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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« How to Experience Motivation Calm That Will Move You Forward | What Are Today's Interesting Finds? - v24 »

How to Make Motivation Effortless by Simplifying Your Big Goals

The other morning I was walking along one of my favorite meandering paths next to the Hudson River. It was a warm summer day. Since it wasn’t yet a scorcher, people were jogging, conversing, sitting, bicycling, and fishing. Several folks were walking their dogs. I noticed a man at the river’s edge playing fetch with his four-legged friend. I stopped to watch as the pup hyper-focused on the stick, waiting for his person to throw it into the water.

In anticipation of the branch being released, the pooch’s high motivation was clearly visible as he dove enthusiastically into the water to retrieve it. Over and over the dog waited, focused, swam, and fetched. I’m not sure who was having more fun- the dog, his person, or me. 

With a big smile, I finally pulled myself away and continued my walk. Here’s the thing, though. At that moment, my mind made a connection about what I just saw. It occurred to me that motivation becomes almost effortless when the goal is clear. And the more straightforward and better defined the goal is, the easier it is for motivation to flow. 

Let’s look at the stick-fetching example. The pup had one clear goal- retrieve the stick. Nothing else mattered. Birds, fish, or other passersby didn’t distract him. His mission was to return the stick to his friend- over and over again. The pups’ motivation flowed freely with his singular focus to get the stick!

Has your motivation ever been compromised? Has this made it challenging for you to activate? This can happen for many reasons, which include:


  • Having too many goals
  • Having a lack of clarity around your purpose
  • Being overwhelmed by too many steps
  • Being unsure of where to begin
  • Being unclear about what to do next
  • Lacking information needed to continue
  • Feeling conflicted with competing priorities
  • Being exhausted
  • Lacking confidence


The next time you’re struggling with getting motivated, think about the dog-fetching story. How can you simplify your goal, and reduce it to that one thing? After you distill the goal, your motivation will quickly rise from within and propel you forward. So whether you are trying to get organized, planning your next vacation, or preparing to host a big event, think small. Think simply. Think about breaking the big thing into a tiny, more manageable goal. Watch what happens.

What helps you unleash your motivation? What resonates with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I invite you to join the conversation.





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Reader Comments (15)

Yes, this makes perfect sense to me! Clear, concrete, well-defined steps feel approachable. Large, amorphous, hazy steps feel intimidating. I'm also struck by the sheer JOY of this little dog in pursuing his goal. We can experience excitement and joy when we feel we are moving in the right direction. We can experience a tremendous release of energy. Sometimes, I find motivation in my mood. All at once I will find myself saying, "Okay, long enough. Today I feel ready to take this one." I can't always call this up, so it only works for items that have no specific deadline, but that inner "readiness" is quite motivated when it shows up!

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- I love how you mentioned the word "joy." It's so true that when we're in a state of flow, and when motivation comes strongly from within, it can feel downright joyful as we pursue a clear goal. That's a beautiful thing. I also relate to what you said about capitalizing on "inner readiness" when the mood strikes. I'm well aware that motivation isn't always present and that sometimes more effort is required to activate. But when it exists and when we can fully conjure up its power, it can be magical!

July 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Love this analogy!

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHazel Thornton

I agree it's important to know exactly what you're working towards. I also agree with Hazel - this analogy is perfect! My problem with goals is that there are times when I have too many. I don't know which one to work on first. I tend to work on the easiest to complete and then take baby steps forward to work on the others.

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Hazel- Thanks so much. Lessons learned from the dog! :)

@Diane- I understand what you expressed about having multiple goals and the challenge of choosing where to focus. I'm sure there is no right or wrong way here, but it sounds like you found a process that works for you. Going for the easy completion first and then working in small steps on the more complex goals. In essence, that's what my takeaway was from watching the dog fetch his stick. When we distill our goal (including those larger goals) down to a clear, singular focus, we can "get there" with less angst and more success.

July 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great analogy!

I find that when I look at a project, I have to spend time on it, doing research to figure out the most effective way of doing the steps. But, then at a certain point when I feel I have a grasp of the steps that are forming in my mind, I then stop. Take my mind off it for a day or so, then revisit the plan. Stepping outside of the process and looking at it again as an outsider gives a clearer view of what to do. I compare it climbing up a mountain and observing the valley (process steps). You can get a better perspective when you are farther away from the steps.

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Sabrina- I like your idea of letting things simmer for before making the deep dive forward and allowing ourselves some percolation time. These are essential aspects of the goal-reaching process. As you described, giving some space for not-thinking about a project lets us return to it with a different, fresh perspective, and the motivation needed to move ahead.

July 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I don't know if it was intentional but I had to laugh at the phrase "unleash your motivation" when you'd been talking about a dog. :) I've faced all of those challenges at one time or another, so next time I'll remember the dog!

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Janet- That's so funny! My word choice, "unleash," was unintentional. The subject must have influenced my choice, and I inadvertently used that word. I'm glad it made you laugh. Happy to know that conjuring up the dog-fetching incident will help you going forward. That's terrific!

July 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

As usual, I enjoy what you have to say. It is a poweful analogy. "Focus on the stick" as mantra.

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

I agree with you and also think a great motivator is when the goal is self-defined. If you are working towards your own goal that you created and not one that someone else created. When my kids were young I'd get them to create their own goals and they'd be much more focused than if I told them what their goal should be.

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Schiesl

Love this post Linda!

I love your analogy too. I'm always amazed how you find connections to your many life experiences, and always so 'right-on."

The lack of motivation can cause a person to feel stuck,or even trapped or frustrated. I know for myself, it's usually the heavy distractions from too many demands,which create conflicting priorities. However, your example is amazingly profound because when clarity is defined it also bring clarity to one's priorities, which in it'self is motivating (liberating). That would have been one unhappy, whimpering puppy had he not kept his 'eye on the prize.'

Thanks so much for sharing your insights Linda!

July 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Delson, CPO-CD

@Janet S.- You bring up such an important point about setting your own goals. We take ownership of them when we are in charge of our pursuits. What a great gift you taught your kids when they were growing up. I recall vividly how my parents helped us think about immediate, short-term, and long-term goals. We used to do that as a family and helped each person talk through and get guidance and encouragement about our goals.

July 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sheila- Thank you so much. I appreciate your kind words. Lack of motivation can cause many challenges, as you mentioned. That puppy brings the idea home of clarifying your goal to the simpliest way. The clearer it is, the easier it will be to know what to do. You build from one success to the next. I appreciate you stopping by to join us. It's wonderful to "hear" your voice.

July 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Nacho- Thanks so much. Great idea for a mantra! Love it.

July 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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