Published: 3 July 2018
Motivation helps us to achieve our goals – but staying motivated isn’t always easy.
Is motivation essential?
Many people believe that to achieve your goals you need motivation. That motivation is what drives you towards a goal, gets you up in the morning, and keeps you working through a task, determined to succeed when things get tough. However, this is not necessarily true. Sure, having motivation makes it easier to keep at it yet, there are plenty of things we do each day that we aren’t motivated to, but we do them anyway. For example, getting up on a cold morning, going to work, studying, doing household chores. We feel ‘unmotivated’ sometimes to do these things and tell ourselves ‘I don’t want to ….’, yet we can still do them. This suggests that whilst motivation makes it easier we don’t actually need it. That our thoughts and feelings in the moment, do not control us, unless we let them. With that said, let’s focus on how to make it easier for ourselves by harnessing motivation.
Everything that could possibly motivate you can fit into one of two categories:
- Positive motivations, which focus on the positive things that will happen when you take action. For example, ‘Finishing this assignment means I’m only a step away from being qualified'.
- Negative motivations, which focus on the negative backlash that will occur if you don’t take action. For example, ‘If I don’t finish this assignment in the next few hours I will fail'.
Both negative and positive motivation can be effective in different circumstances. However, people are much more successful when they’re doing something because they actually want to, rather than if they’re acting to avoid an outcome they don’t want. That means positive motivation usually has a bigger and better impact.
Negative motivation can sometimes be quite dangerous. That’s because it only works if you know exactly what steps you are going to take to reach your goal. If you don’t have a positive plan of action, using negative motivation to approach a task can make you feel really helpless, and actually reduce your motivation. Knowing how to find effective motivation strategies is really important to getting stuff done.
Tips for finding/keeping motivation
- Set goals. When you set a goal you make a decision to act upon what you want. This gives you a direction to focus on - one that’s measurable and has an end point; all factors which can help a person stay motivated.
- Choose goals that interest you. You’re much more likely to stay motivated if you are working towards something that you genuinely want to do or achieve.
- Find things that interest you within goals that don’t. Sometimes other people set goals or tasks for us that we don’t find interesting or want to do. So, try and find something within that task that does motivate you (e.g., ‘I hate math, but it’s going to help me become a builder, which I want more than anything).’
- Make your goal public. If you state to someone else you are doing something, or write it down, you’ve essentially promised to keep your word.
- Plot your progress. When you are working towards something, it can be really motivating if you can see evidence that you are making progress. Draw or create a visual representation of how you are coming closer to achieving something.
- Break up your goal. Start with easier tasks and work your way up to bigger challenges. Breaking up a task in your mind into achievable chunks helps build confidence.
- Use rewards. Promise yourself some sort of reward each time you complete a step/task.
- Don’t do it alone. Join a class, find a teacher or someone you can share the experience with. Other people’s encouragement to keep going can be a big boost to your motivation, particularly when you’re doing it tough.
- Learn how to use self-talk. Is your self-talk more positive or negative? Start questioning your self-talk asking things like: Is there actual evidence for what I’m thinking? What would I say if a friend were in a similar situation? Is there a more positive way of looking at this? Am I keeping everything in perspective? Can I do anything to change what I’m feeling bad about? If your self-talk is not helping you, try to change it - easier said than done, but definitely worth working on. Try by countering your negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you think “I’ll never be able to do this”, ask yourself “is there anything I can do that will help me be able to do this?” Avoid speaking in finite language and try and look for things that might add a better spin to a tough situation.
- Get going. The best way to increase motivation is to take action. The common mistake most people make, is they sit around and wait for motivation to come. However, how often have you sat around doing nothing all day only to feel more tired and less motivated? Once you get started, you feel a sense of accomplishment, less overwhelmed with the task and it’s easier to continue. Before you know it, you’re feeling more motivated.
If you’re really finding it hard to stay motivated
If you’ve tried all these things, and just can’t get motivated, then it might help to talk it through with someone that you trust. Sometimes it can be really hard to achieve things on your own and having a good support network when you’re working through a big challenge is really important. You could also try talking to a counsellor. They are great at helping people work out which motivating strategies will work best for them.
Extract from Reach Out: http://au.reachout.com/tips-for-getting-motivated
Reach Out; https://au.reachout.com/articles/10-ways-to-get-stuff-done
UNSW Motivation and Goals; https://student.unsw.edu.au/motivation-and-goals