If I've been asked the question “How can I get and stay motivated?” once, I've been asked it a thousand times. My answer always comes in the form of another question: “Motivated to do what?” Of course I usually have some clue as to what my questioner means, but asking that second simple question is actually a tool I use to help people gain clarity. Clarity, I've found, is the key to getting and staying motivated.

The truth is that most people never ever, ever, get what they want, and for one simple reason: They don’t know what they want. Of course most of us think we know what we want. We want to be rich. We want to be famous. We want to be happy. 


Yet these things that we say we want are merely platitudes, with little meaning and no real impact on how we conduct our daily lives. Having nothing more than an ambiguous or vague dream of what you want, no matter how big it may be will do very little to get and keep you motivated. On the other hand, such idealism will go a long way towards keeping you confused, void of passion, and lacking of a sense of purpose.  


I learned a long time ago that dreaming big—although a hell of a lot better than dreaming small—simply isn’t enough to make your dreams come true, and that quite often it can actually serve to de-motivate you. Big dreams without a specific target and plan to achieve them almost always winds up getting lost in the dust cloud of all the “stuff” that needs doing just so we can survive each day. 


Getting crystal clear on a specific target or desired outcome and having a plan in place for its achievement can take that pie-in-the-sky dream and turn it into a powerful driving force. Through careful and detailed planning, dreams become objectives that come to fruition… with time and patience. 


From the moment I first opened an issue of Muscle Builder magazine (the precursor to Muscle & Fitness) back in the late 1970's and saw Arnold and Franco training barefoot at Gold's Gym in Venice, California, I dreamed of being a bodybuilder.


But it wasn’t until I walked into my first real gym and saw Mr. America Steve Michalik pounding out a hellacious set of squats with almost 600 lbs that the “dream” became a very specific and tangible objective for me. No longer did I just want to be a big, powerful bodybuilder. I wanted to win the Mr. America contest!


From that moment on I was motivated not just by the big dream but by the belief that I could make it happen. Three things in particular fostered that belief in me: 


I knew EXACTLY what I wanted.


I believed that if someone else could do it, then I could too.


I created a detailed plan of action based on the strategies of those who had gone before me.  


I began training, eating and sleeping like I was already Mr. America. Every contest I entered was specifically planned so that I would have time to improve between each, with each one positioning me up the experience and recognition ladder. 

The one time I stepped outside that plan and entered a contest that wasn’t on my hit list, I got my ass handed to me. It was an education in de-motivation and a very good lesson I had no desire to experience again. 


In the end I did win the Light-heavyeweight class of the 1986 NPC Nationals (which had been called "Mr. America" before 1982) and then went on to a successful pro career, which I then parlayed into an acting a modeling career, and so on. I had the dream and I mapped out a plan of action. But there was one more element that helped me get to where I wanted to be.


Once you've gone through your own planning of how to manifest your dream you'll also need to employ this element to make that dream a reality: You have an unquenchable thirst to succeed!


The difference between those who manifest their dreams and those who fall by the wayside is in their respective mindsets. Adopt a hardcore, unstoppable, driving mindset as you pursue your clearly defined objective and the odds of you reaching that goal will increase substantially.


Platitudes, abstract dreams and ambiguity will not get you there. Focus, planning and intense energy will.


So what’s your plan? 

Tom Terwilliger is a former NPC Nationals bodybuilding champion and IFBB Pro, as well as the author of the acclaimed #1 bestseller, "7 Rules of Achievement" and a leading authority on the science of achievement. Visit Tom at www.TomTerwilliger.com.