Improving motivation without trying too hard

3 July 2019

Motivation is one of the subjects I am often asked about. Getting and staying motivated can be difficult in our busy lives. We may find we are motivated when it comes to work, but not say, exercise. Or that we start a new project full of enthusiasm, only for it to inexplicably drop by the wayside.

One thing is certain, being motivated is a quality we all want. Basically, it’s the desire to do things. Its deciding what we want out of life and finding the energy to make it happen. Motivation is what gets you up and out of bed in the morning, pushing you to go for a run, study for an exam or prepare a healthy meal.

Getting motivated

If motivation is so important, then why do some many people struggle to find it? There are many reasons why we don’t always manage to do the things we want. In our pressured lives, we are constantly juggling the many demands on our time – work, friends, family, home, etc. Keeping on top of all the details in our lives can leave us feeling as if there is never any time to focus on the things we want to do. Or, when we do have free time, all those pressures make it difficult to focus on taking the action we want.

When it comes to making changes in our own lives, whether it is a personal project (such as writing a book or decorating the bedroom),living a healthier lifestyle, controlling anxiety or achieving professional ambitions we first need to understand how this is important to us and what has stopped us from achieving it so far.

Why goals matter

Setting clear goals is the first step to improving motivation. The right goals make us feel excited and confident we can achieve them. As we recognise ourselves succeeding at the goals we have set ourselves, our confidence increases.  We then become more willing to commit to new challenges. In this way, motivation creates more motivation. Over time, this helps us to change our old habits and improve our sense of achievement and satisfaction.

When I work with clients who want to be more motivated, we work together to develop the skills and strategies they need to achieve what they want.  We look at the beliefs and patterns holding clients back and how they can change them into ones that motivate them to make changes.  Together, we find way to make goals clear and easier to achieve.  We also look at improving self-confidence and assertiveness skills, so clients have everything they need in place support their motivation to make changes.

It is possible to take action to become more motivated. Try using the tips below to help you achieve more of what you want in your life.


Clarify your values

If your goals don’t represent what you truly want, they are difficult to achieve. Knowing what you value provides direction. Once your values are clear you can focus your time and attention on what is important to you. Try this exercise to help clarify your values.

Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and relax. Pretend you are in a favourite place where you feel totally at ease. Now imagine you are ninety year old and you have lived a long and full life. What did you most enjoy experiencing and doing? What did you most appreciate accomplishing or having? Write down your answers. Now relax and take yourself back to your favourite place again. This time you are your own age. Imagine you have a rare illness that has no symptoms but you will only have six months left to live. What do you want to experience in that time? What do you want to change, do, and have now? Write your answers. Now compare the two sets of answers. Take both lists and order your values from the most to the least important.

Use your values to set goals

The values at the top of your list are the experiences, qualities and principles you would most like to have in your life. To achieve them you need to set goals. Goals are what you you want to achieve. It helps to think about what you want to devote time and energy to in your life? Is it consistent with your values? Is it something you can start here and now?

Develop an action plan

Next start with one goal and think of the specific steps you need to achieve your goal and make your plan. A plan will start with a clear and realistic goal that is important to you, and a list of the resources you will need and how you will access them. Focus on small steps to take to meet your goal. If your goal is to run 5k, your plan will start with finding running shoes, running for five minutes, building up to running for longer, finding a running partner, etc.

Use your imagination

Your imagination is a powerful tool which you can use to motivate yourself. Imagine you have already achieved your goal. How would you feel, look and behave? How would other people respond to you? When you have a clear picture of what you want and the positive feeling it will create, start thinking about what steps you need to take to achieve it. Focusing on positive feelings improves motivation and helps you plan.

Start small

If you find you can’t motivate yourself for an activity just try and do a small part of it. So, rather than focusing on eating healthily all the time, focus on eating one healthy meal or snack. Rather than thinking about writing an essay, focus on writing the first sentence.. You may find its more enjoyable than you thought, and want to do more. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Tell yourself “I have taken the first step towards my goal”. Recognising and rewarding your action will help improve your motivation to do more.

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