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Learning self-motivation – 22 tips and methods for more self-motivation

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Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

Trying to eat healthier, exercise more, or incorporate other healthy habits into your daily routine? Well, we understand that sometimes that’s easier said than done. Fire up your self-motivation with these 22 tips and methods.

Checking off your to-dos and sticking to your new routines is no easy task. The good news is that self-motivation is a muscle that can be strengthened. And the best way to do it is through a little practice, discipline, and, yes, some self-reward.

What is self-motivation?

Having self-motivation essentially means you don’t need anyone to tell you to tackle your tasks. No matter whether it’s professional or personal life decisions, chores at home, or goals to exercise more and eat healthy, if you can motivate yourself, you’re always one step ahead of your inner couch potato.

Learning self-motivation also means taking responsibility and being accountable to yourself, even if it sometimes seems hard to spend the day at your desk or to lace up your running shoes on a rainy morning.

Last but not least, the ability to self-motivate also gives you freedom. If you’re the one in charge of getting things done, you don’t have to feel guilty about taking time off. On the contrary, in fact!

On a more mundane level, self-motivation can also improve your time management: if you manage to concentrate for 6 hours to finish all your (important) tasks, there’s no reason to sit at your desk for 8 hours.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators

Psychology distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If you are intrinsically motivated for a task, it’s usually easier for you to motivate yourself even on bad days than if the motivation is extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within yourself. That is, you do something for its own sake, because, for example, you enjoy it or find it important. So, the motivation comes from you or from the nature of the activity.

Extrinsic motivation means that you feel motivated by external incentives. For example, you only do a task for work because it means you can afford a new smartwatch or a vacation.

Sometimes working is actually easier with the prospect of an external reward. That’s why targeted external rewards are occasionally a helpful trick for learning self-motivation.

In the long run, however, their positive effect can turn into the opposite and lead you into a fatal if-then spiral, until you can hardly drive yourself intrinsically because you’re dependent on the reward. The goal of self-motivation is also to learn to develop more intrinsic motivation.

A woman of color sits on the carpet in front of a couch indoors. She's got a silver laptop on her lap and is raising one fist into the air, celebrating the results of successful self-motivation
©katleho Seisa

How can I be more self-motivated?

Well, the answer isn’t the same for everyone. Basically, there are two types of people when it comes to motivation.

  1. The type who acts because they want to achieve a goal, regardless of whether that goal’s intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.
  2. The type who wants to avoid negative consequences such as overdue fines or other penalties.

Recognizing which motivation type you are will help you find the right strategies for self-motivation. Take some time to review past tasks and projects: Why did you get things done? Why did a deadline work? What was your motivation?

Learn self-motivation – 22 tips for staying self-motivated

Our tips for more self-motivation summarize strategies that work for both types of motivation. As is often the case when you want to establish a new habit, the same applies here: Take it one step at a time.

Pick 2-3 of our methods for more self-motivation and try to apply them for about 6 weeks. Use your motivation type to help you out here, and you’ll gradually find out how to best stick to that routine.

#1 Find your purpose, find motivation

Why do you want to do this task you’re putting off right now? What will it allow you to accomplish when you’re past it? And how will that make you feel? Knowing the purpose of an activity and whether you’re doing meaningful work makes it easier to stay motivated.

#2 Have your goal in mind

Be aware of why you want to motivate yourself to do something. Why do you want to do this or that task? Or do you think you need to do it? How will it serve your greater goals?

If you keep procrastinating, but without being able to completely say no to it, it must have some relevance. Find it and remind yourself of it when the motivation is completely lacking again.

#3 Define small steps and deadlines

Often a big task just seems too daunting to even get started. This in turn reinforces the problem. Therefore, divide a task into small intermediate goals and write them down. Detailed to-do lists for each task can also help you make everything seem more doable.

