brain works.
In general, the human brain will try its best to avoid pain and experience pleasure. You can leverage this tendency by helping your brain associate your project with enjoyment. Tony Robbins has made that technique popular under the name of NAC (Neuro Associative Conditioning).
Here’s an example of how you can apply NAC:
As a blogger, I spend lots of time writing. I made it an experience that I truly enjoy by associating writing with pleasure.
I do it in a very simple way:
- Any time I’m feeling good, I think about writing.
- When I’m sad, I look forward to writing, I make it my emotional shelter.
- If some inspiration starts flowing in my mind: I grab a pen and I jot it down.
On top of that, I arrange my writing environment so that I get constantly rewarded when I write:
- I keep candies around
- I play the music I love on the awesome headset my girlfriend gave me
- I write in my bed as much as possible, so my body likes that process as well
It naturally leads my mind to feel good about writing, and I do it spontaneously without a need for mantras and affirmations :)
You can apply that to anything you would like to accomplish: associate it with a reward, your mind will do it on its own, that’s the best shortcut to get things done.
Until you decide to refresh everything from scratch.
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