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I Need to Get Motivated

“I need to get motivated.” We have all heard of that phrase before. We have likely even said a version of it to ourselves. During many points in our life, we often find ourselves stuck – or even perhaps frozen. It may have happened when we were trying to finish a work project, a school assignment, planning a social event, making dinner, taking a shower, or even getting out of bed. We know that we will have more and more tasks to complete, and it begins to feel insurmountable. How do we get motivated? If you haven’t already read my previous blog post about the Power of Positive Reinforcement, it may be helpful to review it as a supplement to this blog post.


What Do We Hope Will Happen?


We have tried to convince, rationalize, and will ourselves to budge.  Sometimes, we may have even stood still while we held onto our emotions. We have felt angry, frustrated, attacked, different, less than others, alone, hopeless, and even despair. We have even hoped and waited that at some point in time, we would begin to feel a surge of energy that would be just enough to move forward. Sometimes, we are successful in becoming motivated.


How Did We Get Motivated?


What has occurred in the past that has granted us motivation? On the surface, it appears that we first would have the feeling of motivation, and then we would take action.


Motivation -> Action


However, if we review our scenario more carefully, we often find that motivation is preceded by an action. For example, imagine a pet owner that is teaching their puppy a new trick. The puppy will first be taught to sit (action) and then will be given a treat afterwards (B. F. Skinner’s positive reinforcement). The puppy will be more motivated to take further action for treats.


Action -> Positive Reinforcement -> Motivation -> Action


How do we use this information to help us build motivation? When we are focused on an entire task or a feeling (e.g., following an exercise program at a gym, feeling excited about going to the gym) it can be difficult to build motivation. However, when we shift our focus to a smaller, more manageable actions (e.g., rolling out of bed and sitting on the floor, making a tea or coffee, stepping outside of the house), we feel more slightly more successful than we did just previously, and we increase our chances of actually going to the gym. If we do not end up going to the gym, at least we can celebrate our successes in getting out of bed, having a morning beverage, and out of the house.


Steven Ngu, MC, is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with College of Alberta Psychologists. He has extensive experience in the area of  confidence and motivation, plus many more.  For more information about Steven, click here to link to his full bio page.