Motivation and How We Can Find It

8 March, 2021

This post originally appeared on our sister site Visit the site for more information on open mental health training courses and for more blogs like this one.

Written by Tim Widdowson

Let’s start with the obvious question – does motivation exist?

Motivation does exist but it is not what gets you up in the morning and raring to go, nor is it what makes you start creating that new business or keeps you working hard in a job.

So, what does?

Well – ACTION. The more we do, the more we want to do. Action leads to rewards and success which then leads to motivation which leads to action….and so on.

But what can stop us? In short – procrastination. Procrastination is the act of putting things off and it is what can stop your goals from coming to fruition. In a way, thinking about motivating ourselves to do something can lead to procrastination, we can talk ourselves out of the doing or come up with reasons why we can’t take action.


Moving past procrastination

Sometimes we don’t feel we can reach our goal, or don’t think it matters, and if this is the case then we won’t feel motivated to pursue it. This is when creating processes will help. We need to stop looking at the distance between where we currently are and the place we want to get to. To make the move from procrastination to action, and to help with our processes, we can start by asking ourselves a few questions.

  • Why do you want to achieve this goal or task / why is it important?
  • How can you achieve this task?
  • What are the steps/processes you need to do to achieve it?
  • What action can you take today?
  • How will it feel if you do this, or don’t do this?

These questions can be applied to almost anything you want to achieve in life, no matter how big or small. It lets you know if it is important, the steps you need to follow to get there and how you will ultimately feel once it is done.

How can we help ourselves to act?

Firstly, it is important to recognise where you currently are, and be specific. There is no point in lying about how you are feeling and where you are, as this will not be a true starting position in your quest to act. If we aren’t being truthful to ourselves, we may start to feel like we are further away from our goal before we have even started.

So, what steps can we take to get to “There”?

Forget about the end goal and focus on each process. Break it down into manageable pieces. Think about what can you achieve today? Try writing down one task that matters that you want to accomplish today. Make it small enough so the thought of doing it is not overwhelming.

Another important lesson to learn in the quest for action and motivation is to manage your expectations. Some goals are impossible to do in a day, but the smaller processes can be achieved. This is why it is important to focus on the processes and not your end goal. Recognise what can be done today and not what you imagine you must do to make that end goal come true today.


Changing behaviour and habits

Always remember to take stock of what went well throughout the day – celebrate your wins no matter how small. Create a virtuous cycle. Be kind to yourself and reward or recognise a good job done. We don’t encourage ourselves or others enough. Write down what you have achieved today and what you are proud of. When we celebrate our wins each evening, we will wake up with renewed desire to act again the following day.

The next shift in our behaviour is to interrupt and replace our negative thought process and get our pre-frontal cortex making the decisions and stop ourselves from relying on our auto pilot. Sometimes instead of sticking to our plan we go back to our old ways of doing things, this is our autopilot taking over, our habits, and often we don’t get the outcome we wanted.  We need to interrupt this process and tell ourselves there is a different road we can take.

Mel Robbins in her book The 5 Second Rule discusses the science behind stopping the brain before it starts sending us down the well-travelled habit road. If we count backwards from 5 to 1 and take action on the 1, this will stop us from talking our way out of the task and help the pre-frontal cortex to make decisions. On 1 tell yourself to get out of bed, get that job done etc… There is no time for your brain to try and stop you, and in the words of a famous sporting ad, you “Just Do It”.

Could it really be that easy? Well, yes, but you must want to do whatever “IT” is. You won’t take action if you are not bothered whether you do the task or not. Therefore, it is important that “IT” is something that matters to you. It could be financial, to be promoted, to start that business, to lose weight, anything, but it must be valuable to you. I don’t have to know your reason why, nobody does, but it has to be important enough to you that you will take action.

So, now is the time to get out there and achieve your goal. Just follow the processes, forget the greater end goal, and focus on what you can do each and every day and just keeping doing it. Create your own motivational cycle – take action, create your successes and create motivation to take more action and before you know it you will have reached your target.

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