Creating Motivation

What can you do to strengthen your motivation?


  1. Set a goal. If you have a major goal, it would be a good idea if you split it into several minor goals, each small goal leading to your major goal. By dividing your goal into several, smaller goals, you will find it easier to motivate yourself, since you will not feel overwhelmed by the size of your goal and the things you have to do. This will also help you feel that the goal is more feasible, and easier to accomplish. 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 dislike maths, but it’s going to help me become an engineer, 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.
  2. Understand that finishing what you start is important. Hammer into your mind that whatever you start you have to finish. Develop the habit of going to the finish line.
  3. Socialize with achievers and people with similar interests or goals, since motivation and positive attitude are contagious. Associate with motivated people, who share your interests.
  4. Never procrastinate anything. Procrastination leads to laziness, and laziness leads to lack of motivation.
  5. Persistence, patience and not giving up, despite failure and difficulties, keep the flame of motivation burning.
  6. Read about the subjects of your interest. This will keep your enthusiasm and ambition alive.
  7. Constantly, affirm to yourself that you can, and will succeed.
  8. Look at photos of things you want to get, achieve or do. This will strengthen your desire and make your subconscious mind work with you.
  9. Visualize your goals as achieved, adding a feeling of happiness and joy.
  10. Focus on the positives. If there is something really tedious and boring that you have to get done, try to redirect your attention to the silver lining of the situation. For example, if you have to clean the house, instead of thinking about how boring and tedious it is, you could try thinking about the fact that you won’t have to do any cleaning for another week. Not to mention your house will be sparkly and smell nice.
  11. Write lists. To-do lists are great. Writing all the important stuff down with a little, empty box next to it will motivate you to tick stuff off. It will also help you to manage your time more efficiently as you can see everything that you have to get done right in front of you.
  12. Start with the important stuff. If you are able to figure out what’s urgent and what isn’t, you will be able to cross some things off your list and focus your attention on a select few things. You’ll be more motivated to get stuff done if you aren’t completely overwhelmed by an enormous list of millions of things you have to get done.
  13. Listen to music. Fact: music makes everything fun. OK, so it hasn’t been “proven” but it sure as hell helps turn a boring situation into a less boring one. If you’ve got stuff to do, pop your favourite tunes on and sing along as you do it.
  14. Reward yourself. Nothing is more motivational than the light at the end of the tunnel. If the end result isn’t reward enough, promise yourself a reward for completing whatever task it is that you have to get done. It might be a night out with your friends, a trip to the ice creamery or playing that new video game.
  15. Balance fun with responsibilities. If it’s all work and no play, you’re more likely to burn out and become completely unproductive. Try to find a balance between your responsibilities and relaxation time so that you’re having regular breaks and you always have something to look forward to.
  16. Find inspiration. For some of the bigger tasks, like chasing your professional goals, it can help to look at other people who have succeeded at what is it that you want to do. By looking at others, you can learn from them and use them as inspiration every time you feel like you’re trying to achieve the impossible.


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Here are four strategies people can use to create sustainable motivation: Self-Efficacy, FIT/Rational Thinking, SMARTER Goals, and Commitment Contracts. Let’s walk through them one by one.



A person with high self-efficacy believes in their ability to perform a task and achieve goals. Such a person might have thought patterns that look like this: “I’m sure of my ability to achieve the goals I set for myself;” “I believe that if I work hard, I’ll be successful;” and “I can move in another direction to achieve my goal, if an obstacle blocks my path.” These beliefs are the strongest and most consistent predictors of exercise behaviour. A person won’t do something—as long as they believe they can’t. In contrast, the greater a person’s self-efficacy, the more likely they are to stick with an exercise program and make it a habit for life. There are three ways to build self-efficacy:

Ensure early success. When first starting out, choose activities you’re certain you can do successfully. If new to exercise, start with a fifteen-minute walk, one set of strength training exercises with a weight you can lift comfortably eight to ten times, or some gentle stretching. Similarly, if you’re looking to take an exercise routine to the next level, start small—say, by adding three more reps to a lifting routine or a few minutes of high intensity interval training to a cardio session. Gradually up the intensity level as you’re able, achieving more and more.

Watch others succeed in the activity you want to try. This is particularly effective if the person you’re observing is similar to you—neighbours, friends, co-workers, and gym mates are all good options. Witnessing their successes can boost your own self-efficacy level.

Find a supportive voice. Personal trainers and coaches are skilled in giving appropriate encouragement, as are good friends (usually). Just be sure the feedback is realistic and focused on the progress you’re making instead of comparing you to others.


Fundamentally Independent Thinking (FIT)/Rational Thinking

A fundamentally independent thinker understands that nothing makes a person upset, angry, or depressed; rather, what a person thinks about things determines how they feel. As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” There is no motivation without this important “inner game.”

But people aren’t necessarily born FIT thinkers. Instead, we have to learn to be rational even in the face of negative beliefs. Internal negative messages, or “Automatic Negative Thoughts”, can act as obstacles to motivation and goal setting.

Examples of destructive thinking include:

Feelings of inadequacy. “Emotional reasoning” means if a person feels something, they automatically assume it must be fact (“I feel like a loser, so I must be one”).

Predictions of failure. “Fortune telling” means a person makes predictions using FEAR, or False Evidence Accepted as Real (“I know I’ll make a fool of myself in front of everyone in the gym when I try to lift weights, and I’ll fail”).

Mind-reading. A person assumes people are reacting negatively to them when there’s no evidence for this assumption.


To oust these negative thoughts, ask the following types of questions:


What’s the evidence for and against what I’m thinking?

What would I tell a friend in the same situation? If I wouldn’t tell them what I’ve been telling myself, then why am I saying it to myself?

If a thought makes me feel bad or abandon a healthy lifestyle, then why don’t I stop thinking it?


SMARTER Goal Setting

We can eliminate inconsistency from our health and wellness plans by making goals that are SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, developed Enthusiastically, and attached to Rewards). Waking up in the morning and thinking, “I’m going to work out today,” is less effective than coming up with a specific and actionable plan (“I’m going to the gym at 8:30, do 15 minutes on the treadmill at 6 km/h at an incline of 10 percent, then do three sets of eight reps of barbell bench presses, etc.) SMARTER goals take the guesswork out of health and wellness routines, so we’re more likely to stick to them.


Commitment Contracts

It can be particularly difficult to sustain nutrition or exercise routines around the holidays. The field of Behavioural Economics offers some strategies to help harness both internal and external motivation. The idea is grounded in “commitment contracts,” which are exactly what they sound like: A person commits to a behavioural change and then establishes a “contract” (with a partner, a friend, or through a website like whereby some consequence (usually a monetary one) results from the person failing to achieve their goal. The idea is that the desire to avoid the consequence helps keep people more committed to success.