Let's talk about motivation

Let’s talk about motivation

Motivation is more than inspiring quotes, encouragement or just ‘willing’ ourselves to start (or stick at) something. We’re all individuals, with our own personalities, preferences, skills and experiences. Naturally what motivates us will look different for each of us.

Starting from scratch

For some of us motivation can be really challenging; perhaps due to experiences we’ve had, illness, injury or trauma. You may feel that you’re starting from scratch and don’t even have the first idea what you’d be motivated to do, and that’s ok. If this is you, the best thing to do is take the first step by thinking about what your interests, values and priorities are. Take some time to think about:

  • Do you have any goals that you’re particularly interested in working towards (e.g. fitness or meeting new people) – will this influence what you want to do?
  • What do you enjoy or like the idea of? Or what have you enjoyed in the past?
  • What about this activity or experience appeals to you? 
    • The activity itself? 
    • What’s involved with that activity (e.g. animals?)
    • Who the activity’s done with (e.g. a local group where you can meet new people? a group of friends? on your own?)
    • Where is the activity done? (e.g. Outdoors, at home, or in a specific place you like?)

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions you can start to build up a picture of an activity or experience that aligns with your values, priorities, and interests. It may take time to build yourself up to it but finding something that has the potential to be specifically interesting and enjoyable for you is likely to help support your motivation to start it. 

You don’t have to be particularly skilled or committed to start; most activities or groups will offer a taster session to try it out, or let you come along to observe with no need for commitment up-front. You can dip your toe in and see what you like without diving right into it. 

If something isn’t a good fit for you and you don’t want to carry on that’s totally ok. We all need to try things out before we know whether or not we like them – there will be a next time, and you can try again.

Sticking at it

To stick at something what you’re doing has to be right for you; and I’m not just talking about you being interested in it, I also mean it needs to be challenging enough that it’ll be interesting and allow you to develop your skills and confidence, but not too challenging you won’t feel able to do it. 

And it needs to be done at a pace that’s right for you – you like yoga and would like to join a class but you’re nervous in groups of people? Start at a level you’re comfortable with, like an online class (Yoga With Adriene is great for any skill level!) and build yourself up to a small class when you’ve built up your confidence. Once you feel comfortable in a small group setting you might want to take it a step further and attend a larger yoga group or event; or you might find that smaller groups are your thing and that’s also great – that’s what’s right for you.

Similarly if you’ve joined a creative group aimed at people who are just starting to explore their creativity, but you’ve actually got some skills in this area, this won’t be challenging your abilities, or offering you a sense of accomplishment. This won’t motivate you to come back week after week. Maybe increasing the challenge either through a more advanced group, or a different creative activity you’d be interested in trying, would be a better fit. 

Once you’ve found something that works for you, try and build it into your routine in a way that works for you. Consider what time of day would be best e.g. if you have no energy in the mornings but feel more alert and active in the evenings find something you can do in the evenings when you’re at your best. Or if you can’t commit to attending in person every week, is there an alternative way of doing that group/activity from home? A lot of activities have made their way online now during the pandemic! 

Individual interests and values, confidence and self-esteem are key factors when it comes to motivation. The more we feel we are enjoying ourselves, gaining skills and confidence, and feeling good about ourselves, the more motivated we feel. Doing for doing’s sake can be as unhelpful as doing nothing at all. Throwing yourself into an activity or a group which doesn’t match all of the above means you’re less likely to continue doing it, which can negatively affect your confidence and make you less likely to try again – including trying something else that could be a great fit for you!

Photo by Siavash Ghanbari on Unsplash


Concepts based on Gary Kielhofner’s Model of Human Occupation, 5th edn. (2017) 

Leave your comment