When it comes to personal development, being self-motivated is key. Without self-motivation, the brain seems to acquire an advanced degree in excuses the moment your decision to go after your goals becomes challenging or inconvenient. Self-motivation is what fuels us to accept and conquer the challenges of growth. It drives us to complete a task without needing reasons or a push from someone else. After all, we can't always rely on others to encourage us.|
But it doesn't stop there. According to Dr. Colleen Fairbanks, Ph.D., a licensed clinical health psychologist and public speaker based in Chicago, self-motivation (or self-discipline) is the ability to do what you know is right for you—despite a lack of energy, time or other perceived or real barriers. She adds that it's the ability to do what is good for you—even if you don't feel like doing it—because you know that the future rewards will be great.
Self-motivation also contributes to our well-being. "It's a key survival technique," shares Ashton Lauren, a wellness and mindfulness coach based in Florida. "Self-motivation is the body's way of aiming to reach its potential, both physically and emotionally."
Ultimately, self-motivation propels us to achieve our goals, giving us a stronger sense of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.
There's just one problem, though: We tend to view self-motivation as a magical, mysterious skill. And while some people do have a natural knack for self-discipline, it's also possible to enhance your level of determination and ambition.
Say it with me: Self-motivation is a natural and learned skill. "Each of us is born with a set point of self-motivation," explains Dr. Fairbanks. "Fortunately, though, you can move [up] your self-motivation baseline [by] purposely engaging in certain kinds of behaviors."
In other words, we all have a natural sense of self-motivation. However, like other skills, you can build upon it through specific actions. It's all about knowing where to start.
5 Ways to Improve and Increase Self-Motivation
1. Be Clear
First, be clear about your goals. Think of it this way: When you clarify a destination, you set yourself up for a smooth ride. The journey will be easy to understand and you'll be more motivated to continue the trip, even if you make adjustments or pit stops along the way.
This type of clarity is a gamechanger for self-motivation. In fact, Alka Chopra, R.D., C.D.E, in Toronto, considers clarity to be what separates those who are self-motivated from those who aren't.
Are you struggling to identify what you want? Chopra suggests a list-making method. Through the following process, she has helped patients achieve clarity: Make a short list of things you'd like to achieve. Write down two to three strategies for achieving each one. Try each strategy, giving yourself permission to take your time. During the process, identify what makes you feel satisfied and happy. Repeat and adjust the strategies as needed.
You can also chat with a professional, such as a nutritionist, personal trainer, health coach or financial advisor. They can listen to your thoughts, explain your options and provide a specific goal and game plan.
2. Define the Reasons
On that note, it's also vital to be clear about why you want to do something. These reasons give your actions a purpose. Additionally, when you acknowledge these reasons, you personalize the task at hand, meaning you'll also be more likely to do it.
Avoid treating these reasons like an afterthought. Instead, view them as the driving force of your entire journey. Take a tip from Dr. Fairbanks and write down the specific reasons why you want to make changes. Then, read those statements every day. Put them on your phone, on a note taped to your bathroom mirror or even as your desktop background at work. When you're stressed, tired or faced with heightened temptations, these reasons will be right in front of you.
Maybe you want to improve your physical fitness so you can join the grandkids on hikes. Or, perhaps you want to declutter your closet so you can save time in the morning. Whatever your reasons may be, identifying them will support your sense of determination when the going gets tough.
3. Keep It Simple
One of the best ways to improve self-discipline is to focus on simplicity.
If you make big goals, you have a greater distance to travel. Goals set months into the future or requiring serious lifestyle changes all at once can lead to frustration when you hit a plateau or hit a roadblock that derails your progress. However, self-motivation is a lot like fuel—your tank of ambition will be empty before you know it.
Alternatively, small and simple goals are within reach and you're more likely to have enough fuel to get there. And when you do? The next stretch after achieving your first goal will be just as feasible, offering the perfect opportunity kickstart the motivation within.
"Gradual small changes help us acclimate to change," says Lauren. "[They also] provide a greater chance of not just surviving, but thriving." Essentially, when you set simple goals, your self-motivation has a chance to shine.
4. Surround Yourself With Positivity
Be mindful of your environment. Whether you realize it or not, you are a culmination of your surroundings. This includes everything from your living space to your relationships and everything in between.
"Surround yourself [with] people, images and things that build you up," advises Dr. Fairbanks. She adds that this might mean adding flowers to your desk, following positive social media accounts or decluttering that countertop that's been haunting you. The better you feel, the more you'll prioritize your motives.
A workout buddy is the perfect example. By spending time with someone who has similar goals, you'll be held accountable for your own. As a result, you'll have more chances to look inward and light the fire of self-motivation when that buddy is busy or later moves on from your shared goals.
5. Visualize the Outcome
Another way to increase self-motivation is to envision potential outcomes, which allows you to recognize that there will be results beyond what you feel in the moment.
In the realm of self-discipline, this is crucial. "As fallible human beings, we often get short-term vision, failing to look at the end goal," explains Lauren. "Instead, we only consider doing what we feel like in the moment or what will have short-term impact. It is this behavior that makes it easy to convince ourselves out of things [that] we later regret not doing."
Again, a list is useful. Lauren recommends creating a "what if" list. Write down would happen if you were to do—and not do—certain actions. Keep the paper within plain sight. When you're having a moment of apprehension or you're thinking of bailing on something, you'll see the list of possible outcomes.
Remember, improving self-motivation is a highly personalized journey. These methods will look and feel different for everyone. Take note of what works for you.
Don't forget that you aren't a superhuman; you will make mistakes along the way. Welcome this opportunity, because these moments are valuable and educational. They are unique to your situation, personality and goals. Look at them as a sign of how you should adjust and improve your journey to personal growth and development.
Self-discipline comes down to harnessing the power you have on yourself. As Lauren reminds us, "No one can really drive you toward authentic change other than yourself."