8 Shortcuts to Desire and Motivation

August 14th, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

Many people ask me how to develop a better connection to their desires, passions, and major life interests. I know that a lot of people feel bored, checked out, and unclear about what goals to pursue. Let me share some of my favorite shortcuts to help you figure out what drives you.

1. Embrace the New

My #1 recommendation is to embrace the new. Do anything and everything if it’s new to you. The benefit is that you’ll give your brain a lot of experiences to compare and contrast. This will help you evolve your tastes and refine your experiential palate.

I love new experiences and will often say yes to a new invitation even if I don’t expect to like it that much. If it seems new enough, then even if I don’t like it, it may still help me refine my tastes in some fashion.

Earlier this summer I took an orgasmic meditation class and did a couple of OM sessions with two different women. It was new to me, so I figured, why not try it? I found it overly rigid and boring though. However, trying it gave me more clarity about what I like and why I like it. The experience helped me see that I prefer more spontaneous and dynamic ways of connecting.

Clarity comes from contrast, so if you want more clarity, invite more contrast by embracing and accepting new experiences. This is especially crucial for people in their teens and 20s. Put the word out to your social circle that you’re open to trying things you’ve never done before, and ask for some invites. Say yes to some of those invitations.

Your brain learns from experience. If you lack experience, then how can your brain know its most important preferences? Of course it cannot — you need to train it more. How are you supposed to discover your favorite foods if you do the equivalent of eating the same food every day?

2. Turn Towards Fear

Irrational fear often blocks people from living interesting lives. See if you can identify a major fear that’s irrational, meaning that you wouldn’t be in any real danger if you acted in spite of that fear. Then make a serious commitment to face that head-on until you’ve mastered it, even if it takes 10 years.

Public speaking was a biggie for me. I made a point of seriously tackling that starting around 2004. It’s been wonderful to transform such an irrational and pointless fear into a confident skill that opens many doors. I also did a lot of relationship and sexuality exploration in the past several years to expand my comfort zone and refine my social interests more.

Keep deliberately throwing yourself into situations that feel uncomfortable to you, and you’ll see your comfort zone expand. As the fear diminishes, you’ll feel much freer than you did before. You’ll have more options available to you. You won’t have to decline something just because you’re afraid of it.

Another benefit of facing your fear is that you’ll attract other people who are doing the same. You’ll make better, stronger, more interesting friends. People who avoid their fears are usually very boring to socialize with — they don’t make very good friends because they stay inside their comfort zones. Such people aren’t very stimulating, and they won’t help you grow much. So if you allow yourself to become that kind of lifeless person, the more interesting people will tend to shun you because you offer them little or no stimulation and growth. Begin facing your fears, and the opposite will happen.

Decide to master your irrational fears instead of letting them control you. This especially includes the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. Failure and rejection are normal parts of life; if you try to avoid them, you’ll also avoid living an interesting life.

3. Use Total Immersion Liberally

Many people just dabble in their interests, but the most juicy parts of life usually won’t reveal themselves unless you go well beyond the surface level.

Instead of trying to balance your life on a daily basis — which can lead to a very boring and superficial existence — allow yourself to fully obsess over your interests now and then.

To use a poker analogy, stop calling so much. Either raise or fold. Pursue an interest like it’s the only thing that matters in life, or drop it and ignore it until it does spark enough interest. Get out of that gray zone in the middle.

The people I know who tend to be the most motivated seem to completely throw themselves into whatever interests them. They live in a world of 0% or 100%, not 50%. Life is more binary for them; it’s full of yeses and nos and very few maybes.

When was the last time you pursued one singular interest intensively for a full day or more, to the exclusion of virtually everything else but the essentials? Life should be filled with days like that — a single focus carrying you through from dawn till dusk.

I even do this with small things, in ways that other people might find ridiculous, but I find this all-out immersion so much more motivating than dabbling or doing a half-assed job. For instance, I’ll sometimes take a full day or two to conduct exhaustive online research for a major purchase till I feel that I’m practically an expert on it.

4. Drop Pointless Obligations

If you want the time and energy to pursue what does interest you, then say no to all the things that don’t interest you enough to pursue them at 100% capacity. Drop that pointless clutter from your life for good, and never look back.

For most of my life, whenever the holidays would come up, I used to dread buying gifts for other people. I’d usually postpone it till Dec 23rd or 24th. I was never much good at it, and I only did it to please other people. I could see that this was never going to be a 100% interest. So some years ago, I told everyone I was dropping this annual ritual. People accepted this about me — it wasn’t such a big deal at all. Now I feel so relieved every time the holidays come up, and I enjoy that time of year so much more. All the stress is gone. If I want to buy someone a gift, then I’ll do it because I really want to, not because I feel obligated to honor some stale tradition. Freedom is wonderful!

