How to Stay Motivated (Series)

Part Three: Successful Habits

In this article, we will explore what successful habits are, how you can apply them to your life and hopefully the positive results it will produce. This article is part three of a 5-part series called “How to Stay Motivated During Covid-19”. Still to come are Creating a Hero Story and Goal Setting.

I know that I shouldn’t make assumptions, but forgive me for my liberties. I must assume that if you are reading this article, you want to be successful. You want to be successful in your career, in your relationships and in your life overall.

Success is important to you. But the problem that we face during Covid-19 is what does success look like?

For many years now, there have been more and more people trying to find ways to retire earlier — meaning, save enough money that you don’t have to work — but you can do work that is more meaningful for you.

As a career educator, Covid has woken me up to the entire world around me. When you work in a school, you have blinders on. All you focus on is your students. How are my students feeling, how are they doing in class, what do they need help with?

When the world shut down in March, 2020, that all changed. Suddenly, everyone became aware of everyone else.

I have always been a very hard worker. I have never personally felt successful at what I do, because I could always see one more thing that I needed to learn. And so that drive to keep moving forward, to keep learning to keep getting better at my career has been a motivation for me.

I don’t know how many of you had this same mindset. Your motivation was just the desire to be the best, to be better tomorrow than you were today. With social media, it’s now possible for me to ask that question and actually receive an answer — which is remarkable.

But maybe that wasn’t your motivation. Maybe that was the problem pre-Covid. You were struggling to find motivation and now with things on lock-down, you have lost all motivation. You are just going through the motions.

So how do you find motivation in this new world? Hopefully the first two parts of this series have helped a little. Hopefully it has lit a small fire under your feet and you feel like you can start moving.

But if not, maybe this part of the series will make more of an impact. Part One and Part Two were more about mental aspects of motivation. Do you feel motivated?

This part is all about practical skills. What can you do to find motivation?

So let’s go over the Successful Habits:

First, there is organizational skills. It’s really hard to be successful if you don’t have a plan to be successful. The old adage is “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and although it's cliche, it’s really true.

My biggest suggestion is to start making a list. A to-do list, a vision list, an idea list, just any list will do, just put pen to paper or words on a Google Doc, but get a list together.

For 20 years, I preached to my staff, make lists, make lists. They all thought I was crazy, but I use lists everyday and I feel way more motivated in the middle of the day — because I can see I have crossed a few things off that list and now I want to #finishthelist.

If you are lagging behind in motivation, make a short to-do list and just work to #finishthelist.

Second, is brainstorming. This could be done in conjunction with your list making, but it doesn’t have to. You have plenty of things already on your plate, that you can make a list in your sleep. But you might not give yourself time in the day to actually brainstorm. And brainstorming is a key mental activity that all highly motivated people do.

It’s not hard — but it requires you to set aside 30 minutes per day or if you can set aside 60–90 minutes per week in one chunk that would be even better. That means, you alone in a room with no distractions. Turn your phone off. Turn off your internet. If you like silence, then find a quiet space, otherwise put on Zen-like music in the background.

Albert Einstein developed his theories while working at the patent office. Some argue that he could think on a higher level because his brain was always active, but he set aside time to just think and theorize.

I can relate to that hypothesis. I am a very hard worker. When I am involved in a project, I am 110% committed to it. My mind is consumed by it — but I like to take 90-minutes of “brainstorming” every 2 weeks. In this moments of solitude, I am able to work through ideas and problems that I encounter in my everyday life.

In fact, during one of these brainstorming sessions, I started the idea of the Three Tiers for Education school model. But it took many more months to fully develop the model so that it worked effectively inside a school. It also took many more months to ensure that the model was following best practices, used the best educational research data to perform the way it was supposed to and test the theory.

Third, learn practical skills. There is a huge benefit to routine. I love routine. But if your whole life, your work, your relationships and your free-time is bound to a routine — it can also get boring very quickly. And boredom leads to a lack of motivation.

For me, I like to make portions of my life a routine. I make a menu for the week, so I know what I’m eating everyday. This may seem odd to some of you — but when you work in schools for 20 years, you get used to the daily lunch menu.

I used to have a clothing routine because all staff in my school wore Staff Shirts, but now I don’t have to do that. So I try to pick out a bundle of clothes that I can pick from in the morning.

When I ran the Principal’s Academy, which was a mentoring and professional development workshop for Principals — I worked with administrators on creating a weekly schedule. In that schedule, we would block out time for routine tasks — like lesson plan review and approvals, curriculum review, policy review and phone calls to parents. These blocks were at the same time everyday, so that it gave the day some rhythm.

One of the best examples of using routine is the late Steve Jobs, former Founder of Apple, Inc, who used to wear the same black turtle-neck every day so that he didn’t need to think about clothing. That routine became part of his iconic brand, but he was using it for practical purposes.

