Motivational Skills

Whether in their personal lives or the business world, people who have motivational skills have a better chance of getting ahead. Success is whatever you make of it—whether you’re striving for spiritual growth, saving for a vacation home or trying to secure a promotion. But whatever you want in life, you have to be motivated to take action toward it. Success doesn’t usually happen while you’re sitting on the sofa.

When you read about motivation, it seems simple. You just need something to inspire you to get moving. However, when you get honest about the role that motivation plays in your life, you may realize that it’s fleeting and hard to maintain. If you ever get stuck in a rut or procrastinate on a project, you know what we mean.

So how can you improve your motivation? You can work on some motivational skills that will jump-start you every time you feel like slacking off.

Some motivational skills can instantly light a fire under you and get you going. Others are qualities that you can foster throughout your life to maintain momentum. Use these at work, to run your household and to make sure that you do everything that you put your mind to.

Be Aware of Your Negative Self-Talk

So many experts praise the value of positive thinking. Keeping a constructive mindset is vital for staying motivated.

Have you ever noticed that when you feel down or depressed, you also lack motivation? It can be hard to force yourself to do something productive when you just don’t feel like it.

If you dig deeper, apathy isn’t exactly neutrality; it’s a result of negative self-talk or cognitive distortion. That chatter that’s always running through your mind can keep you stuck. The first step toward developing a more encouraging mindset is to become aware of what you tell yourself every day.

According to PsychCentral, there are 15 types of negative self-talk. These include:

  • Filtering – Amplifying negative details while ignoring positive ones; i.e., saying, “I’m so ugly because I have this scar.”
  • Polarized thinking – Looking at things with an all-or-nothing mindset; i.e., saying, “You’re not my friend anymore” if you have a disagreement with someone.
  • Overgeneralization – Making sweeping conclusions based on one detail; i.e., saying to yourself, “I’m a terrible parent” because your child tripped and fell.
  • Jumping to conclusions – Assuming that you know what another person thinks without any evidence; i.e., thinking, “Everyone is laughing at me” when you see people giggling
  • Catastrophizing – Expecting devastation no matter what; i.e., saying, “My family will hate me if I don’t get the promotion.”
  • Personalization – Believing that everything is related to you; i.e., “She said that because she meant to hurt me.”
  • Control fallacies – Thinking that you either have no control or are responsible for everything that happens; i.e., “Everyone had a bad time because I showed up late.”
  • The fallacy of fairness – Feeling resentful and angry if things don’t feel fair; i.e., “It’s not fair that I have to commute an hour to work every day.”
  • Blaming – Holding others responsible for your emotional distress; i.e., “My boss makes me feel bad about myself.”
  • Shoulds – Getting upset when other people don’t follow your rules and feeling shameful or guilty when you don’t follow your own self-imposed guidelines; i.e., “I didn’t eat healthily; I shouldn’t be so disgusting.”
  • Emotional reasoning – Believing that something is true because you feel a certain way; i.e., “I feel bored; therefore, I must be a boring person.”
  • The fallacy of change – A need to change others to be happy; i.e., “I would be motivated to exercise in the morning if my husband didn’t sleep late every day.”
  • Global labeling – An extreme form of overgeneralizing; i.e., saying, “I’m a lazy bum” because you didn’t exercise last week.
  • Always being right – Going to great lengths to prove that your opinions and behavior are the right ones; i.e., “I don’t care if my friend gets upset when I don’t call her every week; I don’t have to be at her beck and call.”
  • Heaven’s reward fallacy – Falsely believing that every sacrifice you make will be rewarded; i.e., “I should have gotten the promotion because I show up to work early every day.”

How does this type of self-talk affect your motivation? Cognitive distortions may prevent you from doing things that make you feel uncomfortable or scare you. They may be so overwhelming that they paralyze you. At a minimum, negative self-talk makes you feel bad. When you don’t feel good, you’re not as likely to get up and go after what you want.

Plus, cognitive distortions usually involve a shift in reality. You come up with excuses to avoid taking action.