You probably have some pointless obligations in your life as well. So dump them. Such obligations only waste your mental energy and prevent you from spending more time on genuine interests.

Otherwise if you’re so committed to being a people-pleaser, then I’d love to have you as my personal slave. If you refuse, I’ll be very displeased with you.

People will often squawk at you if you fail to satisfy their expectations. Let them squawk and whine, and then roll your eyes at them. It will pass. Eventually they’ll update their expectations to match your behavior. Don’t feel obligated to adapt your behavior to satisfy other people’s tedious expectations. Once enough people get to know you, you’ll realize that this is impossible anyway.

5. Be a Fast Quitter

When you realize that a path isn’t right for you, don’t be clingy with it. Let it go and move on to something else.

Definitely try new things, but if you’re convinced there are no diamonds in the mine, then quit right away, even if you have nothing else to pursue in its place. Let the empty space be there for a while, so it doesn’t serve to clutter your life.

There are so many interesting things to try in life that if you don’t learn to be a fast quitter, you’re going to get bogged down in long, drawn-out obligations that run you in circles. Cut your losses early and cheaply.

You’re going to make mistakes. You’ll buy the wrong item, date the wrong person, eat the wrong food, and accept the wrong job. That’s part of life. When you experience the wrongness, take corrective action quickly. Don’t play mind games with yourself by pretending you like something that just bores or frustrates you.

6. Take Real Vacations

Give yourself regular resets by taking vacations. Completely disconnect from your old routine. Let your mind wander in different directions. Give yourself input that you aren’t used to.

A real vacation is at least a week, ideally 10 days minimum. It usually takes a few days to fully center yourself in a new location and to stop dwelling on unfinished items you left behind.

On Tuesday night I returned from a two-week trip to Toronto. I wrote a blog post and a newsletter early in the trip, but otherwise it was purely a vacation. My girlfriend and I spent a day at the Royal Ontario Museum (the Pompeii exhibit was delightful), went boating with friends on Lake Ontario around the Toronto islands, saw three plays and four movies, hosted a games night, explored a fort from the War of 1812, and attended an all-day vegan food festival.

When I got back, I felt super motivated to throw myself into projects. It’s hard not to keep working even after putting in a 12-hour day now. My motivation for action is surging.

Near the end of a long enough vacation, you’ll start feeling impatient and eager to get back to something productive. Part of you wants to work. The vacation provides time for this pressure to build. Then when you return, it can act like a coiled spring and send you into super-high motivation for action.

But if you never take extended breaks, you’ll eventually find yourself wallowing in the gray zone of low motivation. Very little will seem interesting to you. That’s when you know it’s time to invite some fresh stimulation.

What if budget is a concern? That’s never a real barrier unless you insist on making it one. Some of the most interesting travelers I’ve met have been traveling while almost completely broke, usually by couchsurfing and sharing rides with people… or traveling by bike or on foot. They realized that financial lack was just a feeble excuse, and that running out of money is no big deal anyway. None of them have starved to death. In fact, some had funny stories of sleeping in parks and such, which actually made them much more interesting to be around — a lot more interesting than those who hide behind their finances to avoid stretching themselves.

7. Switch Modes

If you’re feeling uncertain in one part of your life, you can shift your focus to a different part of your life where you have more clarity. Use full immersion in the clearer area, and let the uncertain area slide for a while.

For instance, if you’re confused about your career or financial possibilities, try focusing on something completely different such as your health, especially if you have more obvious paths to improvement there.

I do this mode shifting many times each year, and it does wonders for me. When I’m uncertain about my social life, I immerse myself in my business. When I’m uncertain about my business, I immerse myself in health and lifestyle explorations. This keeps me from feeling stuck for too long.

Forcing yourself to move forward when clarity is lacking can be very unproductive. But you may be able to make rapid progress by shifting your focus to another area, especially towards something you’ve been avoiding, like decluttering and organizing your home, dealing with your relationship issues, or getting all of your past tax filings up to date. What often happens is that this clarity and momentum eventually spills over into the previously blocked area, and you turn back to that area when the timing is finally right.

Work and school don’t have to be the central focus of your life. It can be wonderful to spend a month or longer delving into a different aspect of life with little or no attention paid to work.

I think it’s helpful to adopt a broader definition of productivity. You can be productive by creating value for yourself or for others. This doesn’t have to happen through traditional work and business though.

