If you want to “create happy” in your life, you will want to figure out how to capture and harness your creative motivation. What exactly does that mean? It means finding what motivates you and applying that motivation to your creative efforts. After all, it’s not really enough to just feel motivated if you don’t follow it up with taking action. You need ways to not only capture your creative motivation, but to harness it.
For some people, getting and staying motivated is fairly easy, but for others, it’s more of a struggle. As I’ve learned more about what it means to live a fiercely creative life and unleash your inner dragon, I’ve realized just how big of a difference knowing how to access your motivation can make.
In that spirit, here are 4 ways to capture and harness your creative motivation.
Know what you love
Deliberately identifying what you love and are passionate about is a great way to capture what motivates you. When you know what you love, why you love it becomes easier to determine. And with that “why,” you can find the motivation to create what you need and want to create.
What is it that you’re really passionate about? Which topics could you discuss for hours on end? What ideas make you want to create?
If you’re struggling to answer these questions, start simpler. Make a list of things you enjoy doing—even simple hobbies like baking, reading, or watching movies. Then, try to determine what it is about those hobbies that you love. Observe yourself over time and look for patterns and commonalities. Notice the things that make you feel happy and inspired.
Harness this motivation by identifying your passions and keeping them foremost in your mind. To help you do this, try:
- Choosing a single word that sums up your purpose and motivation (e.g. inspire, teach, lead, beautify, contribute, etc.).
- Creating a “purpose statement” that helps you remember what you really care about. Repeat your purpose statement to yourself every time you sit down to work.
- Organizing a vision board to bring your purpose and passion to life. Try to capture the essence of why you do what you do.
- Finding a few, already-existing works (poems, songs, paintings, etc.) that speak to you and remind you of your passion. Revisit them regularly.
It’s not easy to feel motivated when you feel like a slave to your work—or to anything else, for that matter. In fact, feeling out of control can contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression, both of which are also linked to low motivation. (One study showed that a low sense of control was tied to greater psychological distress in new parents, suggesting that feeling “in control” is tied to greater mental stability.)
Ultimately, this is good news, especially because of this simple fact: you are more powerful than you think. When it really comes down to it, you are in control of your life. You can choose what to think, how to respond to situations, who you associate with, and yes—how much you do creative work and what that creative work is. You have the power here.
Real quick, I want to make it clear that just because you’re in control doesn’t mean that everything is easy. It can be difficult, both to claim control (especially if you’re dealing with mental illness or other extenuating factors) and to be in control (like when you have to make difficult decisions or work through significant obstacles).
But even though it can be hard, the bottom line is this: what you create is within your control. If you want to make it happen, you can. That is an empowering thought that, in my experience, helps creatives feel more motivated to step up and do the work.
How can you harness the motivation you find from reclaiming control?
Reclaim your day.
Manage your schedule and turn it into something that works for you. Deliberately schedule your creative work into your day. Make sure you’re realistic about your daily expectations. Give yourself time for adequate sleep, regular meals, and exercise. There’s no “right” schedule for everyone. Take control over your schedule and make your time work for you.
Reclaim your method.
Similarly, there’s no “right” way to get creative work done. If you’re feeling stuck use the control you have to try something new. Don’t feel like you have to stick with a process or routine just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Branch out, try something new, and find methods that help you get your creative work done.
Reclaim your self-confidence.
Believing in yourself is important when it comes to creative work. When you believe in yourself, you’re more likely to dream big, take risks, and strive for achievement. Reclaim your self-confidence by recognizing your talents, acknowledging your successes, and rewarding your efforts.
Identify the enemy
Creative burnout is a real problem—and a big one. When you’re struggling with creative burnout, you’re less inspired, less willing to work, and yes, less motivated. It’s going to hold you back from “creating happy” in your life.
Identifying what it is that’s causing your burnout—i.e. identifying your enemy—can help you recapture the motivation you probably lost while feeling burned out.
What is it that’s holding you back or burning you out? The answer could be something like:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Lack of support
- Loss of interest
- Low self-confidence
- Feeling out of control
These common causes of burnout can leave you feeling unmotivated, and can bring on other signs of burnout, like fatigue, indecisiveness, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, muscle tension, and even more frequent illness.
The good news is that identifying and naming your enemy can go a long way toward helping you face that enemy, so that you can overcome it. Even the simple act of figuring out what’s holding you down can help you feel more motivated to work through it.
Once you’ve done that, what can you do to harness that motivation and use it to act?
Do your research.
Gather as much information as possible about why that particular thing is working against you. Write your thoughts down (anything and everything that comes to mind) and try to nail down the big ways that your enemy is holding you back. If applicable, research the topic to find out what you can do to overcome it. (For example, if tiredness is part of your problem, research ways to get better sleep.)
Do the opposite.
Determine to do the opposite. Is slow self-confidence burning you out? Decide to act extra confident, just for a day. See how it changes your attitude and behavior. How does it make you feel at the end of the day?
Picture the future
What is going to happen if you continue down the road you’re currently on? Conversely, what would happen if you could change things and overcome your “enemies?” Which scenario is closer to where you want to be?
Find the fun
Creative work can be (and should be) enjoyable. The very essence of creation is doing something that you enjoy doing, that leaves you feeling fulfilled and happy.
Unfortunately, it’s really easy to lose sight of that as we get wrapped up in the day-to-day aspects of creating, many of which aren’t nearly as glamorous as we wish they were.
What are you focusing on when it’s time to create? The money you need to make? The client you need to keep happy? Maybe you’re trying to live up to a past success, or outshine a competitor. In any case, any motive that pulls you out of the enjoyment of your work is going to diminish your motivation.
One of the ways to capture and harness that creative motivation is by rediscovering the fun aspects of your creative work. Remember that it’s something you actually enjoy. Identify when you’re having fun and when you feel like it’s become “work” again. (Some of the things we’ve talked about previously might help, like working through creative burnout or specifying what it is you love about creating.) This can help motivate you to do what you can to keep that “fun” feeling around all the time.
Harness that motivation by trying the following:
Get into flow
Flow is a state of creativity that’s productive, consuming, and enjoyable. If you can get into flow while creating, it will feel more like fun and less like work. Getting into flow isn’t always simple, but there are some things you can do to invite flow.
Create something else (just for the fun of it)
If you’ve realized that losing sight of the fun has been a problem for you, let go of your other motivations and create something just for the fun of it. Create something that’s not for sale, but for yourself. Don’t worry about imperfections, how your work will be received, or whether or not it meets the standard other people have come to expect of you. Just let go of your expectations and create, for fun.
If you’re trying to make creative work fun, you can always turn it into a game. How much work can you get done in a set amount of time? How many different ways can you try to approach a particular problem? Setting goals and challenging yourself to meet them is one way to turn your creative work into a game. (Make sure there are prizes!)
Looking for games to boost your creativity? This post has you covered.
Finding your creative motivation can be frustrating. Creating matters to you, but let’s face it: it’s hard. Your motivation is what’s going to keep you going when things get tough. Try these 4 ways to capture and harness your creative motivation, and keep using them as you work to “create happy” in your life.
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