How to Increase Motivation

How can I make myself do better?  How can I get motivated to fulfill my resolutions and good intentions?  Motivation is something we all hope to get more of, but motivation to get out there and do the work is often elusive.  It’s easy to find people to give good advice, even MoodSurfing is full of good advice, but when you’re up to your eyebrows in real life and all it’s chaos, how do you get motivated to make those healthy changes that you’ve been wanting to make?

Make a fresh start

Not surprisingly, there are lots of academic studies that look at motivation.  We have highlighted some of them before in these pages, and today I came across another interesting study from 2014 that looks at the “fresh start effect”.  Everybody knows about New Year’s resolutions, but the researchers found that internet searches for terms like “diet” increase on the first day of every month, on the day after major holidays, around the start of school years and new semesters, and even on Mondays.  They suggest that we can improve our chances of starting and keeping up with a lifestyle change if we focus on renewing the feeling of a “fresh start” by setting milestones, or by more consciously utilizing existing milestones, like birthdays and anniversaries for optimum timing of goal setting and life planning.

Make a contract with teeth to it

Another approach to increasing motivation is suggested by a therapist writing in Psychology Today.  We often try to reward ourselves for good behavior, like buying new outfits after a certain number of weeks or months on a diet, but Justin Kompf suggests a contract that includes punishments for failure, and the punishments have to have teeth to them.  For example, a client developed a plan to stop himself from spending too much time on the phone by requiring himself to donate $100 to a political candidate every time he exceeded his phone minutes budget.  Kompf advises us to set an amount that we can afford, but that will hurt, so that the punishment has a chance of actually deterring the undesired behavior.

Bundle fun stuff and hard stuff

Rewards for sticking to the schedule can also be amped up with a little bit of thought.  A colleague of Kompf’s loved to listen to audiobooks, but didn’t like going to the gym, so she required herself to listen to the books only while she was exercising, never while just lounging on the couch.  She calls it “temptation bundling” and recommends adding a fun thing to a less-fun thing to get them both done at once.

Look inside for your own motivation

An interesting question to ask yourself is “what does motivation feel like?”  Many people find that motivation comes from an inner childlike impulse to play, to explore, to be enthusiastic about life.  Do we sometimes squelch the inner child instead of letting them out to play?  Finding ways to make the change we want into a game or treasure hunt can be another way to increase motivation.

Please share your own tips for increasing motivation in the comments section.