The force that drives us to do things, otherwise known as self-motivation, is an important life skill. It’s what keeps us going in the face of setbacks and can ultimately help us lead a more fulfilling life. And while it’s no doubt important, having that internal drive to keep pushing forward can be challenging — and even feel downright impossible — at times.
If you’re struggling with getting back into the swing of things as summer comes to a close, are going through a major life change or are curious about how to become more self-motivated in general, we’ve got some tips and tricks from the experts.
Why is self-motivation important?
First and foremost, why is self-motivation so important, anyway? Sami Toussi, a life and business coach who helps professionals and entrepreneurs navigate the pressure of over-productivity and embrace balance, explains that self-motivationis the force that keeps pushing us to go on. “It’s our internal drive to achieve, create, build and move forward—even if we don’t feel like it!” she explains. “Simply put, self-motivation is connected to why you work, why you have friends and even why you get up in the morning.”When you think you're ready to quit something, or you just don't know where to start, your self-motivation is what pushes you to keep going.
Self-motivation is crucial because it helps us lead a happy and healthy life. “Instead of depending on others, you can tap into your own strengths to meet your goals. Self-motivation has additionally been proven to increase participation, improve learning abilities, promote resilience and improve personal and work goals,” Toussi tells Lively.
How can I become more self-motivated?
Now that we know what self-motivation is and why it’s important, how can we find and sustain it? Our experts have a few suggestions:
Have clearly defined goals: Aya Allison, optimization coach at The Well-Grounded Spirit, notes that having clearly defined goals is imperative in terms of making sure self-motivation is present in your life. Setting goals helps align our focus and push us toward a certain destination. It’s important to remember that different people get motivation from different things, so put some thought into whatyou want to achieve. Maybe it’s focusing more on health and wellness or perhaps advancing your career. Setting high (but sensible) goals that you truly want to achieve will give you that drive and energy needed to work toward them.
Create small, actionable steps: One powerful way to increase self-motivation is to break down the particular goal into small, doable steps. Irene Abbou, ICF, certified life coach and creator of the Happiness Within Reach program, gives us the example of wanting to become a runner. “Start with the goal of waking up 30 minutes earlier and walking 20 minutes each day over the course of a week,” she recommends. “The following week, break the workouts down into walking for 18 minutes and jogging for two minutes.” Seeing that gradual progress motivates us to keep trekking onward.
Visualize:Abbou highlights that visualization can play yet another influential role when it comes to self-motivation. “Each night before going to sleep, close your eyes, visualize yourself getting what you want (in detail), let yourself feel the feelings of this achievement and then you will feel motivated to take action,” she explains. This tactic isn’t something that will deliver overnight results, though, as she suggests doing it every night for two months and see what happens. “The more we practice visualizing the particular goal coming to fruition (along with the steps we’re taking to actually make it happen), our brain starts scanning ways to help make it a reality.”
Hit the restart button: If you find you've fallen off track with your goals or routine, Allison says to simply pick yourself up and start again immediately. It’s important to remember that you’re only human and to avoid beating yourself up for trying. “Recognize the story you may be telling yourself and be aware of your self-talk,” she says, especially if you’re harping on the negative. “Be an observer instead of a participant—pause, breathe, let the feelings clear, then get back into your routine,” she advises.
Reward yourself:Be sure to take the time to reward yourself for both the little and big wins, shares Toussi. “For example, if you’ve worked out three days straight, treat yourself to a manicure or grab a smoothie with a friend,” she says.
What are a few tips for getting motivated after the summer?
Getting back into the swing of things can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve recently had a lovely vacation, or are perhaps getting ready to send the kids back to school. Fret not, though, there are indeed ways to make that bittersweet transition more manageable.
First off, Toussi recommends putting sleep first. “Our bodies need rest and sleeping is one of the best ways to heal in order to jumpstart your regular routine,” she says. “Set your alarm at your usual time, and maybe even a few minutes earlier for the first week,” she says, adding that it’s a good idea to set up a to-do list the night before so you know exactly what tasks you want or need to tackle the following day. “If something remains on the list once the day comes to a close, roll it over until the next day and try to make sleep a priority.”
Another simple tip from Toussi if you’re headed back to the office (even if it’s virtual), is to do something that makes you feel confident which can be as basic as putting on a particular outfit. “It may not seem like a big deal, but going back to work looking and feeling great can push your productivity through the roof as you’ll feel confident and motivated.”
Finally, Abbou suggests “concentrating on those feelings that getting back into exercising, landing a promotion or starting that new side-hustle will provide.” “Everything we do is to feel a particular feeling,” she continues, so consider pondering how you might feel if youdon’t motivate yourself to achieve.