Are You Struggling with Self-Motivation? Read This

How are you making out with those goals you set earlier this year?

This is the time of year where all of our resolutions are tried and tested. I am not necessarily talking about New Year’s resolutions, but more so, our motivation to improve. Our desire to achieve our goals are challenged by limited daylight, busy family lives and holiday action. All kinds of germ-related sicknesses are running around, stealing our health and energy. There never is never a worse time to stay self-motivated on keeping up with our habits.

Our time and energy are scarce. Our motivation is the casualty.

During these tough times, we lean on peers to hold us accountable. Perhaps you have a fitness buddy or a diet pal. Maybe you have a Facebook group to swap experiences, or you meet once a week at a local coffee shop to share mishaps and wins. Overall, you look to accountability from a friend to reward you for the consequences that you have chosen to remain on track.

Problem is: you still lack motivation.

Wouldn’t our outcome of attaining our goals be more probable if we were self-motivated? To be able to move forward without the guilt and shame that can come from failing to be accountable to others.

Let’s dissect what makes up self-motivation!

Think about a goal you want to achieve, now answer these three questions:

Can you do it? – Do you have the skills, the energy and the time to accomplish this goal?

Will it work? – Do you believe that by your actions, your efforts will result in a positive outcome?

Is it worth it? – Do you see value in completing this goal? And is the effort worthy of your energy and time?

Virginia Tech professor Scott Geller explains these questions very well in his TEDx talk: The psychology of self-motivation. If you answered ‘no’ any of them, then you are not likely to get off the starting block. If you answered ‘yes’ to all three questions, then you will feel competent enough to achieve your goal, but that is not enough to bring you the self-motivation to actually do it. We all have grand ideas where we feel like we can do it and it will be worth it to try it, but there is still something missing.

You need to feel empowered.

Empowerment comes from knowing that you have a choice in the matter. But are you trying to achieve this goal to avoid failure? Or are you trying to seek opportunity?

Let’s use the goal of being fit by exercising as an example. Is the reason you are trying to be fit is to avoid death? Are you trying to prevent ageing? Or are you looking to see what a healthy body can do for you? What might the possibilities be?

There are two mindsets at play with those questions. A failure avoider will think about their fitness class like: “Oh, I have to go to my class. I don’t want to miss it, or I will fall off the wagon and fail.” An opportunity seeker will look to their fitness class, even on their worse days as: “I can’t wait to get to my fitness class and see what I can do today! Maybe with today’s class, I will feel better!”

A failure avoider doesn’t see that they have a choice in the matter. There is no rewarding consequence to going to a fitness class. A failure avoider is at the mercy of trying not to fail, so they drag themselves every day to workout and become fit. They have no choice, either they go, or they fail. Even though they may feel competent enough to achieve their goal of becoming fit, they rarely feel empowered from the lack of choice. They end up missing out on self-motivation to succeed and often fail anyway.

An opportunity seeker only sees a choice in what they are doing. They make a habit of understanding that they always have an option to not go to their fitness class, but really, why wouldn’t they go?! If they didn’t, they might miss out on accomplishing or learning something new. On challenging days, an opportunity seeker will feel empowered to choose to work on their fitness goal or not. If they decide not to go today, then they don’t see it as a failure, only a missed opportunity. They are competent enough to achieve their goal, and they are empowered to see it through, “Tomorrow, I will get that opportunity back!”

Competency + Empowerment = Self-motivation

As you can see, self-motivation is a fairly complex force of energy. There are so many moving parts to it that it can be very fragile. At any time you can feel empowered, but lose your feeling of competency (it’s not worth it, or I can’t do it). Alternatively, your mindset can change, and you may lose your feeling of empowerment (I have no choice, I don’t want to fail) even though you still feel competent. Like all things in life, it is a balance, and it takes practice to build the habit of self-motivation and those who master it tend to find success everywhere they go.

When the lights are turned off, and you are the only one left standing in the room, are you empowered and competent enough to finish your goal and become that stronger person you dreamed about not so long ago? Do you see the opportunity? Or are you afraid to fail, so you never really start?

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