Do you put things off until tomorrow? Do you sometimes lack the motivation to change a habit? Don’t worry: procrastinating is human. You are not alone! Getting a better understanding of the mechanics of motivation and of the best strategies for maintaining it are the keys to success. Let us explain.
When you were young, you probably learned to be motivated by expecting a reward. That’s called external motivation. If we cleaned up our bedroom, we could watch TV. If we ate everything on our plate, we could have dessert. When we’re adults, we will get the coveted end-of-year bonus if we finish the financial report on time. This kind of motivation works, but is it sustainable over time?
With this kind of motivation, the satisfaction of finishing a task or changing a habit is shifted to a near or distant future, that is, until you get a reward. But will that day ever come? Often, it isn’t entirely up to you.
The reward strategy depends on someone else who limits your control over the situation, which risks influencing whether you can keep the motivation going. Hello, procrastination – the art of putting things off until tomorrow. Often, you won’t feel like doing it the next day, either, and you’ll become more and more demotivated.
What’s more, external motivation has the power to weaken another kind of motivation, internal motivation (self-motivation), which each of us have. This motivation does not rely on a reward, as it is driven by the pleasure of doing the task or making the change. Completing a new task or incorporating a new habit while enjoying yourself is the most important part of maintaining lasting changes.
Self-motivation is a healthy behaviour that appeals to your sense of responsibility, your independence and your values. It allows you to be in control of your own changes over time.
Getting motivated when you don’t really feel like it
At times, that satisfaction doesn’t come right away, and that’s normal, too. Sometimes you have to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone to go and work out or to cook, for example. When this happens, don’t overthink it: just start working on reaching your goal. The sooner the better!
Constantly postponing a goal that is important to you can cause you to feel stressed or dissatisfied. A sense of accomplishment, on the other hand, is priceless!
How to stay motivated:
- Choose the baby steps approach, setting small goals you can reach gradually over the next week, day, hour or even minute!
- Link your goal to a habit you’re already doing. For example, start your new set of stretches after brushing your teeth. Once your teeth are clean, you’ll know that the next step in your routine is to stretch.
- Recognize that perfection is impossible: procrastination, relapses and setbacks are normal. As long as they only happen once in a while! It’s rare to hit a bull’s-eye on the first try, right?
- Keep track of your progress in a journal to highlight your successes but also any temporary setbacks. You will be better equipped to deal with them the next time.
- From time to time, give yourself rewards that are not material things, such as taking a hot bath after doing sports or asking your partner for a massage. What makes your heart sing and really brings your pleasure? Whether the success is small or big, you deserve it. This approach will help you use both types of motivation (internal and external) to your advantage. Just remember: internal motivation, which values pleasure above all, is more effective in the long run.