- Melanie Lopes, MFT
How to Find Motivation in Your Life
Are you in a situation where you know you want something to change but you just can’t find the motivation to do something about it?
If so, you're probably feeling stuck, frustrated, and down on yourself for not being able to get yourself going. It's possible that you're dealing with obstacles, limitations, or circumstances that are beyond your control and it's leaving you feeling discouraged and defeated.
Or in some situations you might be doubting yourself - you might not believe in your ability to accomplish or get what you want, so you catch yourself thinking "what's the point of even trying?"
Or maybe your fears are getting in the way of your motivation. You might be afraid of failure, taking a risk, making a mistake, or being judged or criticized, so you have a hard time taking that next step. You may spend a lot of time and energy overthinking, worrying, preparing, trying to figure things out or predict what’s to come, and in the meantime, you don't actually end up taking action.
Or it may be that you're unclear about what you want to do or what your goals are. You might have a lot of different and conflicting ideas about what you want to do and you’re feeling overwhelmed and undecided about where to begin.
Whatever the case may be, figuring out how to overcome these obstacles and motivate yourself may take some time, and well…it does require some initial motivation. But with persistence and patience you can build your motivation and start taking the steps needed to get unstuck and move forward.
Here are some self-motivation tips to get you started:
Start with the basics.
It can be hard to get motivated if you are feeling depleted and stressed. Make sure that your basic needs are being met and you're practicing consistent self-care: get a good night’s sleep, rest when you need it, eat healthy & balanced meals, stay hydrated, use your coping strategies to help manage stress & anxiety, find connection and support, etc. Focusing on the basics can help lay a solid foundation for increasing motivation.
Focus & prioritize.
Dedicate some time to get clear on what you want or what you’re aiming for - it can be something small or part of a bigger picture, long-term vision for your life. You can be practical and think of things that you see as necessary and functional or you can trust your instinct on this - what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what you want for yourself right now?
Either way, you’ll want to prioritize and pick a goal or a set of goals that you want to work on first. Don't worry about how you'll get there at this point, just find something you want to commit to focusing on. That way you can have a clear and focused aim and you can help prevent yourself from feeling scattered or overwhelmed by different options and choices.
Look at the pros and cons.
Take a look at the positive consequences of taking that step to move forward and getting unstuck. Even if you’re unclear of what that next step is right now, you can look at the general benefits of moving forward and use that as an incentive to take action. The benefits may be a sense of relief, accomplishment, pride, happiness, satisfaction, renewed confidence and hope, a specific change, or really whatever you can think of. Also be sure to look at the consequences of NOT taking that next step and keeping things as they are – how will you feel, how will you feel about yourself?
Remember your "why."
Remind yourself why you are interested in pursuing your goals. This helps you understand your values and the bigger picture reasons for moving forward toward your vision or goals.
Small, realistic steps.
Once you’ve decided what you want to work on first, it's helpful to break it down into smaller steps and be realistic. What can you realistically start with to move you forward toward your goal? Remember to start small and get detailed and specific.
The smaller the steps, the easier they are to accomplish and you can begin checking them off of your list, which can be satisfying and motivating once you see that you are actually doing things to move you forward. If you come up with a step and you still can't seem to find the motivation, it might be that the first step is unrealistic or too big of a leap from where you are currently. Try to break it down into an even smaller step. What do you need to do first before you can reach that step?
Identify what’s getting in the way. What are the obstacles that you are facing? Are your own thoughts, beliefs, and fears getting in the way? This is where you can come up with creative solutions, identify new learning opportunities, and figure out what resources & support are needed to help you move forward. What help do you need? What skills do you need to learn?
**This is also where you may find it really helpful to look for mentors – people who’ve done what you’re trying to do before – find them in person or read their books or listen to their podcast or whatever you can do to glean some guidance, inspiration, and knowledge from them.
Face your fears and create an action plan.
If you’re stuck in fear and consistently thinking about "what if this or that happens", intentionally set aside some time to take a look at all of those "what ifs" and try to find solutions or develop contingency plans. This is like troubleshooting in advance. Ask yourself: What if it doesn’t work out as planned? What if the worst case scenario comes true? How will I deal with it? What’s the next step? And then what will happen? Sometimes when you prepare for the worst it can help you feel more confident in your ability to deal with whatever comes your way and you may find yourself more willing to take that next step.
And try to talk yourself through your fears about doing the wrong thing, heading in the wrong direction, or hitting another road block. Remind yourself that the most important lessons come from doing, from making mistakes, and from the feedback you get along the way.
Build belief in yourself.
If you believe you can do something, you’re more likely to do it. It's as simple as that. Building belief in yourself, however, is not always that simple, but it is possible and essential for helping you move forward toward your goals in life. One way to help build belief in yourself is to create an inventory of your accomplishments, past successes, positive feedback, and/or strengths. When you look over this list, it can help you see that you are capable and help boost your confidence and your drive to move forward.
Click here to read my post with more tips on How to Build Self-Confidence.
Along the lines of building belief in yourself, it’s important to practice self-compassion or get in the habit of offering yourself kindness and understanding. You might be accustomed to taking a “tough love” approach and being hard on yourself to get you motivated, but it's worth taking a look at how this kind of approach may also be getting in the way. It might be adding to your stress and anxiety, taking away from your ability to enjoy yourself, and limiting you in what you think you can accomplish or holding you back in some way. Try talking to yourself and coaching yourself through situations with kindness, patience, and encouragement. If this is hard to do, imagine what you might tell a friend or loved one if they were in your shoes.
Click here for more tips on practicing self-compassion.
Do something, anything.
Lean into whatever you’re trying to accomplish and do something, even if it’s the tiniest step. One of the best ways to build motivation is to actually see yourself moving forward and navigating obstacles. Quit waiting for perfect moment because it may never come. And remember that if you keep moving forward you will be able to gain some momentum and motivation will come easier. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Once you take that first step, however small it may be, it’s important to acknowledge it as an accomplishment and to keep track of your accomplishments as you move forward. You can even list out the accomplishments and steps you’ve taken so that you can actually see them in front of you. The little steps and the small victories all add up and keeping a list of what you’ve done can be helpful for those times when you are feeling discouraged or impatient – you can look at it for encouragement and to help keep your motivation up.
And if after trying all of these tips, you notice that you still are having a hard time motivating yourself or you find yourself losing steam, I encourage you to find an accountability partner.
An accountability partner is someone who you trust, who is supportive, who you can talk to about your goals or what you’re working on, and then check in with them at a designated time so you can report in on whether or not you did what you set out to do.
If you didn’t do what you had hoped, use it as a time to troubleshoot and figure out what will help you as you move forward - for example, you may need to break things down into smaller steps or take a more structured approach. The point being that it can be easier to motivate and stay committed if you have someone holding you accountable because otherwise it’s much easier to just let things slide when you’re the only one who knows what you’re aiming toward. Plus, if you are able to accomplish what you set out to do, you have someone who you can celebrate your successes with and who can offer you further encouragement to keep going.
Best wishes on your journey - you got this!