• Motivation can be hard to come by, even if we have important goals for ourselves

  • Dr Audrey Tang offers straightforward tips to get you motivated and beat procrastination

  • We have coaches available to help you – find yours here


Think of a goal, have you got it?  

Next think of all the things you need to do to achieve it.  

Small manageable chunks, with focus – you should be achieving that in no time – go you!!

Seems straightforward doesn’t it? And this is a goal you’ve had for some time, plus those steps are probably quite easy…

…now think about everything you did yesterday – how many of those things contributed TO your goal or simply distracted you from it (Netflix binges, scrolling mindlessly through social media, any psychodramas you got caught up in?)

Our brains are amazing – they are capable of so much – and yet we often apply their energy and drive ineffectively due to habit, laziness, or simply because we don’t know any other way. 

It is not the big choices that we make that shape our lives the most – whether to buy that house, whether to take that job, whether to get into a relationship with that person…because they are clearly defined and they have an exit strategy. It is the little choices you make every day that really make up who you are:

  • Do you have the apple instead of the doughnut?
  • Do you take five minutes for yourself, or do you say “yes” to every person who asks?
  • Do you choose to speak kindly to yourself, or do you berate yourself for “just not being good enough?”


If we can focus on making as many little healthy choices as possible, we’ll be living the life we want, rather than seeking motivation to move towards it.

We only really need motivation when we don’t want to do something, and that’s the time it’s hardest to find. It’s all too easy to kid yourself that you will do it tomorrow, but the truth is, unless you make some changes (some little choices) today, what guarantee is there that tomorrow will be any different?

Therefore, here are some traditional approaches to boosting your motivation as we move into autumn, as well as little energy boosters that will make creating a lifestyle of little healthy choices that bit easier.


Motivation depends on three key things:

  • If we have a preference for doing something
  • The ease at which think we can do something
  • The knowledge that it will bring results


So, here are a few things you can do if you need that big boost:


1. Find support

Instead of “I’ve tried everything”, look elsewhere for support, ideally places you’ve not tried before such as forums, or asking someone who has achieved the goal you are seeking


2. Don’t convince yourself you don’t need to do it (unless that’s REALLY true)

Ask yourself when you are procrastinating: Is it because you don’t WANT to do something or if it is because you think you CAN’T do it? If you don’t WANT to and you really don’t have to, then don’t – but don’t feel guilty.  

If you think you CAN’T, then try asking yourself the following questions. How can I learn/improve if I don't try? Why does it matter if I mess it up?  

Rather than catastrophising about the worst things that could happen if you tried and failed, reframe it and instead write down all the worst things that could happen if you DON’T try.


3. Identify your personal motivational profile

Motivation is also commonly divided into:

EXTRINSIC – External drive e.g.: money

INTRINSIC – Personal desire

INTROJECTED – Avoidance of guilt

IDENTIFIED – Needs to be done at some time

But as with all broad psychological concepts, this is pretty meaningless except to pass an exam on motivation. Instead, find out what is meaningful – and therefore most motivating – to you.

For example, my personal motivational profile is:

1. Pain: the things I don't want to do 

2. Gain: the things I am happy to do 

Then, from my options to take action, I choose the one that ticks off more of my gains.

 

Try these energy boosters to make goal getting easier:

1. Schedule in “self-development time”

Timetable yourself in every day – making that commitment to yourself as important as your commitments to others. Whether you use that time to meditate, take a class, read, or simply have a cup of tea (while it’s still hot) – clearing some headspace will also help you be more effective when you release the pause button.


2. Practise gratitude

Yes, focus on what you want, but also appreciate what you’ve got. It’s great to know what you are aiming for, but take a moment to recognise what you have…as at one point those things were as much goals as the next thing on your list. Give them, and yourself for attaining them, the value they deserve. 

Gratitude magnifies positive emotions which can energise us to be motivated to act. Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness – but after a while it wears off. But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something.

Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness. This makes sense: You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. So if you free up some of the space that envy takes up, you have more left to do whatever it is you need to do for you!

Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. Once you start to recognise the contributions that other people have made to your life and in turn realise that other people have seen the value in you to make those contributions, you can transform the way you see yourself. You’re more likely to be motivated to do something for yourself when you show yourself kindness. 


3. And finally, don’t make rigid resolutions  

As per the exercise at the start of this article, write down your overall goal and identify the steps you need to achieve it, and every day make sure your little choices move you in the right direction. If you get stuck, ask yourself: is what I’m about to do going to move me towards my ideal life or away from it? And that may just be enough to keep you going!

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist, mental health and wellness expert and author of new book The Leader’s Guide to Resilience


Further reading

Motivation and accountability: how coaching can help

Why do I always procrastinate?

How to change your mindset

The secret of long-lasting change

Top 4 morning habits for a productive day