rebelling against low expectations

The Secret to Staying Motivated


Being motivated is awesome. It’s exciting. Things get accomplished. Progress is made. Life is beautiful.

The problem is, motivation doesn’t usually last.

Maybe you’re working towards some personal goal, like getting in better shape or developing a new habit.

Or maybe you’ve got a big project in the works, something that takes a lot of time and dedication to complete.

Or maybe you’re just dealing with daily activities like school and chores and spending time with God.

Whatever area it is, the odds are you struggle to stay motivated. One day you’ve got momentum and the next… you don’t.

This is a topic we spent a lot of time during Do Hard Things University. It was a big issue for my students. And to be totally honestly, it’s a big issue for me too.

How do we stay motivated?

How do we see things through to the end?

The first thing we have to recognize is that motivation comes and goes — and that’s okay.

We won’t always feel excited about doing hard things. That’s part of what makes them so hard.

But motivation is a good thing. We should try to stay motivated. And there are practical things we can do to increase our motivation.

The most productive people I know aren’t always excited about everything they do. They get discouraged and lose focus just like the rest of us.

And yet, they don’t stay off-track for long. They don’t let discouragement and a lack of motivation stop them.

Instead, they’ve learned to push through the pain by looking forward to the reward.

This is the secret to staying motivated.

If you can learn to do this your productivity will skyrocket, you will start finishing more of what you start, and you will find new reservoirs of motivation to carry you through hard tasks.

So what does this phrase mean? What does it mean to push through the pain by looking forward to the reward?

Well, the next time you find yourself discouraged about a project, or stalling on a personal goal, or just lacking motivation to do what you need to do…

Look to the reward. Look to the outcome. Revisit “why” you are doing what you are doing.

Ask yourself these questions:

“What’s at stake here? What good things will happen if I follow through and complete this task? And what bad things will happen if I don’t?”

For example, over the last few years I’ve been working on a book. This project has dealt with setback after setback — things totally outside of my control.

As a result, I’ve fallen off the horse time and time again.

With all the adversity, I struggled to find motivation — until I sat down with a sheet paper and wrote out WHY I needed to finish this book.

And there were all sorts of really good reasons… Reasons I’d totally lost sight of… Reasons I just didn’t think about on a day-to-day basis.

As I kept listing these reasons and focusing on them, I felt motivation rising within me.

That 20-minute exercise propelled me into three months of extraordinary productivity as a writer — and all because I reconnected with “why” I was writing my book.

You see, when we’re doing hard things, we won’t always feel excited about the hard things themselves. After all, they’re hard!

But we can be excited about the good that will result from having completed them. We can look forward to the reward.

We may not feel like exercising, but we can look forward to being stronger and healthier.

We may not feel like writing, but we can look forward to impacting other people with our words.

We may not feel like cleaning our room, but we can look forward to the end result.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of this principle.

In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read:

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

Our Savior certainly didn’t feel like being crucified. Of course not! But He knew what was at stake. He knew “why” the cross was necessary. And He pushed through the pain by looking to the reward.

We must do the same thing with the difficult tasks God gives us.

Staying motivated isn’t just a luxury. It is often the difference between obedience and disobedience; between giving up and following through.

So the next time you run out-of-steam on a project or goal — sit down and reconnect with what is at stake. Reconnect with “why” you’re doing what you’re doing. And then…

Push through the pain by looking to that reward.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

There are currently 14 Comment(s)

Photo courtesy of pangalastic gargleblaster and the heart of gold and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • Wow-that was soooo convicting. I’ve been struggling to stay motivated in studying-I need to step back and gain some perspective. Thanks so much!
    (PS-there’s a typo on the first line, ‘things get accomplish*ed*’)

    • I’m really glad it helped you, Clare. I think “perspective” is exactly the right word to describe what I was saying.

      And thanks for pointing out the typo! *fixed*

  • What a fantastic follow-up to the DQ! I’ll start putting this into practice. Motivation (and procrastination) is a pretty big issue for me. Speaking of which, I’m off to do school! Thanks for the advice, Brett!

  • Brett! Haven’t had an article from you in a while! 🙂 This is soooo good. Like everyone, I DEFINITELY loose focus easily, and this was a great reminder of how to get back on track. Great little catch-phrase there too. 🙂 Thank you!

  • Thank you so much for this! I struggle with staying motivated, and was so glad to see this. I am really looking forward to doing this! When will your book be out? Thank you and God bless!

  • Thanks for this! Just a reminder to me about things I need/want to do. Like school (#hschooler), fixing our tree house and giving my sister piano lessons. 🙂 Great post on motivation, though. Thanks!

  • I read this post while stalling for time, trying to avoid for just a little longer a huge paper that I need to work on, a small debate that I need to study for, Greek lessons that I need to complete, and lots of reading. But what do you do you do when it feels like there is no reward? I mean I know there is, but I just can’t see it. The only thing that really makes me push on is knowing that there is a deadline and that I just have to get it in by that deadline.

