Last Updated on December 29, 2022 by Anneke Schmidt, PhD
Self-motivation is crucial to pursuing important goals in our lives. But making a change, such as committing to a new project or dream, takes perseverance, and many of us struggle to stay motivated over time.
So, how can we stay on task without losing our motivational drive? As an educational researcher and content writer, I would take a two-step approach to answer this question. Let’s first try to understand what self-motivation is and why it’s important. This will then help us to see how we can motivate ourselves to work towards our goals over long periods of time.
Self-motivation is the capacity to get yourself to take action to accomplish tasks that you see as important for your future. It’s the drive to keep working towards your goals, even when it feels challenging. However, maintaining self-motivation requires self-discipline. In other words, it’s not enough to try to stay motivated. You also need to feel obligated to achieve necessary tasks and be determined to complete them.
But there is much more to self-motivation than trying to will yourself into taking action and being persistent. To learn more about the psychology of self-motivation, it helps to consider some other factors that affect our motivation.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about this topic and explore ways to become more self-motivated.
Self-Motivation and Its Link to Personal Growth
According to emotional-intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, we need to have four mental attitudes to stay self-motivated . First, we need to develop a personal drive to reach our goals. Second, we need to commit to ourselves (or someone else) to achieve our goals even in the face of obstacles. Third, we need to take the initiative and be open to opportunities that may improve our lives. And fourth, we need to develop an optimistic mindset to pursue our dreams regardless of the difficulties we may face.
But why is this so important for our personal growth? To answer this question, we first need to understand that there are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Difference Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
The concepts of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation were first used in the 1970s by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, who together developed Self-Determination Theory (SDT).
Extrinsic motivation is the desire to achieve something because of external factors such as a reward or (fear of) punishment. An example would be doing your homework to get a good grade. So, the concept refers to activities we take in response to external causes or incentives, such as receiving money, a good reputation, or high status. In short, extrinsic motivation is related to what we have to do.
By contrast, intrinsic motivation is the motivation we feel for activities that are meaningful, enjoyable, or fulfilling for us. Like playing the guitar or doing sports. So, it refers to activities we do for their own sake because they have a “built-in reward system,” so to speak. In short, intrinsic motivation is related to what we want to do.
To understand the link between personal growth and self-motivation, it’s important to realize that pursuing internally driven goals leads to feelings of fulfillment, purpose, and greatness. In other words, it is much easier to keep going and stay focused on our goals if we are intrinsically motivated to do so.
Motivation and the Value of Developing a Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset is another important concept related to self-motivation. This concept was introduced in the 1990s by psychologist Carol Dweck. According to Dweck, there are two main mindsets that people can hold towards their abilities to achieve something: a fixed and a growth mindset .
As the term implies, people with a fixed mindset are convinced that their abilities are fixed, which means they view them as static. For example, they may believe that if they are not naturally good at maths, they can never excel at it. They believe our abilities are set in stone.
By comparison, those with a growth mindset think that abilities can be improved through effort and practice, which means we can get better at whatever we do. For example, they may believe that if they practice hard enough, they will eventually improve their maths skills. In other words, people focused on personal growth rather than dispositions are persuaded that our abilities are flexible and can be developed through effort.
How does this relate to self-motivation? The key insight from Dweck’s research is that people with a growth mindset are more likely to develop a strong sense of self-motivation because they are committed to continuous learning and personal growth. If we want to become more motivated in life, it is therefore important for us to focus more on our potential for growth than on our predispositions and current abilities or limitations.
With this in mind, let’s now look at 13 ways in which we can improve our self-motivation with a focus on long-term personal growth.
13 Tips To Increase Your Self-Motivation by Concentrating On Growth
#1 – Know Your Why… What Do You Want To Achieve Through Self-Motivation?
Think about your motives. What are you hoping to achieve by taking the actions you need or want to take? How will they assist you in achieving a goal, improving your situation, or leading a more fulfilling life? Are the next steps you are planning to take in line with your broader personal goals and dreams?
Practical tip: Remember your why. Write down your objectives, and set yourself a reminder to revisit them a few times over the coming months. That way, you are less likely to forget the broader picture and make excuses when your motivation is low.
#2 – Create a Vision Board With Your Hopes and Dreams in Mind
A vision board is a great way to get a sense of what your future could look like. If you’re not sure what you want to achieve, take some time to think about it. What are your hopes and dreams for the next year? Make a mental note of everything that comes to your mind, and then try to capture your ideas visually. You can do this by taking photos, writing down your thoughts, selecting motivational quotes, or using images from magazines to create a collage. But don’t restrict yourself to a particular type of board. Remember that you are doing this for yourself, so your vision board can take any form you like!
Practical tip: Make a vision board and keep it in a place where you will see it on a regular basis. This will help you to keep your goals in mind and to remember what you are working towards.
#3 – Analyse and Manage Your Expectations
Another important way to ensure you stay motivated is to set yourself challenging but realistic goals. Expectations that are too high or too low are problematic. If you set yourself goals that are unrealistic, you may become frustrated and give up early, thus missing your chance to develop perseverance in life. And if your goals are too small, you may lose interest and become bored. Be honest with yourself and set your expectations at a level that you know you can achieve if you work hard enough.