One thing I really love about my lifestyle is that I have the freedom to spend a significant amount of time each year — even most of any given year, if I so desire — focusing on non-work pursuits. I also picked a career path that allows me to transform many otherwise personal pursuits into articles and lessons that provide value for others. I’ll often go for weeks or even months without doing much income-generating work at all. It’s enough for me to just maintain my business sometimes, giving it enough attention to keep it going, while I immerse myself in some other project or pursuit.

The urge to produce output for others as well as the desire to earn money can be very strong, but it’s important to honor those times when you’d be better served by focusing on other aspects of your life, like your health, your relationships, or new explorations. This is especially important when you feel blocked or stuck in some other area.

8. Stop Making a Big Deal Out of Uncertainty

My final tip is basic patience. I get a lot of emails from people in their 20s who seem to be spazzing out about their uncertainty. They’re troubled that they don’t know what to do with their lives yet, as if this is something they should know with total clarity at that age.

Personally I think it’s ridiculous to expect people in their 20s to have high clarity about what they’d like to be doing with their lives. It’s usually the parents or peers that put this kind of pressure on younger people to decide, to decide now, and to somehow make the right decision.

You should know that I also get emails from people in their 30s and 40s who felt pushed into premature clarity, and they’re suffering for it. They end up stuck in a boring job with a boring social life and little drive and motivation to change. If they’re lucky, they’ll eventually snap out of it and go explore for a while.

How many more options do you have available today that your parents or grandparents didn’t have when they were your age? How many career and lifestyle possibilities didn’t even exist for them at that age? Did they have the ability to create an online business or live as a digital nomad? Their choices were much simpler since they had fewer career options, fewer relationship options, less access to information, less mobility, and less empowering technology. So it makes perfect sense that they might be completely out of touch with the confusion of today’s 20-somethings, who are growing up in a completely different world of endless possibilities and no easy way of filtering through them all. Consequently, you can’t apply the same rules your parents and grandparents did and expect them to work for you. Their world is gone.

I think your 20s should be all about exploration and experimentation. It’s a great time to expand and extend yourself in many different directions. Try lots and lots of new things. Start facing your biggest fears. Invest heavily in self-development. Keep going from one magnificent obsession to another. Don’t force yourself to commit prematurely.

I think it’s perfectly fine to be uncertain. I’m 44, and I still go through periods of uncertainty about what to do or experience next. Even when I do feel certain, I’m sometimes wrong about it. The difference is that I don’t beat myself up about my confused periods, and I don’t let other people beat me up either. I embrace the uncertainty as a time to explore and stretch myself.

If people try to push you for premature convergence on decisions about which you’re uncertain, they may get frustrated with you. Let them get frustrated, but don’t make their frustration your own. Embrace and enjoy your freedom to explore. There is no deadline.

If I had my 20s to do all over again, I’d spend that decade doing tons of exploration. I’d travel extensively. I’d explore a variety of relationship styles and partners. I’d immerse myself in learning skill after skill. I’d try lots of different ways of generating income to see what I liked best. I’d know that I could make bigger bets later in life on the interests that felt more commitment-worthy.

Heck… why not spend our whole lives that way? Why should we ever need to force premature certainty? Is it really under our control to do so anyway?

When all else fails, why not simply embrace and accept uncertainty? Other people may have an issue with that, but why should you? How many times in history have people been certain about something utterly wrong, provably false, or deeply unethical? How many lives could have been spared and mistakes avoided if someone simply allowed their mental locking mechanism to float a while longer?

Being uncertain isn’t a problem, unless you turn it into one. The most interesting movies are the ones where you have no idea what will happen next. Perhaps the most interesting lives are often like that too.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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Being an Achiever

August 6th, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

You become an achiever by achieving your goals. If you achieve your goals, you’re an achiever. If you don’t achieve your goals, you’re not an achiever.

This is a simple, binary way to think about achievement. To achieve means to reach, attain, or accomplish. What you choose to reach, attain, or accomplish is up to you.

The difference between an achiever and a non-achiever is largely a matter of attention. Non-achievers give their goals little attention, if they bother to set goals at all. Achievers give their goals sufficient attention so as to reach, attain, or accomplish those goals.

Non-achievers reach, attain, and accomplish something other than their goals. Quite often they will reach, attain, and accomplish someone else’s goals, without consciously making those goals their own.

To be an achiever, you must give your goals sufficient attention to reach, attain, or accomplish them. This means you must withdraw much of your attention from activities that are not directly leading to the accomplishment of your goals.