This helps you to focus on the most important things and to keep your goal in mind every day. It also allows you to complete task after task and gradually cross more to-dos off your list. Making yourself aware of your success in black and white is a key factor to effective self-motivation.

#4 Allow yourself 15 minutes as a motivation boost

No enthusiasm today? Just try for a quick burst of focus. Pick something that you really want to get done and decide to work on it for 15 minutes.

Is a 15-minute jog even worth tying your laces for? No, maybe not, but a 20-minute one might be. Starting is hard but sticking with it isn’t. Doing even more than your micro goal and celebrating the small win is a great way to trick yourself little by little to enjoy the process.

Important: If after 15 minutes you’re still struggling to get in the zone, stop. Maybe it’s just not meant to be today.

#5 Keep it real

In order to achieve your goals, you need to set goals that are doable week after week. Critically question whether your hard work is helping you to get closer to your big goal. Are you on the right path to succeed at what makes you happy? Or are you on the wrong track? What does gut say? Motivating yourself to do something is much easier if it’s conducive to your happiness.

A woman of color looks thoughtfully at a blue wall planner divided into six columns, a great way to get on top of self-motivation
©Moyo Studio

#6 Anticipate problems

Even if you think you’ve laid out every detail for your perfect plan, there might still be some surprises ahead of you. It’s a helpful exercise to look for possible problems that might arise and brainstorm their solutions ahead of time. The WOOP method is the perfect tool to critically question your plans.

Learn more about the WOOP method

#7 Recognize beliefs destructive to your self-confidence

Beliefs are more than negative thoughts. They describe your inner and sometimes unconscious understanding about how something is. This can range from personal attitudes and assumptions about yourself to perceptions of others or your environment.

A belief system that might lead to self-doubt would be, for example: “I couldn’t concentrate well as a child, so of course I can’t do the task fast enough.” Or: “A good athlete is only one who works out at least 5 times a week.”

The next time you catch yourself not wanting to do something because you believe you can’t, ask yourself what’s behind that belief and how true it really is.

#8 Think positively

If you assume from the start that you’re doomed to fail and that you have no chance anyway, then why try at all? Pessimism is beyond demotivating. Try to focus on the positive aspects of each project or habit you set your eyes on.

#9 Change your language in your goal setting

Language influences your perception significantly. Try to banish the words “have to” or “must” from your vocabulary as much as possible and instead speak of “may” or “can.” This may feel wrong at first, but it makes a big difference: the words you use gradually change how you actually feel.

#10 Take responsibility

For yourself. When you do what you believe is right, it’s much easier to hold yourself accountable and stay self-motivated. On the one hand, that’s because you are acting on your own values and beliefs. At the same time, you’ll have to take responsibility for the result, no matter if it’s positive or negative.

#11 Be faster than your inner couch potato

Schedule the high priority tasks that you tend to avoid the most first thing in the morning, before any tendency to slack off becomes irresistible. You’ll be rewarded with the satisfaction of having really accomplished something early in the day.

#12 Set focus phases to manage your motivation levels

Make a resolution to work with real concentration for 20 minutes. Then give yourself a 5-minute break. Do this three times before taking a break for 20-30 minutes. This way you break the task and your energy down into smaller pieces to make it seem a little more manageable.

#13 Do a digital detox

Focus works best without smartphones and notifications. Even if you’re working on your computer, you can do a mini-detox: turn off your email inbox and all messengers and notifications during your focus periods, and consistently stay on your work screens.

A digital detox also helps during your workout: put your phone in flight mode, listen to your playlist offline and don’t reply to any messages until after your workout. Even the workout selfie can wait until afterward.

A freckled man of color in a baseball cap grins widely while staring at his phone. He's standing in front of a light-blue-washed brick wall.
©Tim Robberts

#14 Break routines

Rearrange your workspace, move your home office to a café for an afternoon, or give yourself 15 minutes of stretching or sketching in the morning before going about your day. Sometimes even small changes can shake up long-established routines and make your day shine in a new light.

