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By Natasha Raymond

As freelance artists in a competitive industry, keeping motivated can sometimes feel as challenging as finding work. But at Spotlight’s recent Open House, FEU Training’s Muriel McClymont shared some tips and techniques to help identify your goals and understand how to effectively motivate yourself towards achieving them. 

Before you can motivate yourself, you need to have a goal (or set of goals) that you want to achieve. Your goal might be something big that is likely to take you a considerable amount of time to achieve or something small that you can do in the short-term. Either way, your goal should be defined as what you want, rather than what you don’t want.

With your goal in mind, Muriel encourages you to ask yourself, ‘What will achieving this do for me?’ For example, your goal might be to become a successful writer, and achieving this would mean people value what you say.

Once you have your answer, ask the question again, replacing your goal with your answer. What will having people value what you say do for you? Ask the question again with your next answer, and the answer after that, and keep doing this until the purpose of your goal becomes clear.  

Prioritising becomes a lot easier once you’re aware of what’s actually important to you. A lot of our anxiety can come from time-related stress, so finding a way to lessen your workload will make you feel more relaxed about the tasks you have left to do.

To help you prioritise tasks, categorise them as urgent, non-urgent, important and non-important or a combination of these, e.g. a task can be important but non-urgent. If you’re a visual person, you could set up a diagram and place each task under the appropriate category.

Anything that is important and urgent needs to be done first, so prioritise accordingly. Then, schedule important and non-urgent tasks to ensure that you meet the deadlines. When tasks are non-important and non-urgent, consider whether you need to do them at all. If not, cross them off your list so you can focus your energy on the tasks that will have real impact on your progress.

If you find yourself procrastinating, e.g. perhaps you keep putting off starting a task that will help you reach a particular goal, you need to get to the bottom of why this is happening. You may have to dig deep to do this because reasons can be subconscious, e.g., it could be because you are frightened that you are not good enough to achieve your goal or, conversely, you might be concerned that, if you attain your goal, it will adversely affect your life in other ways, e.g. becoming a famous actor might mean spending less time with your family or living somewhere new.

But most of the time what we perceive as a problem might not even be problematic. It just feels like it is while it’s on our mind. In these cases, Muriel advises that we ‘haul the problem out into the sunlight and see it is a shadow worry.’ Talk it through with someone. Once you start discussing ways to overcome it, or debating how realistic your feared consequences actually are, then you should realise that the problem isn’t something you need to worry about. However, if you still think that achieving your goal is not worth the consequences, you may want to ditch this goal for something that meets more of your overall needs. 

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big when it comes to setting goals. However, understanding the limits of what you can influence and framing your goal in the right way can have a massive impact on whether you achieve it.

For example, setting yourself a goal like “I’m going to get this job” doesn’t take into account that, while you might be a brilliant candidate, there are many things that are out of your control which may prevent your success.  

It’s better to frame your goals so that the focus is on what you can do to influence the situation, e.g. “I’m going to prepare thoroughly for this audition to give myself the best chance of getting the part,” or “I’m going to do my best to get this job and whatever happens I’m going to learn from the process”. Then, even if you don’t get the exact result that you’re aiming for, you won’t feel so de-motivated because you did everything that you could and can now use this experience to move forward. Basically, you didn’t fail but are now one step closer to getting what you want.

When it comes to motivation, Muriel insists ‘There is no recipe. There is no one size fits all.’

When you perform tasks that you’re always motivated to do (such as exercising, cooking, etc.), unconscious motivating strategies take place in your head. Identifying the steps that make you want to perform these tasks can help you understand what it is that’s motivating you.

It might be that you think about a picture, sound or smell when you perform the task. You might imagine a song, or know what the consequences of completing it will be. Once you’ve given it enough thought, you should be able to describe what you think about when you’re motivated. For example, exercising might make you think of floating in a bubble of sunshine, or your favourite energetic song that makes you feel invincible.

You can then do the same for tasks that demotivate you. Not being motivated isn’t a passive state – something will be happening in your mind to make certain tasks demotivating for you. So when it comes to doing your taxes, you might feel like you’re chained to something heavy with walls closing in around you.

If you can apply what happens in your mind during motivating tasks to demotivating tasks, then, with practise, you should be able to change the way you feel about them and motivate yourself to do them. So, using the above examples, if you can imagine transforming that chain into a bubble of sunshine and envision that energetic song you love, you should be able to get the same sense of motivation that you get from exercising when you’re doing your taxes.

Thank you Muriel for a fantastic Open House session! If you’re an Equity member you can register at www.feutraining.org to gain access to free training courses and more!