Start noticing your self-talk just by tuning into it. Every time you catch yourself saying something like this, write it down. Do that for a week. At the end of the week, take a look at the things that you tell yourself. You may have an instant “a-ha” moment and realize the way that your mindset is holding you back.

Change your inner dialogue by writing down some phrases that can replace your negative self-talk. For example, you might say, “I didn’t work out last week, but today is a new day.” Then, every time you catch yourself in a negative spiral, force yourself to read or speak the positive mantra aloud.

Take Action

Sometimes, you need to harness your brain power to impel you to take action. But this strategy works the other way around too. If you take consistent action, you can trick your brain into thinking that you’re motivated.

If you wait around for motivation to strike before taking action, you may never make a move. Many experts and coaches say that action leads to motivation.

Motivation comes and goes even if you work on your skills. But if you continue to take action, you can often goad yourself into a new cycle of enthusiasm and inspiration.

You don’t have to do something grand. If you’re putting off a major project, simply begin. Some tricks for promoting action when you don’t feel like doing anything include:

  • Asking yourself what the first or next step is (and then doing it)
  • Committing to doing the activity for just two minutes to spark some momentum
  • Doing something every single day to make it a habit
  • Setting reminders
  • Acting before thinking
  • Setting up triggers for action; for example, putting out your workout clothes at night
  • Telling someone about your commitment to action to create accountability

Practice Goal Setting

If you don’t set goals, you might not feel consistently motivated. Sure, when something comes up that you’re excited about, you might be eager to accomplish it. But if your enthusiasm fades, you need motivational skills to ramp it up again.

Goal setting can keep you focused on your objectives. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when setting goals is creating too many. Having a multitude of goals can be overwhelming. Start with one.

Consider setting a goal in an area where you usually lack motivation. Make the goal especially specific. Write it down.

Most experts recommend setting goals that are challenging but realistic. If you’re just starting out with this practice, you might want to set a goal that’s short and easy. You can make your goals grander over time.

After you set your goal, no matter how far-reaching it is, ask yourself if you can break it down into smaller segments. When you do this, you make it less overwhelming and easier to accomplish. You’ll be more motivated to tackle a simple task than a complex one.

Giving yourself direction and managing small undertakings instead of throwing yourself at huge ones is a great way to improve your motivational skills. Doing this also enhances your other motivational skills, such as developing consistency and taking action.

Think About Your Reasons

Motivation is linked to meaning and fulfillment. If you won’t gain any gratification from an activity, why would you do it?

Sometimes, it’s obvious how an activity will benefit you. You might earn a prize or a financial reward. Other times, the advantages of taking on a project are more subtle. They might make you feel good in an indirect way.

Stopping to think about why you want to motivate yourself to do a particular task can help you stay focused when the excitement goes away. Let’s say that you want to lose weight. You’re dedicated to your diet all week. But when pizza night comes around, you feel tempted. Instant gratification is enticing.

If you’ve considered your reasons for losing weight, you can remind yourself of them. You’ll remember why you’re eating healthfully in the first place.

Your reasons have to be meaningful enough to keep you from losing motivation.  To find meaning in your “why,” you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my vision?
  • What am I so passionate about that I lose all sense of time while I’m doing it?
  • What lights me up?
  • What accomplishments am I proudest of?

When you’re coming up with your reasons for doing something, connect them to the answers to these questions. If it’s linked to your passions, your “why” is likely to motivate you.

Develop Consistency

It’s easy to lack motivation when you lose momentum. To illustrate this, think about the last New Year’s resolution that you made and didn’t follow up with.

You were probably excited about your goal when you set it. That shows that you have some goal-setting skills. Perhaps you explored your “why” and had great reasons for establishing this objective.

Did you take action toward your resolution every day? If you set a goal to exercise or eat healthfully, you probably worked toward it regularly. You created a habit that involved this behavior.

One day, you stopped. The next day, you didn’t pick it back up. All of a sudden, not taking action became the habit. To revamp your resolution, you would have to change another habit. Only this time, you’d have to shift from not doing it to doing it.

