Motivating yourself can be tough.
In fact, generally speaking, motivating yourself is tough.
And I’m not just talking about motivating yourself to do work at home or exercise, but even just simple things like approaching a stranger if you’re shy. For some reason, even when we’re sure we want the end result of doing something, we can’t always convince ourselves to actually do it. This leads to watching entire playlists of YouTube videos which have already been watched, attacking random admin tasks with a vengeance, or whatever else might be your personal procrastination default. Alternately, if you do find yourself able to get started on that all-important to-do list, sometimes you just can’t find the gumption to do any of it well.
As a result, days feel like they’ve been wasted, goals feel impossible to achieve and good moods are ruined, as well as good self-esteem.
Having said that, if you clicked on and are still reading this article, I probably don’t need to tell you the downsides of not always knowing how to motivate yourself. So let’s get on with it, shall we?
I’ve been trawling through some brilliant self-help books and talking to some equally brilliant self-helpers so you don’t have to, and gathering their best advice here. Below, I’ve explained five methods for boosting your inner motivation. You can try them out on whatever it is you think you should to be doing.
(Disclaimer: It’s worth saying now that they won’t all work for everyone, so adopt an attitude of trial and error to find what’s right for you. Having said that, don’t give up on them before having a proper good go – with some commitment, you might surprise yourself.)
1) Believe you’re good enough to do the task
Okay, if you’re thinking that heading sounds a bit hippy-ish, and like I’m trying to sneak some therapy onto you, hear me out. I’m miles away from the nearest vinyl sofa, and the absolute last person on earth who’s going to ask you what your childhood was like. I promise.
I just want to explain that each time you believe you’ve failed to achieve something you wanted because you didn’t know how to motivate yourself, then you probably beat yourself up about it. You might tell yourself you aren’t good enough to reach the standard you expect, or not strong enough to apply all the time and effort you need to do so.
The more often your inner monologue runs along those lines, the more credible they sound, so the more you chip away at your self-esteem. Some people do it so often it stops becoming notable and ends up just being a part of their normal thought pattern. If this sounds like you, then consider taking a minute to remember when the last time was that you criticized yourself, or how many times it has happened today.
Now imagine being faced with another important assignment or target. If your subconscious has been programmed to doubt itself to every degree, then that task is going to look impossible from the beginning. And if that’s true, then what’s the point of even starting?
It feels safer to do something else which will distract you from the guilt for a little while. Hence ending up binging reality TV you don’t actually like, or wiling away six hours playing Angry Birds.
Then, you guessed it, you beat yourself up all over again and sabotage your self-esteem even more. A vicious circle is born. I really can’t stress enough how many people get trapped in this cycle of self-sabotage, and what a significant role it’s playing in stopping them from being who they want to be.
How do I change that?
As much as I hate to be Captain Obvious, the way to stop beating yourself up is to stop beating yourself up. Hopefully, now you’re reading this article and becoming aware of this issue, you’ll be a little bit more in tune with the way you’re talking to yourself. As a result, you ought to be able to catch yourself when your thoughts run along the lines of judgement, and consciously let it go. Think of it like self-criticism whack-a-mole.
Letting go of the negativity is not the only thing that needs doing, however, because you need to replace it with something positive too.
To try and replace the negative messages with encouraging ones, have a go at one or two of the following tasks when you start to feel down:
- Make a list of great things about yourself
- Look in the mirror and give yourself a compliment
- Make a list of people who value your company or contribution
- Remember the best compliments you’ve been given by others
- Make a list of people you admire, and positive characteristics you have in common with them
- Remind yourself of achievements in your past
- Ask a friend or family member why they like you
- Make a list of things you’re good at (even the weird ones like superhero star-sign trivia or baking with Rice Krispies, we’ve all got a few)
You can make up your own methods too, but basically you just need to get yourself to a point where the task in question feels possible to you. You know, because you’re awesome.
2) Remind yourself of the why
When it comes to how to motivate yourself, there’s very little more important than remembering why it is you want to do what you want to do in the first place. Trust me, everything important has a reason, but sometimes we lose track of what those are. And if you can remind yourself of what the reason you’re so desperate to motivate yourself is, then that is likely to be motivation enough in itself.
For example, earlier this year I decided to learn some French. I’ve been using a fantastic languages app called Duolingo, but every time the notification to practice comes up on my phone, I don’t feel like doing it. So each time that happens, I remind myself why I want to.
I want to practice on Duolingo so my understanding of French improves. I want my understanding of French to improve so I can feel more at home in Madagascar this summer. I want to feel more at home in Madagascar so I get the most out of the trip.
At this point, I’m so busy feeling excited about the upcoming adventure and how the French will help me with it, that it doesn’t seem like a chore any more.
The same can be applied to almost any goal you have. If you want to tidy up, imagine how nice it will be spending time in your room once you have. If you want to go running, imagine how proud you’ll be when you’re managing your target route with ease. If you want to do revision, imagine getting those brilliant results.
If you can keep this mindset on board, then you’ll be experiencing that target moment for real before you know it.
3) Find ways to enjoy the task
This is a self-motivation classic. In fact, I probably don’t need to explain to you the technicalities behind this technique, because it’s so straightforward and effective you’re likely already familiar. I’m just here as a reminder. Essentially, if you have a reason to enjoy a task, it will be so much easier to get yourself to do it. As a great woman once said, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!” So how can you make something more fun?
Completing the ironing? Listen to a podcast.
Working out? Put on the silliest, most enjoyable music you can think of.
Doing your homework? Facetime a friend and do it together.
Working on your CV? Have a chocolate for every new paragraph.
Eating healthily? Get into cooking (and don’t try the one above).
Mowing the lawn? Mow a pattern onto it.
Whatever it is, I’m sure you can think of something.
4) Master time blocking
This header might sound like an absolute snooze fest compared to the one above, but it’s actually pretty appealing when you get down to it. Do you ever not know how to motivate yourself for a task because you think it’s going to take forever? This is the antidote to that, and the clue is in the title.
All you have to do to master time-blocking is work out your own system for assigning time. Some people like to divvy up their whole week on a Monday morning (making time for chilling and recreation of course), while others do it one day in advance. A lighter version of the technique is just to add maximum hours to your to do list for each task. That way, embarking on a chore doesn’t seem nearly so daunting because you know you’re only going to spend a certain amount of time on it, and later, there are more exciting things to do.
If it’s a longer job, then a small time allocation every day will get it done in the end just as well as any other approach. Plus, most people produce much better work in the long run when they don’t try to do it all in one session.
5) Get all the information
If you still don’t know how to motivate yourself for something, despite believing that you’re going to do it well, knowing why you want to do it, sure you’re going to enjoy it and happy with the time it will take, perhaps you don’t have all the information. Of course you would feel reluctant to start something if you’re not sure how you’re actually meant to! Luckily, us folks at Fledglink have got your back.
Still struggling to feel motivated? Why not switch up your learning style and watch one of our workshops focused on building your skills - we even have one on motivation hacks. Visit LEARN NOW > Skills Builder to find out more.
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