Everyone feels unmotivated at times. Your motivation will fluctuate throughout periods of your life, even when you’re doing the things you love. However, being motivated can help you achieve your goals. It can help you to practice the new skills you learn (helpful if you’re doing one of THIS WAY UP'S programs), to grow and stay well in the long-term.
One of the first steps is to notice when your motivation is getting low so that you can do something about it. Another is to think of motivation as a muscle, and that you can strengthen it through practice and routine. Before you get to work on kicking goals, it can be helpful to bust some common myths about motivation.
1. I need to wait until I feel motivated to begin
Waiting until you feel motivated is a recipe for disaster! You may never feel motivated enough to try that activity you’ve been putting off. The best way to become motivated is to take action. The more you do, the more motivated you will feel and the less you do, the less motivated you will feel.
2. I should be motivated all of the time
Our level of motivation changes and fluctuates all the time. Your motivation is likely to dip when you face difficult tasks or experience setbacks, and increase when you have a win or success. This is normal, so try not to feel down or self-critical if your motivation dips at times.
3. Nothing will work to motivate me
Many strategies can boost your motivation, including taking action or taking the time to think through your reasons for changing and your reasons for staying the same. These and other strategies will be explained in more detail below.
4. Some people just aren’t motivated people
This is a very common misconception, but the world isn’t divided into motivated and unmotivated people. Everyone has the capacity to become motivated, but we are all motivated to do different things, by different things. The challenge will be for you to discover what truly motivates you (which is usually something that you truly value).
5. I need to punish myself to stay motivated
Some people think that setting themselves high standards and criticising themselves for not reaching these standards will make them motivated. Sometimes, people also think that they will become ‘weak’ or ‘indulgent’ if they praise themselves. The reality however, is quite the opposite. When you berate yourself for your failures, how do you feel? How motivated are you? How capable do you think you are? What happens if you adopt a more helpful, kind and encouraging attitude towards yourself? Almost always, people feel more motivated by a compassionate inner-voice than a critical one.
Helpful Strategies for Boosting Motivation
If you’re having difficulty getting motivated, you can try these strategies to boost your motivation levels.
1. Recognise when your motivation is low
Once you’ve identified that you’re feeling unmotivated, you can do something about it. Start by identifying the thoughts (e.g., “I can’t be bothered”), feelings (e.g., bored, irritable), physical sensations (e.g., tiredness) and behaviours (e.g. making excuses, procrastination) that characterise low motivation for you.
2. Explore your reasons for motivation as well as potential barriers
When you’re feeling unmotivated, it’s useful to try asking yourself:
Why do I want to take action?
What might hold me back from making this change?
What am I afraid might (or might not) happen if I do try to change?
Does this action fit with my goals and values?
Am I ready to take the next step?
3. Recognise the external factors that are reducing your motivation and take steps to manage them, if you can.
If physical illness, feeling tired, or being around certain people is draining your motivation, try to take positive steps to change these factors. For example, you could speak to your doctor about what you can do to help manage your symptoms of illness, or change your sleep routine so that you have more time to sleep.
4. Identify unhelpful thinking patterns and practice more helpful thinking!
Once you identify unhelpful, self-critical or defeatist thoughts that are getting in the way, replace them with helpful, encouraging statements. Think of what you would say to a friend to encourage them to work towards an important goal.
5. Set realistic goals and make a detailed plan to work towards these goals.
Make sure your goals are:
Consistent with your values (meaningful)
Achievable (small goals are more motivating than large goals that feel unachievable)
Then make a specific, detailed, realistic plan to work towards your goal. Consider what needs to happen, who needs to help, how you will do it, when you will do it, and how you will overcome obstacles that might get in the way.
6. Imagine yourself successfully implementing your plan
Studies show that imagining doing an activity actually makes us more likely to do that activity! So, imagine yourself going through each step of your plan and reaching your goal. How would you feel, what sensations would you notice, what would happen, how would others respond?
7. Don’t wait until you feel motivated
Just do what you planned, slowly but surely, one step at a time. Doing things helps boost our motivation. It can be helpful to tell yourself that you are just going to do a very small amount, e.g. "I'm just going to spend 5 minutes cleaning the kitchen". Setting a humble and achievable goal will make it easier to begin, and your motivation is likely to increase as you take action, making it more likely that you'll actually work beyond your initial target!
8. Tell others about your plans, and involve them in your plans
Even if you’re worried about not following through with your commitment, share your plans and goals with other people. Making commitments to other people to do things can help to keep you accountable and increase motivation. Sometimes having external support and encouragement can help get you going, and then your internal motivation will follow.
9. Use your strengths and think of past times you’ve been successful
Think about past times you have managed to do something when your motivation was low. How did you do it? What things made it more likely? How did you overcome the obstacles? How did you motivate yourself? How can you apply the lessons from your past successes to your current problem?
10. Acknowledge success, even small successes
There are many ways you can reward yourself – praise and encouraging self-talk, telling others, writing down and ticking off your tasks, or writing down a list of things you’ve achieved.
Find more tips and tools on boosting your mental health and wellbeing by heading to THIS WAY UP's Coping and Resilience Tools page.
If you're still struggling with motivation, chat to our team at Sonder about getting a free prescription for one of THIS WAY UP's programs. Sonder has teamed up with THIS WAY UP to provide you access to evidence-based, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programs that help with managing your mental health. If you want to find out more about THIS WAY UP or any of it's programs, head over here.
If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.
Information sourced from: THIS WAY UP
Image sourced from: Getty Images
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.