How do I become more self-motivated?

How do I become more self-motivated?

There are phrases that I often come across in coaching sessions, even more so during these long winter nights:

  • ‘I know I should, but…’
  • ‘I ought to, but…’
  • ‘I just don’t have the energy…’

Self-motivation is the force that drives us to do things and is a skill we all possess, but some people seem to be way better at it than others. When we are busy doing the things we are told to do, motivating ourselves to do extra can seem a step too far.

And yet, developing your self-motivation can help you take control of your professional and personal life, be more organised, fulfilled, have higher self-esteem and confidence.

It is a key skill that you can get better at, with some awareness about what it is that motivates you. You can use these skills and tools to find out what motivates others too; which will help with your leadership.

Sounds simple, right? Sadly it is far from a simple topic. Many academics dedicate their lives to finding out more about what motivates us.

What is motivation?

According to Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman, there are four key elements that make up our motivation:

  1. Personal drive to achieve, the desire to improve or to meet certain standards;
  2. Commitment to personal or organisational goals;
  3. Initiative, or ‘readiness to act on opportunities’; and
  4. Optimism, the ability to keep going and pursue goals in the face of setbacks.

So let’s take each of these areas and look at both the questions for you to explore and some tools/tips for you to use in order to boost your self-motivation.

Personal Drive

What is your motive for doing things?

  • You may do things because you feel you have to; such as make money, lose weight.
  • You may do things because you love to; because it is interesting, fun or challenging.
  • You may do things because you feel obliged to; because of your personal values.

Understanding what drives you, what are your core ethics and values is a really important step. It is much easier to get down to work if you love what you do.

A coaching companion and friend recently asked the question ‘what is it that makes your heart sing?’ and I would also add, ‘what is your core of steel?’ ie the values you won’t compromise? Doing a simple values exercise can be really powerful.


If you have committed to achieving something (really committed), it ramps up the obligation element of the drive above. Having other people knowing about that commitment can help too.

  1. What are your ambitions and aspirations in life?
  2. What are the steps that will help you get there?
  3. Can you set some smaller steps, targets or goals that you can really commit to? These might be agreed professionally within your team or ones you set for yourself. Find ones that sit comfortably with your personal drivers above and tell people about them.

Taking the Initiative

My favourite book, my go-to book if I am feeling a little low, is the Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo. There is always a nugget of wisdom in here and the ones that jump out are different every time. However I am a great believer in his suggestion that:

‘when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’

If you start moving towards your goals, even if your first attempts don’t come off, eventually things start to happen. So actively seek opportunities, increase your knowledge, learn new things and do stuff that scares you.

Be warned, the universe might not give it to you in the way you expected…


When you look back at your life and the things that didn’t go to plan, what did you learn?

  • My role was made redundant twice in two consecutive companies within 6 months during the ‘crash’. But this led me to re-evaluate what I wanted out of life and drove me ultimately to setting up the Harrison Network.
  • Being properly poorly led me to appreciate my health AND to have more empathy with others going through physical and mental health problems.
  • There are more, but I won’t go on…

Keeping a positive attitude, seeing setbacks as learning opportunities and developing resilience can help your physical and mental health as well as your motivation. Stick with it and keep the company of other optimists; getting with other enthusiasts will help inspire you and motivate you on the days when you just aren’t managing to do it yourself.

So, in summary, here are my suggestions for improving your self-motivation:

  1. Work out what makes your heart sing and what is your core of steel,
  2. Set some short-term targets or goals that you can wholeheartedly commit to,
  3. Actively create and pursue opportunities that come up, even if they scare you,
  4. Seek out the positives and the learning opportunities and
  5. Build a network of enthusiastic, motivated and optimistic people so you can support each other.

Oh, and watch this video too…

Lucy Harrison is an experienced executive coach, facilitator and trainer specialising in business leadership and teamwork. She runs a network of independent experts who can support the strategic, cultural and commercial growth of your organisation. Talk to us for support in your organisation.

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