How to Motivate Yourself – 2 key ingredients of motivation

During coaching sessions, I help my clients to work out what steps they can take to improve their lives and feel happier. But how, they ask, can I keep up my motivation to take these steps?

Psychologists have done lots of research into what motivates us to take action and make changes, and there are 2 core themes to come out of the research –

To motivate yourself to do just about anything, the 2 key ingredients you need are:

1) Importance

Increasing the importance of your next step creates more motivation to do it. So you need to find a reason for doing it that gives you something you REALLY want.

Logical reasons, no matter how much sense they make, will often fail to motivate us. So, you need to work out what reasons will, for you, make the actions you need to take feel important.

2) Confidence

Increasing your confidence that you CAN take the next step also creates more motivation.

Having little confidence that you can succeed will set you up for failure, no matter how important your task seems.  So, you need to arm yourself with the proper tools, skills and know-how to succeed – this will help you to feel confident in your ability to take action.

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We all know that losing weight would make us healthier, and most of us are confident we know roughly how to do it (exercise more, eat less fatty food, etc), but somehow we still can’t seem to stick to a weight-loss plan.

That’s because being healthier often doesn’t seem an important enough reason (even though logically it should be) to slim down.

But there’s nothing like a marriage proposal, or an impending school reunion, to give us that incentive to take action so that we will look good in our posh dress or suit!  It makes losing weight more important to us.

Similarly, if that stack of laundry isn’t getting done, it isn’t because we lack confidence in how to do it. It would soon get done if we knew there was a million pounds waiting for us at the bottom of it (or something else we value)!

So if you are struggling to motivate yourself to do something, then firstly find ways to increase its importance:

  • What reasons do I have to do this? 
  • What will doing this give me? 
  • What will make this goal/task really important to me?

Sometimes, feeling the importance of something isn’t enough.

In that instance we probably lack some confidence in our ability to do it. We need to work out what tools we need (what knowledge or skills we are missing) that would enable us to take action.

Think about how your motivation in any situation changes when you feel confident you know exactly how to approach it.

If I offered you 3 wishes from a magic genie in return for building me a new brick wall in my garden, you would probably consider it very important to build the wall but (unless you are a bricklayer) you would be stuck – you would lack confidence in your skills, and probably wouldn’t be able to motivate yourself to do it at all… until I offered you a free brick-laying course first!

So if you are struggling to motivate yourself to take action, ask yourself these questions about your confidence:

  • What are the tasks involved? 
  • What tools, skills and knowledge do I need to have in order to perform these tasks? 
  • Am I confident I have these skills etc? 

And if you aren’t confident, then set about getting the know-how you need in order to feel confident to take your next steps.

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Both motivational ingredients must be in place for us to be motivated: a reason, that we feel is important, to take action AND confidence in our ability to do so.

Subscribers to my newsletter can read more motivational tips in my next monthly newsletter, coming out soon.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

Leave a comment here, or email me, or tweet me!

What problems are you facing which you lack motivation for at the moment?

How do you go about motivating yourself? What have you found works for you?


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