How to be motivated: Part 1 – Be kind to yourself

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Motivation is having enthusiasm to accomplish a goal. It can come from outside of yourself or from within yourself. For instance, we have motivation to go to work because we need to pay rent. In this example of extrinsic motivation, the drive to act comes from outside of ourselves; we need to live somewhere. On the other hand, motivation can also come from inside of ourselves. For instance, having the motivation to go to work because you believe the work you do is important for your community.

In order to have and maintain self-motivation, you need five things:

  1. to believe in your ability to accomplish the goal and be kind to yourself
  2. to be patient
  3. to be intrinsically motivated
  4. to set good goals and deadlines
  5. to use good rewards

This guide will discuss the first, and arguably the most important step, to reaching a goal.

When you’re optimistic, you’ll be more able to find creative solutions to problems you have reaching your goal. You’ll also have more energy to work on your goal.

Believe in your ability to accomplish the goal and be kind to yourself

We are often motivated to accomplish a goal because we know that it’s important. For instance, we want to improve our English speaking ability because we live in Canada, and this will make our lives easier.

To begin working on the goal, maybe we go to English classes or watch educational videos on YouTube. These are excellent steps towards becoming a better English speaker. But, if we do this and at the same time speak harshly to ourselves, then we will be slowing ourselves down. For example, we go to English class twice a week, but we constantly think that we aren’t improving fast enough. Or we watch YouTube videos, but we always think that we aren’t learning everything we need to know, and that we need to do more.

Watch Dr. Lauren Eskreis-Winkler talk about giving effective feedback when you’re learning a new skill.

Tip: Recognise when you’re speaking negatively to yourself, and change what you’re saying. Instead of saying “I’m not improving fast enough” say “I learnt ten new vocabulary words this week and I’m proud of myself”. Focus on building an “I can” and “I have already” mindset rather than “I can’t” and “I haven’t even” mindset.

When you’re optimistic, you’ll be more able to find creative solutions to problems you have reaching your goal. You’ll also have more energy to work on your goal.

In summary: Negativity steals your energy! It’s not a matter of “if” you’ll reach your goal, but “when” you’ll reach your goal.

An action you can do today: Choose a goal you’re working on now. Write down three things you often think about that goal. If the thoughts are negative, then rewrite them to show that you are optimistic.

Example:
Here are three negative sentences that show a lack of belief in yourself.

  • I am learning English too slowly.
  • I will be stuck in this job I don’t like forever.
  • Learning English is too difficult.

Here are the same three sentences but changed to be positive and to show belief in yourself.

  • Learning English is a slow process, but I work hard at learning English, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
  • I will not be in this job forever, and I am working towards finding a better job by studying English.
  • Many people have learnt English and I will too.

 
By Nastashya Wall
 
Sources: How to build authentic motivation, Steven C. Hayes Ph.D., Psychology Today; Self-motivation explained + 100 ways to motivate yourself, Courtney Ackerman, Positive Psychology; and How to increase self-motivation, Arash Emamzadeh, Psychology Today. Accessed September 7, 2023.

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