Welcome to part four of our motivation series!
In previous weeks we addressed motivation “bypassers,” or skills you can use when you’re feeling unmotivated but still need to get things done. Nonetheless, the spark and energy we feel when motivated is an empowering experience. So, this week, we will focus on cultivating the emotion that underlies motivation:
Inspiration : feeling mentally stimulated to do something, having a sudden and brilliant idea
Building a sense of inspiration may be particularly helpful for you if you struggle with an overfilled schedule, doing work you dislike, or feeling overtired or overwhelmed.
For our purposes, you can also think of “inspiration” in terms of feeling positive, feeling passionate, feeling grateful, and celebrating accomplishments.
Tips for finding inspiration:
- Act immediately. As soon as an action thought crosses your mind, commit to acting on it, even if for a few minutes. This will allow you to take a moment of micro-inspiration and capitalize on it, build up the emotion, and take a concrete step toward your goal.
- Increase your inspiration. We all have that video, song, or quote that speaks to us and stirs a call to action within us. When you’re lagging, pull out one of your go-tos and let the inspiration well up within you to provide that needed push. You could also reach out to others and see what they use; you just may find a new favorite!
- Record the good. After something goes well, make a note of what it felt like and what worked. This helps you to solidify the memory and understand what you can do next time to increase your chances of having another success. This may look like recording the pride, excitement, and extra weight room time that went into winning your soccer game or noting down the sense of calm you feel and the budgeting app you used when paying down a credit card.
- Create ambiance. Ensure that you have an environment that makes you want to work. Perhaps this is a clear desk with a favorite pen and notepad handy, a room with bright light and an accessible speaker to play pump-up music on, or (if you can’t set up a permanent location) it could be something you have on hand to set the mood, such as making a cup of tea. Be sure to remove or hide any distracting or demotivating items. Also, it’s okay to find places with ready-made ambiance such as a favorite room in the library, under a tree in your favorite park, or a nearby coffee shop. A word of caution: avoid the temptation to create this space during time you’re supposed to be productive.
- Change it up. If you’re slogging through an endless project, you can get a fresh wave of energy by going to a new location with a different vibe. Maybe you run outside instead of at the gym or practice guitar on the porch instead of in your bedroom.
- Let your brain breathe. The science-based term for this is “attention restoration.” We can only actively attend to something for so long before we need a break. When you notice yourself slowing down, step outside, eat a snack without distractions, take a nap if you didn’t get enough sleep, lay on the floor and let yourself daydream, or go on a brisk walk—anything that lets your mind wander and rejuvenate.
- Fake it. Imagine you were someone with total confidence and motivation, who is at the height of their game. Then act accordingly. I know I always found myself much more energized for workouts after watching the Olympics!
- Visualize. Take a moment to imagine the details of what the next step of your task will look like. This allows us to perceive a task as more possible and helps us to confidently move through the next steps since we already considered how they should go. This is a popular tool used by many professionals, including athletes, musicians, and speakers.
- Change your self-talk. If you catch yourself using “should” or “have to,” change them into “will” or “want to.” So instead of saying, “Ugh, I should go grocery shopping tonight,” tell yourself, “I’ll go grocery shopping tonight.” Instead of, “I have to study for my test,” say, “I want to study for my test so I’ll get a good grade.” Intentionally choosing our words has a powerful effect.
- Take it outside. Research shows that we are more creative, feel more energetic, and report less stress and effort when working outside instead of inside. Whenever possible, take your work outside!
If you’d like to receive support in implementing these strategies, contact us to connect with a therapist.
Written By: Jaime Ascencio, Ph.D., HTR
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