Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Getting motivated

When we are stressed we often find that we lack motivation, so this month I'm going to talk about how to get things done, even when your "get up and go" has got up and gone!

Motivation is the emotional or psychological force that encourages us to do something. How motivated we are pretty much dictates how much effort we'll put in to any of our goals.

For example, you might want to go running to help reduce your stress. When your motivation is low, say after a tiring day at work, you may think about going, but rarely get out the jogging shorts and do it. On the other hand, if you were being chased by a man-eating lion, your motivation to start running would be very high, and you’d do it without a second thought.

You need to know three things to get motivated

The first is that your goal is worth the amount of effort you will have to put in. Say your goal is to eat a packet of crisps. If all you had to do was open the kitchen cupboard, no problem. If it took you three weeks of chipping them out of rocks in the local crisp mine, you’d most likely decide not to bother.

The second thing you need to know is that your goals are relevant to what you want to be motivated about. Say you want to save up for a new car. This goal might motivate you to work some overtime, or pack a lunch instead of buying one. It won't motivate you to dig the garden or wash the windows.
The final thing you need to know is that making the effort won’t have side effects that outweigh the benefits of your goal. For example, you want to use exercise as a stress management tool, and decide to join a gym. Reducing your stress is worth the physical effort and time you'll have to put in, and going to the gym is very likely to be successful in helping you. However, it costs a lot so the side effect is you won’t be able to go out with your mates every Friday night. Is that worth the sacrifice?

Making motivation easier

  • Clear goals which include specific actions are easier to be motivated about. For example 'I'm going to walk home from work three times a week' instead of 'I'd like to exercise more'.
  • If there are a number of areas where you lack motivation, don’t try to change everything at once. Make a list and start with one.
  • Next think about why your goal is important to you. Get excited about it and think about it often (and positively). Imagine how good life will be when you get there. (If you can't think of any way to do this, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your goal. Do you really want it?)
  • Anticipation makes us want things more. Just think how exciting it is when something wonderful is going to happen soon: a wonderful holiday, Christmas, meeting up with a good friend you haven't seen for ages. Engage your "can't wait" drive by setting a specific date in the near future to start working towards your goal. That may sound crazy - after all you want to get motivated, not put off your goal for longer. What I'm suggesting here though is not indefinite delays, simply something like 'Next Thursday I will stop smoking'.
  • Tell everyone you know about your new goal and the date you have set to begin. Most of us feel more motivated when others are watching or expecting us to take action. Getting support from friends and family, or even a therapist, can help.
  • We're often motivated more if others are relying on us. Get sponsored for charity or find a 'motivation partner' who shares the same goal so you can work together.
  • Start small and work up. Your ultimate goal may be to run a marathon but it’s unlikely you'll make this in one step from coach potato. Set a goal of twenty minutes fast walking twice a week; when that's become easier, set a new goal a bit closer to your ultimate one.
  • Use affirmations to keep your mind and thoughts on track. These are positive 'slogans' you repeat daily to encourage positive thinking. They should be short, easy to remember, specific and positive (e.g. I want to be fit, not I don't want to be unfit).
  • Happy, healthy people find it easier to get motivated. Look after yourself and try to be around positive, motivated people. Most important, review your stress levels and get help from a reputable hypnotherapist or stress management coach if that's what is holding you back.
  • Most of us like doing what we're good at, so play to your strengths. Find out what you are good at and use those skills in your new project.
  • Acknowledge your own successes. This doesn’t mean being boastful, just boosting your motivation by thinking of how far you've come.
  • Notice your 'self talk'. This is the way we talk to ourselves when we are thinking. If your self talk is negative - I'll never do this, what’s the point etc - this will have an impact on your motivation. Challenge those negative thoughts. What proof do you have that they are true? How else could you look at the situation? Again, a therapist can help you do this if you find it difficult.
  • Recognise what motivates you most about your goal and use it. Have relevant pictures on your phone, post-it notes around your home and so on. There may also be an app which will send you helpful and encouraging texts on a regular basis.

Author: is a professional stress management coach, specialising in working with individuals and smaller employers to minimise stress and maximise feeling in control.Debbie is has also written about helping people with IBS in the Hypnotherapy Handbook which is available from Amazon.co.uk.
Find out more about Debbie's services on www.yorkshirestressmanagement.com  or phone 01977 678593

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