Take a few minutes to be aware of the positive details of these changes. This will help you focus on the positive and boost motivation moving forward.

#15 Find your strengths and focus on them

Things that are easy for you and speak to your personal skills are usually more fun. Therefore, try to find out where your strengths lie. Maybe you’re great with team members? Try joining a pick-up football game. Write down your strengths and weaknesses and find out which jobs, sports, or diets you can intrinsically motivate yourself for.

#16 Accept that not all days are the same

And you are not a machine. You can’t and don’t have to function like clockwork every day. Focus on exactly how you feel: Are you just a little unmotivated, or do you really have absolutely no inner drive and there’s not a reward, no matter how attractive, that can motivate you? Then let it go and start fresh in a few days.

#17 Find your own rhythm

When are you most productive in what you do? When is it easiest for you to get into the flow? Exercise in the morning isn’t for you? Then set up your life so you can work out in the evening. Often, it’s only in hindsight that we realize it would’ve worked differently all along. Make the most of the freedom you have and the time management will follow.

#18 Relax

Learning self-motivation also includes better understanding that you can’t do everything all at once and that you can sometimes leave everything behind for a day. On the one hand, one or more days off allow you to resume with a fresh head and to discover new perspectives and positive aspects.

On the other hand, variety prevents boredom and promotes motivation, so you don’t constantly have the feeling that you are committed to one thing only. So, regularly plan for free days when only what you really want to do is on the calendar.

#19 Give yourself a reward

As we said, pushing yourself to work using only rewards and extrinsic motivation has addictive potential and isn’t a good idea. But every now and then, the prospect of it helps. Or does the thought of enjoying your free time by 3pm or the runner’s high after your workout not intriguing to you at all?

#20 Practice sports

Especially when it’s exactly what you lack the self-motivation to do. Exercise is physically and mentally healthy and helps you develop a positive self-efficacy spiral. The more regularly and better you exercise, the better you’ll feel physically and mentally and the more motivated you’ll be before your next workout.

Important: bigger isn’t always better. Start small and adjust the duration and intensity of your workouts to your fitness level. If you’re sore or injured for three days after a workout, you’ve achieved the opposite of your goal.

Tip: You’ll find the right workout for you in our free workout database: Whether it’s core training, a full-body workout, or a quick HIIT set, beginners and ambitious athletes alike will find what they’re looking for.

Go find your perfect workout – or two or three
A woman of color stands in her kitchen, cutting something. We can't see what she's cutting, because there is a glass pitcher in the way, but she's smiling as she looks down at it. Her curly hair cascades over her left shoulder.
©recep-bg

#21 Eat healthy

What does nutrition have to do with self-motivation and high achievers? Quite a lot, actually. Your diet determines whether you feel full and tired, lying on the couch with a food coma, or energized and fully focused on your day. Try to eat according to the basics of healthy eating and avoid emotional eating and eating out of boredom.

At foodspring, we’ve made it our mission to develop fitness food that supports your performance and help you cross the finish line. Whether at work, at home, or in the gym. Good food and healthy snacks are a real game changer. Discover our products for a smart kitchen and for on the go.

Learn more about Smart Cooking

#22 Value your mental health

Sounds trivial, but it’s really important. At least as important as your mental health. Eat what is good for you, exercise, allow yourself time off, pay attention to your work-life balance and surround yourself with supportive people, and check again and again whether your actions are in line with your values and visions. Self-motivation, even if it is intrinsically motivated, always costs energy. For long term success, you’ll only have that energy if you take care of yourself.

Summary

  • Identify your motivation style to find out which self-motivation techniques work best for you.
  • Learning self-motivation takes some discipline and perseverance.
  • Rewards can help you get going when you’re stuck, but they tend to be counterproductive in the long run.
  • Self-motivation gives you the freedom to accomplish what you set your mind to.
  • Everyone has a bad or unproductive day. And that’s perfectly okay.
Article sources
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