    • By the way, this was an encouraging post, Brett! I hope my comment above didn’t sound like I was totally not encouraged or helped at all. I just happen to be in an insanely intense week of school and I had just been trying to ignore all that I have had to do in order to not go insane with stress levels and such (horrible logic there I know). I also wrote that comment last night right after getting off work and realizing I needed to do homework next, yet feeling totally unmotivated because I had already had a long day. With that being said, your post was encouraging, and by God’s grace I was able to find the strength and motivation to pluck away at my paper, which is weighing most heavily on my mind at this time. So, thank you! It was just what I needed. 😉

  • I needed this today!! I have gotten really behind on school lately, and really need to just get it done! Going to put this into practice shortly!

  • This was such an encouragement!!! What a great idea to actually WRITE down the “whys” for continuous motivation. I’ve done that mentally, but as a person who writes day and night, I’m surprised that I’ve never thought of that. Thanks for the article!!!

  • Oh! This kinda goes with an article I am writing!

    In both senses, in the sense that I need to stay motivated,
    and in the sense that it is similar to my article.

    Good job, Brett! 🙂

  • Thank you for this! I recently realized that my motivation often varies with my feelings or moods, which it shouldn’t. Some days I feel so very close to God, full of joy and peace, and the next day I’ll do the exact same things I did the day before – read God’s word, memorize scripture, pray, do my devotions – and it feels stale and lifeless. It gets much harder to persist when I feel like I’m “in a rut”…..BUT I’ve been learning that, while I am much more motivated to worship God when life feels great, it is a greater act of service to Him when life is hard for me. As this article says so well, everything in life should be about the “why” I do it, not about the “how” I feel about it. The “why” should be my real motivation.

    Great article! 🙂

  • Thank you so much for this article Brett! This is one of my biggest issues–I start into a project with a ton of motivation but after a while it dies and I have a really hard time finishing it. This was what I needed to hear. ~AnnaGrace

    • I’m glad it was helpful, AnnaGrace! You are certainly not alone (just read the other comments). But I really believe this practice of reconnecting with “why” and actually writing out your answers can make a big difference.

  • Thank you Brett! This was such an encouragement to me:) I’ve been struggling to stay motivated in my academics for months. It seems like I’ll have a really good 2-3 days, then it falls off and I’ll be back in the doldrums feeling discouraged and inept. I’m gonna try to reconnect with my “why?” for sure! Thanks again!

  • I’m so glad you posted this Brett! Thank you so much 🙂 I lose sight of why i’m doing things ALL THE TIME. I forget the importance of whatever i’m doing, i slack off, and whatever i wanted to do just doesn’t happen. But this perspective of motivation actually made sense! It isn’t a recipe for feeling excited about everything you do. It’s a way of living your life so that even the hard, painful things are viewed in light of the reward, and ultimately in light of eternity. Thank you once again for this very helpful article!

  • This is a great perspective Brett, thank you! It’s really got me thinking about some stuff that I’ve all but entirely given up on. One of them being writing a book myself.
    But a question comes to mind: What if God’s plans have changed for my book project and that’s why I don’t want to follow through any more? Is that possible, or is it just my lack of motivation speaking?
    — Sam

  • I think sometimes the little things like doing school or cleaning my room can take more motivation than projects. Projects can be exiting and I feel like you do look at the end products of those things more. Like if you want to write a book, the goal is for it to be published, but if you’re doing school, you don’t really have a clear or clear consequences if you don’t do school other than grades and your parents and teachers being upset with you. And if your cleaning your room, you know you’ll have to clean it next week too.

    • Hey liv737johnoxide. I think you bring up an important point. Identifying what’s at stake can be a lot easier with certain tasks than with others.

      At the same time. just because it’s hard to see the point in cleaning your room doesn’t mean there’s no point. And this is where you may need help in gaining the right perspective.

      Parents are especially helpful with this because they have the life experience to know what consequences might be waiting for you down the road.

      My dad always told me that how I kept my room clean as a teenager was the best prediction of how I would keep my dorm room, office, home, etc. in the future. It was practice for how I would manage the space that belongs to me for the rest of my life. My dad was able to tell me this because his poor habits in this area as a young person became a problem early in my parents’ marriage. He learned the hard way.

      My dad’s perspective helped me see that my relationship with future roommates, employers, and my wife would all be directly affected by how I managed my bedroom as a teenager.

      So my advice is to talk to your parents about areas in your life where you can’t see the point and ask for their help in seeing what’s really at stake. Because the odds are that there’s more to it than you can see.

  • Thanks Brett. That’s really true. I think motivation often not only causes action but also comes as a result of it – and sometimes we need to make the choice to act in the first place. I know that for me with music practice, I don’t always feel particularly motivated – but since I’m in the habit of doing it regularly, I do it anyway. And the more I do it, the more I want to do it – and the more I can see the purpose behind what I’m doing. It works both ways – motivation breeds purpose, and purpose breeds motivation.

