Recently, I was teaching a seminar on business skills and I was asked a question that I have been asked many times before. How do I motivate myself? The answer to such a question is not formulaic. In truth, different people have different strategies that work for them. The key is to find what works best for you. That being said, however, let’s discuss some different approaches to motivating yourself.
The simplest way of thinking about motivation is that it is separated into those motivated by what they have to move towards or get and those who are motivated away from what they don’t want or what they lose. This ‘Towards vs Away from’ approach enables us to understand how different people work better when they are driven by fear and loss and others work better when they are driven by pleasure and promise.
So, at a simple level, one motivation strategy is to think about how great you will feel and how great it will be once you do the specific task you are looking for motivation to do.
A second motivation strategy is to think about how bad you will feel and how awful it will be if you do not do what you are looking for motivation to do.
Another option is to examine what are the things that motivate you already. For example, why do you do what you do? What are the motivations you have that give you the energy and state necessary to take this specific action? When you examine situations in your life that you are already motivated in, this will help you to understand what you need to connect to this task. So, if you are driven by challenge then find a way of making the task that you want to be more motivated to do more challenging.
The next strategy is to break a task down into smaller milestones or chunks. Often what stops us from being motivated in the first place is that we cannot imagine getting to the end soon enough. When you create sub goals out of a larger goal and give yourself milestones to reach, you ensure that you have things to look forward to consistently and it is easier to stay motivated.
Sometimes, you can take your laziness and use that as a motivation. For example, if you are too lazy to do something, instead you can imagine how much work, hassle and time it will take later if you do not get it over and done with as soon as possible.
To become more motivated, you can raise the stakes. By this I mean that you take whatever consequences or benefits you might face as a result of taking or failing to take action and build them up as much as possible. Focus on the worst case scenario and the best case scenario.
Another suggestion is to write down a date and a time when you will do the specific action. Research shows that people who tend to be specific in terms of when they are going to do something and write it down are far more likely to complete the task.
You can also tell someone that you will do the task. This uses social pressure as a motivation to accomplish your goals and be productive.
Identify someone you admire who does what you are looking for motivation to do. Imagine yourself being more like them by completing this action. Imagine talking to them about it.
Write down all of the positive benefits you will get if you complete the task. Write down a list of all the negative things that will happen if you do not.
Lastly, one final strategy to get things done involves avoiding the concept of motivation altogether. By this I mean instead of trying to motivate yourself to do it, put it into a routine and a calendar and just commit to doing it. When the time comes to do it, simply take action without question. Avoid checking in with how you feel and get into the habit of acting rather than thinking. When you do this you are using discipline. The more you practice this way of acting the better you will get at it.
Of course, these are just a selection of possible motivation strategies that might help. You still need to do them!