Habit change is hard. Some people believe that they just need to harness a lot of willpower in order to change them. But you don’t have to try that hard. You just have to try often.

When you want to maintain the motivation for doing something, do it every day. You don’t have to give it your best effort or do it for a long time. Just do it.

This has similar effects as taking action. It tricks your brain into thinking that you’re motivated to do something simply because you’re doing it.

Celebrate Results

Did you know that your body produces a chemical that boosts motivation? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is secreted every time you do something rewarding. Many people say that dopamine is a feel-good chemical. However, it’s actually a substance that motivates you to do things that feel good.

When dopamine travels down a particular reward pathway in the brain, it tells you that something good is about to happen. Now, you’re more likely to take action because you have the promise of even more psychological rewards.

One action that can trigger a dopamine release is a celebration. You don’t have to throw yourself a party, but getting into the habit of celebrating your wins keeps you motivated.

You might argue that celebration is not a skill. However, we live in a world in which work is valued, and pleasure is seen as a waste of time. Many people have been conditioned to avoid celebration because it takes time away from productive activities.

It’s never the wrong time to celebrate. Don’t wait for something momentous to happen. Revel in the small wins that you achieve every day. Doing this will help you create positive habits and keep your dopamine flowing so that your motivation stays strong.

Take Breaks

Just like you’re probably not used to celebrating the small things, you might avoid taking breaks if you’re an overachiever. But pushing yourself too hard can kill your motivation. You might get caught up in the momentum of your productivity for a while. If you don’t give yourself some time off, though, you can burn out and even stop coming up with the creative ideas that you need to keep you going.

The fact is that you’re going to take breaks no matter what. Unintentional breaks happen when you get hungry and need to make some lunch or get distracted and unwittingly shift your priorities. They also happen when you’re exhausted and just can’t work anymore.

These types of breaks make it harder to get back to work. They’re generally linked with negative emotions toward the task at hand. Something more fun came up, or you became so bored that you couldn’t keep doing what you were doing. These kinds of breaks are motivation killers.

Intentional breaks can improve your motivation. Imagine if you gave yourself a period of 90 minutes to focus, followed by a 30-minute break. After your time off, you would get back to work for another 90 minutes.

Depending on the project, 90 minutes might not be enough to finish what you were doing. When your timer rings, you think, “Aw, I was right in the middle of something.” You have a pull to keep going, but you know that the break will be good for you. If you’re doing it right, you’ve already set a goal for what you’re planning to do during your break.

That feeling of wanting to continue keeps your motivation high during the break. The time off gives you a moment to focus on something else so that your brain has time to rest.

When your brain gets the same stimulus repeatedly, it stops activating in the same way. Because of this, you run out of ideas or hit a wall while working productively. Taking breaks helps you stay creative. Once you get back to work, you might have a surge of new inspiration.

This cycle keeps your motivation high because it delivers the reward of productivity while still allowing your body and brain to rest. You might even find that you solve the most difficult problems during your breaks.

Keep Yourself Healthy

A sluggish body leads to an unmotivated mind. Most people want to stay in bed when they’re feeling poorly. They don’t want to do anything.

The business world understands this well. Many organizations offer wellbeing programs because they know that healthy employees are more productive.

What constitutes being healthy? The answer is different for everyone, but some researchers have found that people who eat at least five servings of produce at least four times a week are 20 percent more apt to be productive. Employees who exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week perform 15 percent better than their sedentary counterparts.

When it comes to your health, listen to your body. Being mindful about what you consume and how you feel can alert you to foods and habits that aren’t good for you. Some people feel energized after drinking a cup of coffee, while others experience jitteriness and a crash.

Learning how your body responds to the foods that you eat is a valuable skill. You can do the same with your exercise habits.

For some people, an hour of running makes them more alert. For others, it makes them want to take a nap. Start to observe what makes you feel motivated, and work those habits into your routine.

Fuel Yourself

You have to fuel your body, mind, and soul to stay motivated. If you’re lacking in any of those areas, you could easily lose steam.

