How Do You Motivate Yourself? 6 Questions To Consider

We all know that lethargic, apathetic, ‘I can’t be bothered’ sort of feeling. Sometimes it afflicts us at work but there are moments in our own time when it hits us too. We know we need to do something, that at one stage we deemed to be important in some way. This is not to say that duvet days are wrong, but if they were to become duvet weeks then there is an issue. Not everyone is driven to accomplish all the time, but we all have ideas of what we would like to achieve, however small or big.

Having read up on employee engagement and taught on it recently, it made me wonder about us as individuals and how we become more engaged, to enjoy life and accomplish more. From all the work-related writing, are there things that we can learn to apply to our general lives and if so what are they.


I walked away at the end of three days of work recently and the boss thanked me for a job well done. It felt good to be recognised. We all like it when members of the management praise or thank us, when they notice the contribution we make.

For some things in our own lives though, we might be the only person that notices the achievement; maybe we are the only person affected by it. In this case it falls to you to praise yourself. This is not to make you unduly proud or cocksure, simply to motivate yourself for the next step.

Gary Chapman writes about the Five Love Languages in terms of how we relate to others but Paul Donders has taken it a step further in ‘Creative Life Planning’ when he talks about applying the languages to ourselves. If you haven’t recently, take a chance to review what you have done well and give yourself recognition for it.

Sometimes though, when we are praised we find it hard to accept that praise and thanks, we mumble something back or we try and deflect it somewhere else. When did you last allow yourself to be proud of an achievement, to accept praise or even consider rewarding yourself for doing well?


Employees need to be given power and authority to complete their job as best they can, to use their innate creativity and problem solving abilities. Companies are finding that the current generation of workers even want to choose when and where to do their work. Look at the number of people starting their own businesses so that they can be in control rather than being controlled.

What does this mean for us as individuals? I think it is sometimes the case that we don’t give ourselves permission to act. We prevent growth because we choose to be scared instead. Sometimes we decide to go for a goal but don’t allocate enough resources (time or money). Are there situations where you have hampered and disempowered yourself which is making you feel less motivated?

Alternatively, there are times when we don’t progress towards our goal because we prioritise helping other people towards their goals. We think it’s wrong to push ourselves forwards, that there is a selfishness inherent in wanting more. That is okay when we rethink our goals – actually helping others is what we want to empower ourselves to be doing. However, this can become an excuse to justify some of the reasons listed in the previous paragraph.


As Daniel Pink points out in ‘Drive’, profit motives have to be linked to purpose motives in order for companies to thrive. People want purpose in their work, a reason for doing what they do. This might entail focussing on the end-user and how their lives are being improved, or noticing what difference there is for our colleagues when our little bit of work is done well.

If this is true of our employment, how much more true it is in our lives. Steven Covey wrote about leaving a legacy and many others have posited the need to have a purpose-driven life. What is your underlying purpose as you live the way you do? If you repeatedly asked yourself ‘why?’ and delved deeper and deeper until you could go no further, what reasons would you finally give for getting up in the morning? Some people hold to the belief that their chief purpose is ‘to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’. Maybe you want to earn enough money, to help your children grow up, so that they have opportunities, in order for them to succeed. Perhaps you assist in a soup kitchen, in order to feed some of the homeless of your town, to make their lot in life better, which will balance out some of the inequalities in the world.

If you haven’t already determined your purpose in life then now would be a good time to think it through. That way you can motivate yourself more as you move towards fulfilling it but also you can make future decisions in the light of your purpose.


We all know what it is like at work if someone is treated differently to us. We start to experience feelings, and this drives us to action, or at least words. This is particularly the case when we feel we are the wronged party.

In personal terms this speaks of our inability to look objectively at ourselves which links back to recognition and feedback in the thoughts above. ‘Treat others as you want to treat yourself’ might be a good maxim to hold to. Don’t be harsher on yourself, kicking yourself when you are down and suffocating yourself with harsh criticism. Likewise, don’t puff yourself up, being unrealistic and overly expectant. Be realistic and fair to yourself. What changes do you need to make in your fair thinking about yourself?


Employers have long understood that a physically and mentally fit workforce will be more productive but they are starting to also notice that when they help employees to improve their health, they are also more motivated.

This is so true of us as individuals as well. How many people can you think of that have complained out loud, but actually speaking to themselves more, about the state of their bodies. Now obviously some of this is outwith our immediate control, particularly as we grow older. Likewise, accidents that impact our minds or bodies need to be dealt with. However, if we can exercise resilience then we can learn to ‘accept the things we cannot change’ as St Francis put it.

There are many other things we can do though, to make our bodies and minds acceptably fit, such that we are content, no longer distracted by our health. Becoming healthier will not make us more motivated, but like Frederick Herzberg’s hygiene factors, being unhealthy or unfit will demotivate us. We must become healthy enough to take it out of the motivation equation, so that it is not an issue for us. What do you need to do to make yourself fit and healthy enough?


Finally we come to challenge. If your work is dull you will probably get bored, lose motivation and become unproductive. A certain level of stress is good for us, neither too much nor too little. This is also true of our lives.

Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested we should ‘always do what you are afraid to do’, which has filtered down through the years to the popularised quote from ‘Wear Sunscreen’ which says, ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ This could be misconstrued though as being driven and controlled by fear and none of us want that. However, having challenges to tackle, obstacles to overcome and mountains to climb brings out the best in us. What goals have you set yourself for the future?


  1. How have you recognised your achievements or rewarded yourself recently?
  2. How well are you giving yourself permission to act?
  3. What is your purpose in life?
  4. How objective are you being, when you review your performance?
  5. What else do you need to do to prevent health issues clouding your mind?
  6. What challenges have you got lined up for the future?

Source by Nick James Smith

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