In a given week, where is your attention going? If you aren’t habitually obsessing over your goals, then what are you obsessing over instead?

What do you normally put ahead of your goals?

Do you manage to watch some TV or movies?

Do you keep up with email, social media, and text messages?

Do you attend to the social obligations that your family, friends, and co-workers expect from you?

What exactly are you reaching, attaining, or accomplishing in a typical week? Are you making progress on your goals by giving them many hours of attention, or are you putting your attention elsewhere?

Achievers accept that in order to achieve their goals, they must withdraw attention from non-goal activities. Achievers also accept that these competing interests may resist being put on the back burner. The cable company may try to talk you out of canceling. Starbucks may send you a reminder email if you don’t show up for too long. Your mother may nag you about something trivial. Achievers learn to decline these invitations for their attention by default. They keep putting their attention back upon their goals.

You must especially be on guard for new invitations and opportunities that come up while you’re working on your goals. These hidden distractions can easily sidetrack you. If an opportunity aligns solidly with your goals, wonderful… take full advantage of it. But if it seems off-course with respect to your current goals, then stick to your path, and say no to the diversion. Generally speaking, it’s wise to be less opportunistic, so you can be more of a conscious creator. You’ll often make faster progress by creating your own opportunities instead of haphazardly chasing the random opportunities that others bring you.

The Scarcity of Attention

Attention is a limited resource. The ability to consciously direct your attention with good energy and focus is even scarcer than the time you have available each day.

In any given week, there may be many interests competing for your attention: friends, family, co-workers, random strangers, corporations, organizations, government agencies, media, and more. And these days they have many different ways to reach you.

Internally you have some competition as well: your physiological needs, your emotional needs, your cravings, your habitual behaviors, etc. You need to eat, sleep, eliminate waste, bathe, and so on. These activities require some attention too.

Somewhere among those competing interests is another voice seeking your attention. This is your goal-oriented nature, your greater intelligence, your desire to live a life rich in meaning and purpose. This part of you craves achievement, and it won’t be satisfied by anything less. It wants you to set your own goals and to reach, attain, and accomplish them.

How much of your attention are you giving to your achievement-oriented self?

If you starve this part of yourself for attention, it will punish you with low motivation, low self-worth, and a general scarcity of resources. But if you give it the attention it craves, you’ll be rewarded with high energy, drive, passion, abundance, and a sense of purpose and contribution.

Directing Your Attention

Fortunately you have the power to consciously direct your attention. You can let your attention float around aimlessly. You can focus your attention on something other than your goals, such as the goals other people have for you. Or you can focus your attention on your own goals.

To really move your life forward requires a major commitment of attention. If you want to improve your finances, you must put your attention on creating value for people, sharing that value, and intelligently monetizing that value. If you want to positively transform your relationships, then give that part of your life some intense and prolonged attention.

Unfortunately we have the tendency to remove attention from those areas of our lives that aren’t doing so well. In the short term, it’s wise to shift focus when we feel overwhelmed because temporary diversions can help relieve stress. But for deeper transformation to occur, we need to put lots of attention squarely on those areas that scream for improvement.

Setting goals requires focused attention. Planning out the action steps to achieve our goals requires even more attention. Executing those action steps takes more attention still. Achievers make such activities a priority in their lives. Non-achievers don’t.

As you get older, keep raising your standards for what deserves your attention. Keep deleting and declining unnecessary fluff and obligations that might otherwise distract you from your magnificent goals. This will free up more attention to focus on your goals.

Have you noticed that when you put your full attention on a goal and obsess about it, you can really move it forward quickly, and you do eventually achieve it? But when you let your attention become diluted by too many competing interests, then progress on your goal slows to a crawl, and you eventually lose your connection to the goal altogether. Goals require significant and prolonged nurturing until they’re achieved; otherwise they die.

Say No to Almost Everything

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. – Warren Buffet

What does it mean to say no to almost everything?

For me this means being able to work full-time on my goals, without letting anything get in the way. It means keeping my schedule free of distracting entanglements. It means that even when I work on goals that seem to be put on my plate by someone else, I must either make those goals my own (and say yes to them), or I must reject them and not give them any attention. If I cannot make a goal my own in some way, it doesn’t deserve my attention.

Even a goal like doing your taxes, you can make your own. You can commit to keeping your finances up to date and in good order. You can choose to pay the tax contribution for whatever reasons appeal to you. But if you can’t make a goal your own, and you try to work on it anyway, then you’re fighting yourself, and your progress will be stunted and inconsistent, which is an enormous waste of precious attention.