Practical tip: Set yourself achievable but challenging goals and keep them flexible in case you realize that your initial expectations were unrealistic.
#4 – Focus On One Step at a Time, and Keep Track of Your Progress
Take a small-step approach. Break down larger plans and ambitions into smaller, achievable tasks. Begin with a simple project and work your way up. Some people find it useful to keep track of their progress. For example, you could keep a to-do list and tick off tasks as you complete them. This will help you to stay focused, especially if you are easily distracted.
Practical tip: Start with one small but important task, and work your way up to bigger and more challenging ones.
#5 – Commit to Your Goals, and Communicate Your Commitment
Make a commitment to yourself or someone/something else to make it more difficult for you to put things off in the future. Committing to your personal goals is about going the extra mile to achieve them – especially when you have obstacles to overcome. It gives you a sense of ownership of your choices and responsibility toward your own well-being. You might also want to try using a goal-setting workbook or planner to help you set, visualize and commit to your goal in a meaningful way.
Practical tip: Write down your plan of action and commit to it in a signed letter or email to yourself or someone you trust.
#6 – Consider Finding an Accountability Partner
We are often more motivated to complete a task if we are accountable to someone other than ourselves. Find someone you trust to keep you accountable for your actions. This can be a friend, a family member, a colleague, or a coach. You could even join a group or a forum on the Internet where people can support each other.
Practical tip: Share your goals and plans with others. Ask someone else to check in on you and form an accountability partnership with them.
#7 – Take Breaks, and Get Enough Sleep
Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep every night, but it’s not just about the number of hours of sleep you get. You need to get good-quality sleep on a regular basis so that you feel refreshed when you wake up. Sleep deprivation and fatigue have a negative impact on your concentration, memory, and motivation levels. So, always make sure to incorporate regular breaks into your daily routine.
Practical tip: Try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Take regular breaks and avoid overworking yourself.
#8 – Focus On Your Goal, But Don’t Forget To Enjoy the Process
Although it can be helpful to be goal-driven to stay motivated, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Try not to become so fixated on the end result that you lose interest in the process of getting there. That’s particularly important if the goals you are working towards take a long time to achieve. If you are constantly thinking about where you want to be in the future, your motivation levels may decrease. Don’t concentrate too much on what you haven’t achieved yet. Focus on the value of the present moment in which you are trying.
Practical tip: Focus on the journey and try to enjoy the process. Remind yourself that every day is valuable in itself and that each step you take is meaningful.
#9 – Celebrate Small Achievements and Reward Yourself
When it comes to committing to a new project, honoring each small win can be the key to lasting change. There are many ways in which you can celebrate small accomplishments. You could take a recovery day for yourself or schedule a fun night out with friends. You could also reward yourself by buying something nice for yourself or helping someone else out.
Practical tip: Recognize your progress and celebrate every small success. Schedule rewards for your accomplishments in advance so that you have something to look forward to.
#10 – Develop a Positive Mindset
The way you think about yourself and your personal growth is important. If you don’t believe you have what it takes to succeed, you will find it difficult to stay motivated. Trust yourself – You’ve got this! But if you are struggling with believing in yourself, there are great ways to build your optimism and resilience. One way to do this is to practice mindfulness and breathing meditation.
Practical tip: Develop a positive mindset by trying out mindfulness meditation. Spend ten minutes each morning focusing on your breathing and the present moment.
#11 – Surround Yourself With Supportive People
Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people who will support you in your journey to success. Be careful with whom you share new plans and ambitions if you are easily influenced by others. Some people may not be able to understand your vision or give you the support you deserve.
Practical tip: Spend time with empathetic, enthusiastic, and supportive people who will inspire you to do your best and stay motivated.
#12 – Reduce Procrastination by Improving Your Time-Management Skills
Procrastination and time management are connected. Managing your time efficiently helps you to feel in control of your tasks and increases your productivity, which can boost your self-confidence. As a consequence, you’ll be less likely to delay tasks, and you’ll be able to strike a better work-life balance.
Practical tip: Try to become conscious of your time management. Use a calendar or online planner to schedule your daily tasks and appointments.
#13 – Start a Gratitude Practice
Being grateful for what you have can enhance your mental well-being and improve your self-motivation levels. According to Emmons and Mishra, we feel inspired and invigorated when we experience gratitude, which helps us to make progress toward our goals . You could use a gratitude journal to write down what you are thankful for or simply say it out loud.
Practical tip: Try to be grateful for the little things in life. Start a gratitude practice by writing down three things that you are thankful for each day.
The Bottom Line
Self-motivation is linked to your level of success. It takes dedication and consistency to stay motivated and continue to make progress. But if you cultivate a growth mindset and take practical action, you will find that it’s possible to stay motivated and complete the tasks you set yourself.
But keep in mind that it is also important to celebrate small successes and take breaks along the way. Or else it’s easy to become overwhelmed, which can be detrimental to your motivation and self-esteem.
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