Think back to the last time you were really motivated to do (or stop doing) something.
What thoughts led you to take that action?
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that summoning motivation this year has, at times, been a struggle.
Below I delve into the importance of challenging our motivation and offer some of my favourite practical tips for boosting motivation when it all feels a bit too much.
We’re all familiar with the phrase “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. This reflects the concept that unless the horse is motivated to drink, it won’t! Motivation is an important first step to taking action or changing behaviour.1
At its core, motivation is a state of readiness or eagerness to change.2 It is an internal state, influenced by a unique combination of external factors decided by a person’s values and needs, which include everything from basic physiology (hunger, thirst, sleep) to social inclusion, self-esteem and a drive to reach a person’s potential.3
People are generally motivated to do something either because it moves them away from something they don’t want to experience anymore (PAIN) or it moves them towards something they want to experience instead (GAIN).
Without clear goals however, a person may be motivated to move away from something (i.e. a job they dislike) but they do not have a clue what they want to do instead! The saying; “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” describes the difference in motivated behaviour between those who have goals and those don’t.4
If you find that you are lacking motivation to do something, the first question to ask is:
Why do you want to do it?!
- Perhaps you want to write a book but you can’t seem to pick up a pen
- Perhaps you’ve wanted to leave your job for months, but you haven’t handed in your notice
- Perhaps you want to start a fitness plan but you keep hitting snooze on the alarm clock
As a coach, I’m just as interested in finding out what you’re doing INSTEAD of the thing you’re meant to be doing. This is because your procrastination activities usually point to where your true motivation lies!
Think about it this way; changing your behaviour or trying something new takes effort and probable discomfort (i.e. late night writing, an awkward conversation with your boss, or giving up an hour of sleep to go for a run).
So if you’re struggling to explain your “Why” in one clear sentence, I suggest you immediately stop beating yourself up for lacking motivation (which doesn’t help anyone) and either adapt the task you’re setting yourself to make it less uncomfortable or find something else entirely that gets you FIRED UP instead!
For times when you need that extra boost of motivation, here are 7 of my tried and tested techniques from this year:
- Remind yourself of your “WHY”: Write your reasons for taking action on a post-it and place it somewhere obvious like your bathroom mirror!
- Move your body for 5 minutes, then try the task again. (Star jumps on the spot are great!)
- Belt out a showtune or listen to a song which makes you feel powerful. I’m personally a big fan of ‘I Am What I Am’ from La Cage Aux Folles!
- Power-pose for 2 minutes. Not sure what this is? Watch Amy Cuddy’s brilliant TED talk on the impact of changing your body language to boost how you see yourself here
- Gratitude list: Write a list of things you are grateful for in your life to remind yourself of the good things (particularly on days when you can only see the bad!)
- Practice Self-Efficacy: Remind yourself daily of your ability to succeed in a given task (even if you don’t believe it yet); self-confidence in your ability will lead to you taking greater action towards your goal. Either remind yourself of a time when you have succeeded at a similar task in the past or adopt a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality and just do it anyway!
- Aim for a ‘quick win’ each day: Nothing motivates quite like seeing a quick return on your investment of time and effort. So what can you do today that takes very little time or effort, but may have a big impact on how you feel? Think of one thing and do that now for a quick win!
To help you set good goals for yourself and unlock your motivation, download your free goal-setting cheat sheet HERE.
- ^ DiClemente, C., Bellino, L. and Neavins, T., 1999. Motivation for Change and Alcoholism Treatment. Alcohol Research & Health, 23(2).
- ^ Miller WR, Rollnick S. Motivational Interviewing. London: Guilford Press, 1991
- ^ Maslow, A., 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), pp.370-396.
- ^ Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705–717.