HomeMotivationHow To Get Motivated (The 5-Step Ultimate Guide)

How To Get Motivated (The 5-Step Ultimate Guide)

Motivation is one of those fickle things. When people have it, it seems effortless. When they don’t – it seems like the most scarce resource in the world! So how do you get motivated?

We all know the thrill of something exciting and fresh: an intriguing project idea, a potential collaboration, a great new job. And we all know the struggle of maintaining momentum as you embark on that journey. Why is so hard to stay motivated throughout your days? What’s holding you back from tackling your goals with the same gusto you had when you conceived them? And most importantly, how can you break out of your slump and start making progress?

A lack of motivation can be very distressing. You wonder what’s wrong with you, or if your goal is even worth pursuing. Perhaps I’m just too inadequate and lazy, you think. These negative feelings further demotivate you and make you depressed and anxious. You might turn to procrastination to avoid a fear of failure, or you simply give up on the things that once excited you.

Fear not: there is a way to turn it around and reclaim your motivation. To get started, let’s look at how motivation happens and how it affects your behavior.

The Psychology of Motivation

Motivation does not happen in a vacuum. Despite the ubiquity of motivational tapes, books, and posters, most motivation starts from within. It happens when you have a new experience that triggers a flood of adrenaline and dopamine. These feel-good chemicals make you excited about a project or goal, and you want to make progress to maintain this excitement. But once the novelty wears off, lingering self-doubts or anxieties creep up. It takes another stimulus to keep you on track.

Experts say that the simplest way to get motivated is to get started. That’s true if you can get started and maintain momentum past that initial adrenaline-filled period. For example, it’s easy to start a new exercise routine. During your workout, you’re literally flooded with endorphins that reward you for your efforts. The next day, the aches and pains provide another sort of motivation: the type that keeps you on the couch instead of getting your butt back to the gym. That’s why it’s so hard to build good habits. It’s much easier to ride the wave.

However, once you’ve built the habit, it’s much harder to stop doing it. Indeed, habit-building is crucial to motivation. If you’ve already trained your mind and body to expect a behavior, it just feels natural to keep doing it. You don’t have to seek out additional motivation. In a moment, we’ll discuss how this simple fact can help you break out of a slump.

Types of Motivation

Not all motivation happens alike. It’s tempting to think of it as unidirectional, but in fact, the “motivation neurotransmitter,” dopamine, goes both ways. This chemical helps your brain judge either the desirability or aversiveness of an outcome. If you expect high reward for little effort, dopamine influences the behavior that will get you there. On the flip side, if you expect little reward (or lots of pain) for high effort, you won’t want to do the thing.

This means that just as the excitement about something fresh and new can get you moving, fear can keep you stuck in place. Worrying about failure, backlash, or pain is a powerful negative motivator. Associating your new workout routine with pain instead of gain will prevent you from feeling motivated to keep it up. And if you just don’t see the point in doing something, good luck feeling motivated to take time out of your busy day to tackle it.

In a nutshell, you experience two types of motivation:

  • Positive motivation taps into your brain’s reward system to make you feel good about performing a task. It links to feelings of accomplishment, confidence, enjoyment, and other benefits. Positive motivation tends to happen at the outset of a new project or goal, and you can also use it to maintain your mo