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Motivation & How to Increase It 

Written by: Megan Barfield, M.S.
Motivation & How to Increase It 

One of the difficulties we all face in life at some point is low motivation. Whether this be for work, school, relationships, physical or mental health, or that one specific task we nearly loathe doing (clean dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away, I am talking to you!), finding ways to increase our motivation can be frustrating and, at times, feel impossible. Motivation looks different for different people, so finding what works for you is the key to success here.

To start off, we need to identify two different types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within us and is related to our values, priorities, and interests. Engaging in a task or activity because it is rewarding to us. Extrinsic motivation is external to us and involves being given either a positive or negative consequence. Both types of motivation are important, though intrinsic motivation can have more long-term positive effects than extrinsic since it does not depend on external factors that may be out of our control.

Let’s give an example of each. Someone may be motivated to read because they enjoy books, they are reading an author that they love, value education and expanding their knowledge about certain subjects or topics, and reading is both relaxing and a form of self-care. These would be examples of intrinsic motivations. They may also be motivated to read because finishing the book means they may get an A on an assessment of the book, their loved ones may compliment and affirm them for their persistence and knowledge, and they may avoid being reprimanded if an authority figure, such as a parent or teacher, wants them to read the book. These are examples of extrinsic motivation.

In order to aid with increasing motivation, it is important to try and identify at least 1 type of motivation from each of these categories. What about this task may be enjoyable to you or relate to your values? How can you contribute to a positive or negative consequence to increase the likelihood that you will complete this task even though there may be pieces of it that you do not enjoy doing (or even hate doing)? How can someone else contribute to a positive or negative consequence for accountability? How will engaging in this task and completing it affect how you feel about yourself as a whole? This process can be a fair amount of trial and error but will prove to be beneficial once you find what works for you! In the meantime, try these simple tricks to get started:

  1. Just start. Don’t worry about how much you will get done, just start it. If you do anything at all, you are contributing and have made progress. If you do more, even better! This builds confidence and helps with the next step.
  2. Make it more likely to happen. If you have trouble going to the gym after work, change into your gym clothes immediately. You may or may not go, but you will be more likely to leave your home or start a workout video if you are already prepared and dressed for the task!
  3. Find what is demotivating you. Is there something in your control that is getting in the way of your motivation that you can remove, temporarily or permanently? Try removing this factor and see how this helps your motivation!