Make Things Happen! Self-Motivation

“You can motivate by fear. You can motivate by reward. But those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation.”

Many people have made their lists of New Year’s resolutions that they painstakingly make every New Year’s Eve only to have forgotten them several weeks into the year. Five years ago, I was one of those people and I have realised that one major determiner in my success has been self-motivation.

One of the most surprising things about motivation is that it often comes after starting a new behaviour, not before. We have this common misconception that motivation arrives as a result of passively consuming a motivational video or reading an inspirational book. However, active inspiration can be a far more powerful motivator.

Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Motivation comes from vision, goal setting, and celebrating small successes, but being in this state of mind is the challenge! Luckily, you have every tool at your disposal to get started right now. Here we go!

1.   Get positive. It’s pretty hard to get anything done when we’re stuck on thoughts like, “Ugh, life sucks and I am still alone.” Thoughts like those make us want to just curl up in our beds until someone physically drags us out. You can’t do that! Positive thoughts are the only way you’ll even find motivation in the first place.

·        If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, just stop. Don’t finish it. Divert your attention elsewhere.

2.   Get confident. With thinking positive about your world, you have to think positive about you. If you think you’re incapable, it’ll seriously put a damper on the amount of effort you give this task. Why would you bother doing something you don’t think you can do? Exactly. You won’t.

3.   Know setbacks will happen. It’s important to go into a behaviour (possibly even a lifelong habit) knowing there will be failures along the way. Being a perfectionist about yourself will just leave you frustrated and tempted to give up. There will be times when you fail. You just have to know that you’re capable of getting back up and, better yet, that you will.

·        Your setbacks have nothing to do with you and everything to do with being human. They happen. Sometimes they’ll happen because of you (not every decision can be stellar), but sometimes they’ll happen because of circumstances that are beyond your control. Going into this with a level head will benefit you greatly in the end.

4. Focus on positive goals. It’s simple to know what we don’t want. It’s simple to know what we’re afraid of. Often it’s harder to pinpoint what exactly would make us happy and what exactly we’re striving for. However, to get anything done, we have to start thinking with positive goals, not negative fears. Instead of “I don’t want to be poor,” a better goal is “I’d like to save X amount of money each month.” See how the latter is much, much more doable? And less scary!

5. Keep it small. Having lofty goals is tough. You take one look at a book that’s seven volumes long and you don’t want to read it. Instead, break it up. The rest of the volumes are still there, they’re just waiting in the wings for when you’re ready to bring them on.

·        Instead of “I want to lose 20 KG” think of something like “I want to lose 1 KG this week,” or “I want to work out 4 or 5 days a week.” These will warrant similar results but are easier on the mind.

6. Track your progress. Since the dawn of time, humans have searched for purpose and direction. We seek purpose in our jobs, relationships, and even hobbies. If something is unfulfilling, we don’t do it. So whether you’re losing weight, working overtime, or building your dream home, track what you’re doing! This will give you drive and show you the positive outcomes of your behaviour. It will give you purpose.

·        Make sure to track your behaviours and their results. Not only do you need the results to look at and go, “Gee! I am awesome! Look at what I did!” you’ll need the results to see what does and does not work for you. If you try three different methods of studying, three different workouts, etc., which one gave you the best results for your effort? You can then streamline and strategies from there.

7. Take breaks. We are not machines (but even machines need breaks). Studies have shown that students who take breaks are more effective at studying. And it’s common knowledge that our muscles need breaks, too. Breaks aren’t for the lazy — they’re for those that know they want to keep going.

8. Do what you enjoy. Most of us have jobs we aren’t crazy about, workouts we don’t want to do, and a to-do list that we’d pay other people to get completed. These things won’t go away, so we have to make them as manageable and as enjoyable as possible. If you don’t enjoy it, it may be there forever.

·        If working out is a bummer, find a different one! You don’t have to be a marathon runner to burn calories. Go swimming, take a class, or go hiking. If you don’t like the exercise you’re doing, you won’t stick with it.

9.    Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. In order to find the best way of achieving something, we often have to do things we’ve never done before. Mistakes will happen if you’re growing and getting better. You can X them off your list of possibilities and narrow your path to action down from there. Technically, mistakes are a good thing. At the very least they serve a purpose.

10.      Keep motivators around you. This one is pretty straightforward: we need reminders to keep ourselves going. Trust me even myself as a life coach i need a motivator (my friend in coaching) from time to time. These can be people or things — whatever might keep you in the right mind-set. It’s natural to get off-balance and forget where we want to be — these external motivators offer focus and direction.

11.      Keep learning. As you go, you’re likely to get bored, or lose attention. To avoid all these pitfalls, keep learning! Spice it up! It’s hard to stay motivated on anythinglong-term. But if the goal keeps changing, if your knowledge keeps morphing, it’ll be easier.

·        If you’re aiming for weight loss, read success stories and blogs. Talk to trainers at your gym. Hit up a nutritionist. Tackle new elements (methods of training, dieting plans, etc.) one at a time. Keeping it fresh will keep your mind fresh.

12.     Only compare you to you. The best way to get demotivated and fast is to compare yourself to others. You’ll never be them and they’ll never be you, so what’s the point? Though you’ve heard it a billion times before, it bears repeating: the only person you should compare yourself to is your previous self. It’s only if you’ve improved that matters; not how anyone else is doing.

13.       Help others. When you’re nearer your goals, odds are you’ve learned a lot from your work along the way. Use this knowledge to help others! Not only will it motivate you, but it will motivate them. Don’t you wish you had someone to help you along your way?

·        Have you lost some weight, gotten your business started? Use what you know to help someone else and, better yet, drill it into you. Just like studying out loud and reciting your facts to someone else helps your understanding, helping someone else will keep you focused and feeling good about your progress.


Motivating a horse is simple. You reward good behaviour with a carrot, and punish bad behaviour with a stick. Unfortunately, the human brain is much more complicated than this. We are motivated by purpose, meaning, and small wins that show that our daily efforts are working.

So don’t motivate yourself with carrots and sticks to reach your goals in 2017. Find the goals that are the most important to you, achieve small wins that prove you can reach them, and focus on your effort, not the ultimate result!

Life is all about the journey not the destination.

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