Don’t dwell in the land of half-commitments. Put your full attention on your own goals, including goals you’ve made your own. If you have a job, then either make the commitment to do your very best at that job, or vacate the position and let someone else do it better.

Put Your Goals First

Many achievers have jobs. Many achievers have families. Many achievers have competing commitments of various kinds. But achievers don’t use their job, kids, and other commitments as excuses for not giving sufficient attention to their goals. For everyone who uses these to excuse their inability to set and achieve goals, there’s a real achiever who started from a more challenging position and used those same elements to help motivate them to achieve their goals. Where non-achievers see excuses, achievers find drive.

A good way to put your goals first is to set high-quality, holistic goals to begin with. Don’t squander your attention on shallow pursuits like making money for its own sake. Set goals that will help you grow, build your skills, create value for others, and do some good in the world. Ask yourself: Does the goal seem meaningful and intelligent when you imagine yourself 20 years past its achievement?

Deliberately put your attention on your goals. When you catch yourself standing in line, dwell upon your goals. Visualize yourself taking the action steps. Make this your default behavior instead of pulling out your phone to attend to something trivial.

Carefully plan out the action steps to achieve your goals. If you received my latest newsletter, you’ll find an extensive how-to article about planning the achievement of your goals.

Clear time to work on your goals, and make this time sacred and inviolable. If you can only clear a small slice out of each week to work on your goals, then consider setting a goal to reach the point where you have the freedom to devote as many hours to your goals as your energy allows. What specific goals would you need to set and achieve to make that a reality? Imagine being able to devote most of your time every week to working on your most important goals, without anything getting in the way. Many people live this way, and they love it. Why not you?

The Goal of Freedom

One of my past goals was to remove financial scarcity as a potential source of distraction, so I could spend most of my time each week working on my goals, whether they were income-generating or not. I want to center my life around personal growth pursuits and share what I learn as a legacy for others. I devoted a significant amount of attention to that goal over a period of years until it was achieved, and after that I could continue to maintain such a lifestyle with relative ease. I know that some people think it’s unusual to have the freedom to immerse oneself in setting and achieving goals that may have nothing to do with making money or having a job, like traveling around Europe for a month or going vegan or exploring open relationships, but this kind of freedom is important enough to me that I made achieving this goal my top priority for years, sticking with it until it was achieved. It was challenging but definitely worthwhile.

I know many people who’ve achieved similar goals. Generally speaking, they tend to be the happiest people I know. Instead of taking orders from someone else as their daily routine, they put their attention on their goals, desires, and interests. They make it a priority to maintain this freedom. They don’t use a job, kids, or the lack of money as excuses — just the opposite in fact. From these people I commonly hear stories of setbacks recalled with laughter and good cheer, not with fear or regret… like the time a couple of friends had to sleep in a park because they had no money for a place to stay. What non-achievers fear as roadblocks are merely stepping stones (and entertaining future stories!) for achievers.

If lifestyle freedom is important to you, then make that your primary aim. Put the attainment of this goal first in your life. Working to achieve this goal must become more important to you than keeping up with social media, pleasing your parents, watching your favorite TV shows, and other distractions. If anything else is truly getting in the way, then either drop it from your life, or find a way to turn it into an advantage that increases your drive and motivation.

It’s easy for me to tell the difference between people who are committed to achieving lifestyle freedom vs. those who aren’t committed. The ones who are committed are obsessed with the goal; they think of little else. I can’t get them to shut up about it! They’re constantly trying to figure out how to make it a reality. They work hard at it. They stumble and keep right on going. Usually the goal takes longer than they’d like. They often want it to take less than a year. It usually takes 2-5 years to reach the point of financial sustainability. The achievers make it obvious that they’ll get there no matter how long it takes. For them the goal is mandatory, not optional.

The non-achievers talk about the goal as a distant fantasy. It’s a wish, a dream, a possibility… something that would be nice to have if and when the planets align properly. Their action plan consists mainly of reading books about the Law of Attraction and listening to Abraham-Hicks recordings. They treat the goal as a casual desire but not a serious commitment. They disrespect the tremendous force of will that’s required to achieve it. They virtually never get there.

If the goal of lifestyle freedom matters to you, then drop, cut, and burn whatever distracts you from it. Put your attention squarely on that goal, and obsess about it until you achieve it. If you need more time, cancel cable TV, close your social media accounts, and keep your phone powered off during daylight hours. Take breaks as you need them, but keep putting your attention back on this goal. If you do that, it’s a safe bet that you’ll achieve it.

You’ll set yourself on the path to achieving lifestyle freedom when you stop putting other distractions ahead of that commitment.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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