One of the most difficult aspects of learning to master your emotions is getting motivated. Poor emotional health can cause a lack of motivation because life gets so overwhelming; and it also goes the other way around. When we have low motivation, we tend to be more stressed out, anxious, and depressed. If you have found yourself stuck in this type of self-defeating cycle; you can find relief by learning how to cultivate motivation.
You have most likely heard the adage, “You must make a choice to take a chance; or your life will never change.” This is true in everything you do from mundane tasks like cleaning the house or finishing a class assignment to extraordinary tasks like finding a new job or career; or packing up for a cross-country move. Action requires motivation. So, what do we do when we can’t seem to get motivated? Below, we will discuss some strategies you can use when you need a boost of motivation.
Strategies for Cultivating Motivation
Set Yourself Up for Success
Sometimes, our lazy habits are hindering our ability to cultivate motivation. When we stay in our pajamas all day, for example, we encourage feelings and thoughts of laziness; and of not wanting to tackle that day’s responsibilities and commitments. Try to start your day with productivity, and you’ll likely find that you are more motivated to take on all the things that need doing.
Set Measurable and Attainable Goals
One of the most significant roadblocks to being motivated is setting goals that can’t be measured. When you are striving toward something, it’s important to consider how you’re going to measure your progress. If you can’t keep track of how you’re doing, how will you know when you’ve had a successful day? When we can’t measure our progress, we lose motivation and stop making any progress at all.
Goals should also be attainable. When we set a goal we perceive to be impossible, it becomes harder to find motivation. If you’re “reaching for the stars,” try to pick the one you know you can grasp if only you can learn to jump high enough. I’m not saying don’t challenge yourself, but choosing goals thoughtfully will help you find the motivation you need to succeed.
When you set a goal for yourself, set up a reward system. It’s important to celebrate even the tiniest of victories, because feeling successful causes us to have more motivation. Focus on the benefits of completing a task or attaining a goal; not on the barriers between you and what you want. When we focus on the positives instead of on the challenges; we are more motivated to do the work instead of avoiding it until we have no choice or the goal is abandoned.
A lack of patience can destroy motivation. Instead of focusing on the situation or task at hand; we focus on the frustrating aspects that cause us to lose patience. Consider a long commute to work. Instead of letting these negative aspects of the situation dictate how we feel; we can find a way to accept the situation and enjoy the commute. Maybe we’ll listen to our favorite tunes or an interesting audiobook or podcast.
Sometimes, it’s the most common of tasks for which we lack motivation. One of the great killers of motivation is frustration. Chronic frustration stops us from being productive because it depletes our motivated and self-esteem. When we practice patience, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to pause, step back from the situation; and re-evaluate our current strategies. When something doesn’t go according to plan, practicing patience will prevent frustration from negatively affecting your emotional well-being. Here are some methods you may try to practice patience:
- Be mindful. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to become more patient; because it allows you to identify what situations cause you to lose patience and what you can do to change that pattern. If you struggle to identify what exactly is causing your frustration, try journaling or keeping a list of frustration triggers.
- Take some deep breaths. The key to patience is to pause; and deep breathing is a great way to take a moment to re-center before you must act or react. Try taking a couple of big diaphragmatic breaths when you notice frustration beginning to manifest.
- Be Positive. When we find ourselves in trying situations; the negative aspects can be much louder than the positive ones, but we can practice patience by keeping a positive outlook regardless of the frustrations. Practice “can do” self-talk, and challenge your negative thoughts. When your mind slips toward “Wow, this traffic is ridiculous. I can’t believe I do this every morning,” challenge that with, “Traffic is heavy today, but it’s tolerable. I’m going to enjoy my drive.”
- Slow down. This world moves at a rapid pace, and it can be too easy to get dragged into the hurry. Unfortunately, when we are always in a rush, nothing and no one ever seems to move fast enough. Find a chance to slow down and find some peace in your busy schedule. We cultivate patience when we pace ourselves. If the number of responsibilities you have simply doesn’t allow for free time; consider if there is anything you’re doing that either isn’t important to you or could be delegated to someone else. Try to rank your responsibilities by importance and urgency to better manage your time.
When we experience an intense negative emotion, it can be difficult to follow through; but we can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression by learning to persevere. When we persistently pursue a goal, we feel as if we have a clearer sense of purpose. Perseverance also cultivates positivity and feelings of being adequate and capable. Here are some tips for practicing perseverance:
- Engage. When we stop striving towards our goals, we tend to feel disengagement with life; which can cause our emotional well-being to stagnate. By practicing perseverance, we practice actively engaging with the present. Try to be more tenacious about life, and practice optimism and mindfulness to cultivate a sense of engagement.
- Accept setbacks. To persevere means to keep moving forward despite the setbacks you may face along the path to achieving your goals. Accept that something is holding you up, and analyze the situation to find the best way to proceed. The trick here is to not allow setbacks to cause us to give up.
- Don’t give up. This one’s pretty intuitive. After all; you can’t give up and persevere at the same time, but sometimes, giving up seems like the best option; because it offers immediate emotional relief. This relief is real; but it is also temporary, and the action of giving up ultimately produces more stress and anxiety. When you feel as if you want to just throw in the towel, consider the long-term emotional consequences and find a way to keep moving forward.
We all procrastinate to an extent, whether it’s avoiding responsibility with the ever-effective “I’ll do it later;” proclamation or ignoring a medical symptom because that seems easier than possibly facing a major illness. Avoiding and ignoring our problems and commitments only serves to worsen our emotional distress. When we allow ourselves to procrastinate, we cause ourselves a lot of undue stress, anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem. We can cultivate motivation by learning to overcome the urge to procrastinate. Here are some strategies for conquering procrastination:
- Embrace the new and unknown. We often procrastinate because we are starting something new or diving into the unknown; but we can stop letting these things affect our motivation by changing our perspective. It’s common to feel inadequate or incompetent when we’re first introduced to a new task or commitment. Understand that confusion is normal when something is new. Instead of allowing it to overwhelm you, try making your first step a brainstorm of strategies for taking on this new thing. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes, start over, or need help in figuring out how to do something for the first time.
- Avoid task accumulation. You may spend so much time avoiding the task that it could have already been completed.
- Eliminate Distractions. This way, you can still hear it if someone needs to get ahold of you, but it no longer has the potential to distract you. When we remove distractions, it is easier to focus on the important and urgent tasks at hand.
- Focus on doing. One of the biggest procrastination pitfalls people fall into is waiting for motivation to strike. “I’ll clean the house; Motivation doesn’t just pop out from behind your couch and slap you in the forehead. You must cultivate motivation by doing. Action breeds motivated.
Sometimes, we need a little help in cultivating motivation. By sharing your goals with a friend, family member, or a professional, you can find the motivation you need to complete the task at hand. Having a support network is beneficial for motivation for a few reasons. First, it’s more difficult to go back on a commitment or give up on a goal when we have shared it with anyone. Tell the people in your life what you are working toward, and let them help you stay accountable. Have them let you know when they notice you slipping backward.
Second, it is easier to get motivated to do something when you aren’t doing it alone. If you’re trying to start a habit of regular exercise, drag your spouse to the gym with you. When you wake up in the morning, you will know that he or she also needs to get up early so you both can make it to the gym before work, giving you the motivation to get up yourself.
Third, you can cultivate motivation in yourself by helping to motivated others. It can be too easy to get wrapped up in our own goals and responsibilities. We can often get stuck within our own worlds and overwhelmed by what we need to accomplish, but when we help our friends and family get motivated, we allow ourselves a break from our own frustrations and a boost in confidence and positivity.