Most of us forget that fueling our passions keeps us driven even in our professional lives. Just like you need to take breaks, you must also take time for activities that you enjoy.

While it seems unlikely that hula hooping in your backyard will help you stay motivated to complete a presentation for work, balance is essential for motivation.

One of the skills that you can practice is assessing the various categories of your life regularly. Consider how satisfied you are in the following areas:

  • Health
  • Leisure and playtime
  • Passions
  • Travel
  • Relationships
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Career

You might even want to go through the list every month and rate your fulfillment on a scale of 1 to 10. If you notice that you’re not content in certain areas, you can use the skills that we’ve already discussed to incite your motivation and bring some enjoyment to those categories.

When you’re following your passions and your life feels meaningful, you’re more likely to be motivated than when you’re feeling empty and desperately searching for anything that can fill you up.

Practice Failing

Failing is a motivational skill. Most of us avoid it like the plague. However, we have to make mistakes in order to grow.

If you’re not used to failing, making errors can really let you down. You can get so disappointed that you lose all interest in your goals. Failure can also produce an anxiety that further hinders your motivation.

People who practice failing see it as a blessing in disguise. They realize that they were on the wrong path, and they become motivated to shift their objectives or actions accordingly.

If you become distressed by failure, try taking the following steps to enhance this skill:

  1. Identify the lesson

Failure often makes you question everything. Within the uncertainty, you must find the gems that keep you going. Failure builds character and makes you stronger.

If your cognitive distortions take over every time you fail, you’ll have a hard time finding the lesson. Try looking at your mistakes objectively, asking the following questions:

  • What went wrong?
  • How did I feel about the failure?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What did I learn from this?
  • What are the next steps?

Failure is motivating because it moves you closer to your dreams.

  1. Celebrate that you defeated mediocrity

If you have failed, it means that you took a risk. Failure usually indicates that you were motivated to go after what you wanted. It doesn’t really matter if you didn’t succeed. You can learn from the lesson and give it another shot.

Failure also means that you’re not mediocre. You’re the type of person who goes after what they want. Celebrate this. It will give you the dopamine rush that you need to stay motivated.

  1. Commit to bravery

Many people are motivated to achieve their goals, but fear prevents them from taking action. We’re all apprehensive about the unknown. Fear is a mechanism that kept early humans safe from danger. Now, most of the fear that we experience is an excuse to stay in our comfort zones.

We tell ourselves that we’re staying safe. We fool ourselves into feeling good about avoiding risk. However, remaining in your comfortable bubble will sap your motivation.

When this happens, you succumb to one type of motivation: the impetus to avoid harm. That’s not a motivational skill that will help you achieve success. It will only keep you in the same place.

  1. Redefine your goals

Failures tell you that something needs to change. Look at them as opportunities to refine your dreams. This is your chance you make your life bigger and better.

Motivate Others

When you understand what it takes to motivate others, you can keep your own momentum high. This is a skill that you can practice throughout your life. Some qualities that motivational people have include:

  • Good listening skills – They are engaged, ask questions and don’t turn the conversation to themselves.
  • Authenticity – They show that you can achieve anything by being yourself.
  • Accountability – They give others autonomy, hold them responsible for their failures and celebrate their wins.
  • Support – They know how to hold space for others and offer support without getting in the way. They also know when to ask for support.
  • Knowing when to push – They understand when people have reached their limits and when they need the inspiration to stretch themselves.
  • Passion – They’re passionate about what they do.
  • Kindness – They’re generous, kind and forgiving.
  • Openness – They keep others in the loop.
  • Clarity – They establish clear performance standards and objectives.
  • Understanding – They understand the motivational process.

You can work on your motivational skills by being aware of these qualities within yourself. You could also attend training to work on your motivational skills. However, you can focus on the different skills in this article to enhance your understanding of them and assess your proficiency with them.

With awareness, action, and consistency, you can enhance your motivational skills so that you don’t lose enthusiasm when it counts. Recognizing the factors that can steal your motivation can also improve your drive.

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