Brisbane City Psychologists Motivation

How to Improve Motivation

by Brisbane City Psychologist Laura Nash

Most of us will go through periods when we lack motivation; motivation to exercise, to work, to do chores, and sometimes seemingly simple tasks. 

Lack of motivation can be associated with depression. However, it is common to experience low motivation without feeling depressed. So how can we manage this? How can we feel motivated? It is unreasonable to expect yourself to feel motivated all the time and even to change the way you are feeling. 

If we could flick a switch and ‘feel motivated’, then you would not be reading this article. Have hope and read on! 

Action, Action, Action

People often believe that they need to feel motivated before they take action. It is ‘action’ that will help you to feel motivated. 

Action

Action is like a muscle that will grow once you get started. Your mind and emotions won’t always cooperate and help you to take action. For example, your mind might be making up excuses why you shouldn’t exercise, and you may genuinely feel tired. Instead of buying into these thoughts, do the action anyway. You can break it down into small steps – just put your shoes on, get outside and see what happens. Chances are you might just do something, and once you begin, your motivation to continue will grow.

Language

Language can also be very powerful. I know that many of us, including myself, have unhelpful beliefs and associated thoughts around specific tasks, such as tax or administrative work. Listening to these thoughts may lead to feelings of dread, increased avoidance, low motivation and anxiety (about starting the task). Instead of listening to the stories the mind tells us about the historically dreaded job (e.g. this is always such a pain, I can never get on top of this, why is it so dull etc.), and approaching it with an open and accepting attitude (e.g. it is what it is), we might just find it easier to take action.

Goal vs. No Goal

Setting realistic goals can be an effective way to increase motivation. I know many people who enjoy the process of goal setting and working towards it – they feel at their best when they know they are working towards something and they allow themselves to enjoy the sense of achievement that comes with reaching their goal. However, sometimes people feel more anxious if they think that they “have to” reach a goal. They become concerned that they can’t do it, or perhaps life gets in the way, and it stops them from working towards the goal, leading to feelings of frustration and disappointment. The key is to be flexible in your thinking. For example, accept that sometimes you might not be able to take the necessary steps to reach your goal. It doesn’t mean you need to give up entirely. You could still adjust your goal to make it achievable for you. Alternatively, don’t set goals. Instead, focus on taking action each day in areas that are important to you. This will increase motivation and improve life satisfaction.   

Find a Reason Why

Knowing how to get something is often the simple bit (e.g. I know that if I want to become healthier, then I need to eat well and exercise). The part that we don’t pay enough attention to is finding the reason why you want to do something. Maybe you value the time you have with your children, and you need to be healthy to be the best parent you can be. 

Why is it essential to get to work today? If you can think about what you value about your work, then it will help you to get there. For example, you might not appreciate doing data entry at work, but you do value your team members, and the goal the team are working towards. You might also value your family, and your current job helps to support your family financially. 

Holding your values close to you will help you to take action and feel more motivated.