Whenever a new year starts, we often make our own new year’s resolution. But how long can you keep it? One week? One month? Six months? Entire year?
Well… You know it by heart.
You want to be healthy but you can’t resist to junk food. You want to get in shape but you are too lazy to sweat. You want to save some money but you continue to spend money on meaningless things. You want to get promoted but you don’t even want to go to work.
Are we just too weak to stay motivated?
Maybe yes. Maybe not.
You are just fulfilling the obligations or expectations imposed by others
When we talk about self-motivation, we talk about ‘self’. It is not about someone else. It is ALL ABOUT YOU. If you are just trying to fulfill the obligations or expectations imposed by others, you will never be able to stick to it. If your parents want you to earn more money and you try to follow, it’s not likely you will have the motivation to do it till the end as you barely know why you should do this.
You are not sure what you want to do
A vague and unspecific new year’s resolution always die in silence. Not having a clear goal is often the reason why we lack motivation. If you say you want to earn more money, you can’t just say it. Things don’t happen like magic. Without a clear direction, you will feel like running on an endless track. You will easily give up in the middle as you never see the sign which guides you to the finishing line.
You are not ready for a change
‘Let’s leave it for tomorrow.’ That’s the most typical line from a person who lacks motivation. Perhaps sometimes we are too optimistic, thinking that things are not that bad and everything can wait until tomorrow. You might want to lose weight for years but you might only start exercising when you find yourself dying of diabetes. People always only feel the strong need to change when they’re at the edge of a cliff.
And you can’t just let it be
Some even lack the motivation to learn to motivate themselves. But, please, don’t give up.
Self-motivation is an important skill that all of us need to master. At work, being able to motivate yourself and others makes things work better. When you encounter a massive and overwhelming task, you should be able to motivate yourself instead of procrastinating, which makes you harder to overcome inertia.
In your personal life, self-motivation is important as well. Think of the countless time when you lack motivation to go to gym or to save more. How do you feel about these? Perhaps a feeling of failure and frustration. You often feel bad. But if you can motivate yourself and achieve something, you will feel the pride and delight.
Find out what motivates you
Here, the most direct way to motivate yourself is to first find out what motivates you. It sounds straightforward but sometimes it might take a second thought to figure out your motivation.
There are two kinds of motivation: 
Intrinsic: To perform an action or task based on the expected or perceived satisfaction of performing the action or task. Intrinsic motivators include having fun, being interested and personal challenge.
Extrinsic: To perform an action or task in order to attain some sort of reward, including money, power and good marks or grades.
If you find your motive is extrinsic, try to immerse it into your goal. Let’s say your goal is to get in shape, try to think of what kinds of reward you can get during the journey or after you achieve your goal. For example, you might be able to turn it into your career to make money.
Scott Geller’s 4C model
Scott Geller, an Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, introduces the 4C’s of self-motivation to help people motivate themselves. They are: competence, consequences, choice, and community.
Ask yourself two questions first:
- Do you believe you can do it?
- Will it work?
If the answer to both question is YES, then you would feel competent and are more likely to be self-motivated.
It feels like common sense but it’s based on research about self-efficacy. If you don’t believe you can do it and you don’t believe it will work, there’s no point in doing. You can still try but in the next minute you would probably say, ‘See? I’ve told you it doesn’t work’. Then you give up. It doesn’t matter whether you can really do it. What matters is you have to believe it. That’s what keeps you going.
Here comes another question, ask yourself:
- Is it worth it?
From the day you were born, everything you did was because you wanted something from doing it. Babies cry as they want food while children work hard on study as they want good grades.
When you believe you are doing worthwhile work, you are more determined to do it. If you want to get in shape, you calculate the pros and cons. You might feel tired after doing workout but what you can gain might be a good shape and a good health. You compare the pros and cons to see if it’s worthwhile. Once you believe that it’s worthwhile, you would focus more on the pros instead of the cons.
When you have a sense of autonomy, you are more inspired to do the task at hand.
Think of the time when you were kids. Everyday you wake up in the morning and rush to school. How do you think about ‘going to school’? ‘I have got to go to class’? Or ‘I get to go to class’? For the former one, it’s a requirement; for the latter one, it’s a opportunity. Although most of us have successfully graduated from school, probably not many not us find motivation in school because we think we have no other options.
So, if you want to do something, do it for yourself. It is nearly impossible for you to feel motivated if that’s only a requirement for you. If you want to be healthy, don’t think it is only because your doctor tells you to do so. Instead, try to relate whatever that motivates you and say that it’s my choice to be healthy.
Social support is critical. People who perceive a sense of connection with other people feel motivated and happier.
To know more about the psychology of self-motivation, take a look at the TED talk by Scott Geller here:
Learn from book to motivate yourself
Motivate Yourself: Get the Life You Want, Find Purpose and Achieve Fulfilment is a book written by Andro Donovan. It offers practical strategies to improve your productivity, such as how to quieten that negative inner voice that inhibits your personal growth and how to motivate those around you with productivity at the center of everything you do. The exercises introduced help you to move past your self-doubt and propel yourself into living your dream.