The routine helps to free up time. And that’s what you need in order to fulfill the third part of successful habits — learning practical skills. In fact, I suggest that before you start learning, put into your routine 30 minutes of brainstorming, and then once you have gotten your imagination going again — set aside 30 minutes to think about what you need to learn.

If you are currently working — what do you “need” to know to get better at your job? Or what do you need to know to get a better job?

If you are not working — this is urgent!

If you are currently not working — you need to sit for 60 straight minutes with zero distractions. Tell your spouse, kids, family members to “leave you alone” for an hour. You need to start thinking.

These are the questions you should be asking yourself:

“What do I like to do?”

“What are some ways people make money?”

“What sounds interesting to me?”

“What am I passionate about?”

“Is anyone making money doing my passion?”

“What are the skills I need to have in order to make money doing my passion?”

“Where can I learn those skills?”

“How can I learn those skills for “free”?”

We are the luckiest group of people on the planet. We live in the United States of America, which means that anyone can make money. Anyone can earn dollar bills.

Yes, there are systemic problems in our society, and there are still social issues that we as a nation need to work through, but when it comes to making money — there is no real barrier. Not with the internet — not with social media.

Does everyone have the same chance and opportunity to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? No! Not even close.

But I argue — who cares?

Do you really want to be a CEO? Or do you just want to make money?

Would you care what your title was if you made $100,000?

And I think we need to start rethinking what’s important in life. We have gotten used to trying to “impress” each other. But if we stop doing that — and just focus on doing what’s best for us and our families, then a lot of this chasing after nonsense will stop.

Right now, I’m just talking to you. I am not talking about how our country should run, or what our government should do — that’s a larger issue.

I’m just talking about you and your life — day to day. It’s hard to stay motivated, it’s hard to keep working — but we all need to work. We all need to make money. That’s not a bad thing — and I know it sounds wonderful. If I could sit around and do nothing and have enough money in the bank.

But you could do that — and you aren’t.

I will give a perfect example. As part of my firm’s curriculum design program, we have developed two Academy models for middle and high school. So starting in the 6th Grade, kids and families get to choose which Academy they want to try for Middle School — the College Academy or the Business Academy.

In the Business Academy students learn how to earn $400,000 by age 30.

This is very doable. If you are already 30 and you are looking at your own finances and saying — there is no way. I’m here to tell you — you are wrong. If you are 30 today, you could have $400,000 by the time you are 48.

But your life would need to drastically change.

It’s easier for younger people to make this work — because there is less social stigma for living at home with family. But in order to get $400,000 you need to save. Just to give some context in numbers, almost half of the $400,000 is through savings and investing. In fact, rough numbers work out to nearly $180,000 in savings and investment.

The point of this series is to spark motivation — so hopefully you are starting to feel motivated. You can live your dreams, if you really prioritize them. If you are in a job or career that isn’t your passion — then start figuring out the amount of money you need to comfortably leave that job.

But while you are thinking about that — you need to learn practical skills.

You need to learn how to cook. You need to learn how to save. You need to learn about bank interest rates. You need to learn about dividend stocks. You need to learn about spreadsheets. You need to learn how to network properly. You need to learn how to be more respectful to others. You need to learn how to write.

These are the practical skills you need in order to live the life you want.

And if you think you have all of these skills, and you aren’t living the life you want — then ask your best friend to be brutally honest with you — so you can how much of your life is a lie.

You have fooled yourself. You are your own worst enemy.

If you are not happy. If you are not satisfied with life. If you are not highly motivated everyday — then you are the problem for you. It’s no one else’s fault. You are keeping yourself down. So stop punishing yourself.

And I know what you might be thinking — “no, see, this is what happened to me and so that’s why I have to do this or that.”

What I’m going to say will not make you any happier, but I spent 20 years working with kids who were “forgotten.” Yes, tossed aside, labeled, disadvantaged, disenfranchised, disposable to most — and they worked hard in my school — in fact some of them worked harder than they even thought possible.

In some cases, they proved themselves wrong. In most cases, they proved others wrong. I have so many stories of kids that earned a high school diploma and when I went to go pick it up for them at the Guidance Office — the secretaries clapped when I entered the room — they were shocked they were printing a diploma for “That Kid Graduated?” — that’s a miracle!

But it’s not a miracle. Success only happens when you want it to happen. Success only happens when you are willing to work for it. And success only happens when you can suffer through the sacrifices it takes to be successful.

I love helping other people be successful. It is my true passion in life. I also love solving problems. Not everyone likes to deal with problems, but I love problems.

If you want to share your problems with me, please feel free. Applaud this article and make a comment.

Thank you for reading Part Three: Successful Habits — Part Four will be published on Monday, Creating a Hero Story.



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Professor Schwartz

Ed Consultant | Speaker/Author | Former Superintendent — Want to learn "how success happens?" Follow this link: