How to Get Motivated

Four Methods:Setting and Achieving GoalsChanging the Way You ThinkGetting MotivatedTaking Care of Yourself

Motivation is the core of all action; it actually means to be moved to action. [1] Whether a person succeeds, fails or leads often depends upon her motivation. Understanding what motivates you can have lasting positive effects. By understanding and acting upon the things that motivate you, you will be more likely to live a healthy, happy life.

Method 1
Setting and Achieving Goals

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    Create a list of goals. Motivation requires a target. It's hard to get motivated when your goals are vague, undefined, and as a result, impossible to achieve. [2] You will be more motivated if you define your goals and break them down into smaller goals that you can take bites out of accomplishing on a regular basis. Make sure your smaller goals are still meaningful to you and be sure to break them down into things you can actually accomplish – otherwise your motivation will tank.
    • For example, if you are struggling with motivation to get into law school, remember that this goal is the overall goal. However, to keep motivated, you will benefit by further breaking this large goal down into objectives (actions you can take) and tasks (specific, small things to do) to accomplish it.
    • So, if your goal is to apply and get into law school, objectives could be taking the LSAT and selecting a list of schools to apply to.
    • Breaking down “taking the LSAT” further could include tasks such as researching LSAT prep-books, looking up the costs of taking the LSAT, and locations to take the LSAT. An example of a task you might set to select a list of schools to apply to would be figuring out the best criteria to use to select schools (e.g., is location an important factor for you? Prestige of the school?).
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    Organize your goals. Figure out which goals are most important to you. Which goals would you be the most motivated to accomplish first? Think realistically about whether each goals is attainable based on your current time, financial, and other resources. Sometimes one goal needs to be accomplished before it makes sense to begin another goal (i.e., goals sometimes build on each other). Focusing on improving one or two areas will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed – being overwhelmed can kill your motivation. When you feel overwhelmed, you may be tempted to abandon pursuing your goals because you think they can’t be achieved.[3]
    • In some cases, some goals are necessary to learn before you can tackle the others. Since the LSAT is required to attend law school, you need to study for and take it before you can apply.
    • Begin with a goal that is easily attainable so you can have an early success that will keep you motivated as you go forward.
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    Make a list of actionable objectives. Once you have organized your goals by importance, choose the first two or three most important goals and create a to-do list of daily tasks or objectives that will help you to accomplish, over time, these broader goals.[4] An example of an objective would be to study 1 chapter of an LSAT prep book.[5]
    • Make sure that you don’t pursue too many objectives at once, or your goals will come into conflict as they compete for your time, and you may end up being less motivated and less productive. [6]
    • Break your objectives down into smaller tasks. A task is a small, specific thing that you can do to achieve your objective.[7] For example, a task could be to study your LSAT book for 1 hour a day, or to study 10 pages a day of 1 chapter of your LSAT prep book.
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    Accomplish your objectives. To stay motivated, keep a written list of your daily tasks and cross them off each day that you finish. This will remind you that you are being productive; it feels good, too. Repeat this process until you feel that you have mastered the objective, and replace it with another.
    • For example, each time you study your LSAT book for the day, cross it off your list of daily tasks. When you've finished the chapter, move on to the next one.

Method 2
Changing the Way You Think

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    Think Positive. Feeling negative can actually cause goals to seem less achievable and like mountains to climb when, in a more positive mindset, the same goal can seem more manageable.[8] In one set of studies, causing people to be a sad mood literally led them to overestimate how steep a hill was compared to those in happy or neutral affective states.[9]
    • If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, try stopping by changing what you are thinking about, or casting it into a new positive light. For example, if you are struggling with motivation to write and have the negative thought “I’ll never finish my book, I’m still only on chapter 3 after a year” try replacing the thought with a more positive spin, like, “I’m 3 chapters into my book, if I continue to write, I’ll double that, and then soon after I could have completed my book!”[10]
    • Try smiling even if you do not feel like it. Research on the facial feedback hypothesis suggests that there is a bi-directional relationship between the facial muscles and subjective feelings such that, although typically we feel happy so we smile, smiling can also cause us to feel happier. [11]
    • Try listening to positive music. Positive music can put us in a happier mindset and increase positive feelings.[12]
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    Be proud. If you are currently struggling with motivation but have had some success with your goals in the past, take a moment to feel pride about your past accomplishments on that goal. Even if you don’t yet have any successes under your belt in the specific area you are trying to be motivated in, you surely have been successful at something in the past that you can feel proud of. By feeling proud of yourself you will be more likely to remain motivated, especially when times get tough.[13]
    • For example, maybe you helped someone achieve a goal of their own by offering helpful advice or offering your services to them.
    • Don't be embarrassed to take credit in what you've done. You know you've worked hard, and getting praise from other people can strengthen your resolve in pushing on.
    • To feel proud, think about how you yourself were involved in bringing about a positive outcome. If you were part of a charity organization that fed the hungry, think about your specific role in that project and the positive outcome that it helped to bring about. For example, if you were washing the dishes so more people could eat, think about how that was a necessary step for people to have a nice meal on a clean sanitized plate.
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    Be passionate. Maintain passion about your goals; this will act as a fire that will help keep you energized and motivated. Passion about your goals will also help you persevere when times get tough and when you feel like giving up. [14]
    • If you are losing your passion and struggling with motivation, remind yourself why what you are motivating yourself about is important to you and why you were initially passionate about it in the first place. Ask yourself what positive outcomes accomplishing your dream will have on yourself and others.
    • For example, maybe you wanted to attend law school so that you could help those in need or achieve financial independence. Visualize what it would mean to you to accomplish your dream of being a lawyer and use that vision to re-ignite your passion!
    • If you aren’t passionate about your goal to begin with but are doing it for other reasons, for example, if you want to lose weight to be healthier or to look thinner but it is not necessarily something you are passionate about, keep in mind the end goal. Think about what it would mean to be healthy: you would feel better, likely live longer, and could feel proud of your accomplishment.
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    Be intrinsically motivated. Value engaging deeply in learning and studying and working toward your goals rather than focusing on things external to you such as what others would think about you if you achieved your goals.
    • This is called intrinsic motivation and it is a great way to stay motivated because it does not depend on other people; with just the power of your own mind and desires you can spark a motivational fire that can energize you to accomplish your goals.[15]
    • To foster your intrinsic motivation for your goal, think about what interests you about it. Think about how it stimulates you mentally, and think about your sense of control over your goal; if you have made sure your goals are attainable you should feel that they are in your grasp; all of these things can foster your intrinsic motivation. [16]
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    Fight against fear. Refrain from worrying too much about failure. When people think about “failure” there is often an implicit assumption that a lack of success is permanent and says something about your value as a person. This is not true. Embrace the idea that you can learn from your mistakes. [17]
    • Ultimately, success often requires many failed attempts. You may not achieve your goals the tenth, twentieth, or even fiftieth try. Remembering that failure is often a part of the recipe for success will help to get you motivated to try in the first place and help you to maintain motivation upon bumps in the road.
    • Think about the worst that could happen if you failed to achieve your goal. It probably won’t be that bad, realistically. So, what are you afraid of? Often, people overestimate how badly they will feel after failing at something; keep that in mind if you are struggling with motivation because you are worried about trying but not succeeding.[18]

Method 3
Getting Motivated

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    Think about past successes. If you are struggling to get motivated, think about other times where you were able to stay on track and accomplish your goals. Think about the outcome of what you accomplished and how you felt when you succeeded.
    • For example, if you are struggling with motivation to exercise, think about a time when you powered through and exercised and felt great afterwards. Think about how you felt during your workout, and how you felt about yourself afterwards for pushing yourself to pursue a worthy goal like getting fit.
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    Try just starting. Even if you don't feel motivated, just try getting started anyways.[19] Sometimes we build things up in our minds and make them seem like they are going to be way worse than they actually are. This is called affective forecasting, and we tend to be terrible at it. By the time you get started you will often find that things aren't so bad.[20]
    • For example, if you are having trouble getting motivated to write a book, open the keyboard and just start typing. Tell yourself that you will type for 5 minutes and if you still aren't motivated you will stop. You may find that by tricking yourself into starting, you will gain motivation and continue to write for much longer than 5 minutes.[21]
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    Remove distractions. Part of the battle with motivation is that there are often other seemingly more interesting things in our environment vying for our attention. You can help become motivated to do something by removing the possibility to engage in other actions.[22]
    • For example, if you are trying to get motivated to do your homework but you keep getting distracted by text messaging friends or browsing the web on your phone, then turn your phone off.
    • Once your phone is off, place it somewhere that you cannot see it, such as deep in your bag. Make it difficult to get to; move your bag so that it is out of your reach.
    • Once you no longer have the easily accessible options of texting with friends or browsing the web, you may find that the alternatives to not doing your homework are not as exciting, and so finding the motivation to do your homework may become easier.
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    Compete. Some people are motivated by competition. Think back on your past and whether there have been cases where you were motivated to accomplish something because you were competing with someone else (or yourself). If this rings true for you, then foster some friendly competition. The other person doesn’t necessarily need to know that you are competing with them, even.[23]
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    Get support. You can turn to others to help you with motivation. Tell your friends and family about what you hope to accomplish and what you are struggling with. Talking it out with them can help you stay motivated and keep negative feelings that sap motivation at bay. [24][25][26]
    • Surround yourself with people who are positive and are themselves motivated to accomplish their goals. You can catch their positive emotions and positivity and this will help you to be motivated.[27]

Method 4
Taking Care of Yourself

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    Eat healthy foods. Understand that your body has needs too, and if you ignore those needs your body will tell you. You will feel negative, which will sap your motivation. Eating healthy is important to maintain motivation. [28]
    • Examples of healthy foods include lean meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. [29]
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    Exercise. Working out can release endorphins that make you feel good and can help you foster your motivation. Exercise helps to reduce stress and can even combat minor cases of depression; both stress and depression can cause fatigue and sap your motivation. [30][31]
    • When you exercise, try listening to some music that pumps you up and gets you motivated to work hard.
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    Avoid having too much caffeine. Although it seems like having caffeine would help you to be motivated, too much caffeine can make you jittery and anxious which can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety and make you feel overwhelmed. [32]
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    Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can contribute to poor mental health such as by causing feelings of fatigue, sadness, and anxiety, all of which may sap your motivation.[33][34]
    • If you have trouble sleeping, make sure your bedroom is completely dark at night. Make sure there are no sounds keeping you awake. Try to get into a routine and keep it up every night. Keep track of how many hours of sleep you need to feel fully rested and aim to get that number every night.
    • For example, if you tend to be in bed by 10:30 PM then read for 30 minutes before falling asleep, do your best to stick to that schedule as often as possible. In this way you will train your body for sleep.[35]


  • Stay positive. Negative thoughts make you perform worse. You have to believe in yourself and tell yourself that it's okay if you miss something but fix it next time.
  • Develop a non-defeatist attitude toward life. People sometimes unknowingly develop a defeatist attitude toward life and give up or say things like "it's genetics", “there’s no point in trying”, or “it's destiny”.
  • Beware of sappers, or people who don't like to see others get ahead. They are the people that come around in an attempt to assert control over you during one of these activities.


  • Sometimes it is OK to take a break if you are feeling unmotivated. You may need to rest up!

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Goal Realization & Problem Solving