  • I struggle with staying motivated. Right now, I don’t have that healthy environment that encourages it. For me, being negative is linked to being unmotivated. I sent the DQ that asks the question “How do you stay motivated” because I really needed some advice. Motivation and the lack of it is something we all relate to.

          • Thanks! Gosh what a week to take off….lyme disease challenges, each article has hundreds of comments…. XD but it’s good to be back.

          • Seriously!! By the way…that response on SOG is never going to happen. I totally forgot about it and then by the time I remembered the article was closed. 🙁 Sorry!! I blame it all on the April Fool’s madness. XD

          • No prob! =)

            Did you do the lime challenge? I’m thought of a way to do it while staying fairly anonymous….let’s just say – y’all still remember that I’m a guitar right?? 😉

          • Well, what are you doing? I want to know how you’re maintaining your anonymity, mr. guitar.

          • Noooo not yet…maybe tomorrow! (procrastinating? who me? XD)

            But seriously, I’m kind of sick and I’ve been at dual enrollment college classes all day. So I haven’t really had an opportunity. Remind me again tomorrow morning! =D

          • Oh wow, sick and on a college campus! Poor guitar…
            I can’t really remind you tomorrow morning because I’m not really supposed to talk to y’all during school time, but I’ll remind you in the afternoon. Edit: Actually, make that tomorrow evening — if my sister doesn’t feel like celebrating the end of finals. How’s that?

    • Oooooooo book! I will read it and read it and read it and…… maybe just once more I’ll read it! Haha seriously though, I LOVED the last two books they wrote.

  • I just read the “Do Hard Things” book in one night at work. I got the book 5 years ago when I was 15, my youth pastor wanted our youth group to read through it. Needless to say I never read it and didn’t really care to. Until tonight. I am now 20 years old and just finally got to reading it. Honestly I wish I would have read this book at 15. But seeing how I didn’t there’s no use in wishing. Instead I’ve just decided that today is day one of the rest of my life and it’s high time that I finally do something worth while with my life. I never took any responsibility as a teen so once I graduated High School I had no clue what to do with my life, I had no goals. Here I am two years later and nothing has changed. Oh sure I moved out of my parents house but I’m not on my own, I live with a friend. I have a job, but I have no goals or dreams to pursue with my life. But that’s going to change right now. It’s high time I got out of my comfort zone and made a difference in my church, community and in the lives of my friends and family. No clue how or what to do. But I will take the challenge of doing things that I’m normally not comfortable with and see where God leads.

    • Hey Andrew, thank you for taking the time to share your story. I’m excited for you and how God can use this new-found motivation for His glory.

      My encouragement is to quickly take permanent action. Get rid of something, commit to something, do something that will force you to get outside your comfort zone and stay there. If you just try to ride an emotional high you will quickly return to your old rut.

      And definitely feel welcome to plug into this community. We’d love to support you and hear how things are going.

      • haha wow.. you have no idea how much it means to me that you would personally comment back and give me encouragement! I will do just as you say! I have already committed to myself and to God about getting rid of a couple things as well as personal things that i will start such as focusing on my prayer life more than ever. Also since today is Sunday I plan on talking to my pastor and seeing how I can serve the church on my days off (which is Sunday through Tuesday) I’m also going to see if i can start helping in the youth ministry as I also agree with your idea of how this generation can and will change the world! I have also considered starting a Blog for MEN from ages 13 and up about the struggles and the necessity of remaining pure until marriage, even if they haven’t in the past. I know as a man that is my greatest battle in this world now a days and I think that when I was younger I would have done better if I had the support of others to guide me and encourage me to remain pure. But I’m not sure about that idea yet.

        • You go for it Andrew! I’ve started getting involved and doing hard things too, and it’s both uncomfortable, and exhilarating all at the same time. I didn’t know where to start at first either. Just keep praying for guidance, use the talents that you have, look for opportunities and people who can encourage you, and START SOMETHING! God loves willing workers, so I doubt it will be long before you find something to tackle. I’ll be praying for you:)

  • This article came at the perfect time because:

    a) my unfinished prelab is sitting before me needing to be done, but because it’s the end of the semester I was NOT feeling motivated to finish, and

    b) over the past few weeks, a huge project idea for my school has fallen into my head and I’m gearing up to make it happen. A couple awesome classmates have enthusiastically agreed to join me, and right now we’re all excited. But I’m certain that excitement will die down eventually. It was neat to come to the Rebelution and see an article on intentionally staying motivated even when initial enthusiasm begins to fail us.

    Thank you so much Brett!

  • Thanks for the article Brett!

    I didn’t know you were writing a book…what’s it about? Let us know when you publish it! 🙂

  • Thanks for writing this Brett! I’m in my first few months as a junior in high school (homeschooled girl :)) and everything is crazy busy and I sometimes feel overwhelmed. When this happens, it’s especially hard to stay motivated. So thanks! This was encouraging.

  • I so needed this! Procrastination is a huge struggle for me on a daily level. Especially the last few weeks. Your words have come at precisely the exact time I need them most! Thank you!

By Brett Harris
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →