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Staying Motivated

by Izzy Brown, MA, LPC, R-DMT

Let’s talk motivation. Motivation can be a difficult experience to feel especially if one experiences depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges. I know I experience difficulties with staying motivated, but I also recognize that being 100% motivated all day everyday may not be realistic to some people. If you experience challenges around staying motivated, this blog is for you.

What exactly is motivation? Motivation is one of the most important drives for human behavior. It is the desire to take action that will be directed towards a goal. One can experience motivation to finish their homework before the weekend, another can experience motivation to work out to achieve a fitness goal. Whatever the goal is, motivation helps us achieve this goal. When I think about my relationship with motivation, I often think about the rewards. As humans, we tend to stay motivated when we know there is a reward for doing that task. Motivation can also help us remember “the why.”

I remember during grad school; I had many experiences of feeling unmotivated due to many factors—procrastination, anxiety, and imposter syndrome. However, remembering “the why I was in grad school to begin with,” usually sparked the motivation inside of me. I was able to picture my future self working in the career I have strived for. As I like to tell my clients, there is a difference between future tripping and utilizing the future to stay motivated. Future tripping deals with anxiety where you may expect a worst-case scenario even when the scenario has not happened yet. Then there is utilizing the future to our advantage, just like my grad school experience. I envisioned a positive and rewarding life I knew I could achieve if I worked hard in school. That was the source of my motivation.

Let’s be honest, if we are in a slump, being motivated can be the last thing on someone’s mind. I often hear that lack of motivation can lead to feelings of shame and guilt for not thinking and living a life one “should” live. Is it realistic to always stay motivated? Absolutely not! However, it is realistic to do certain things to help develop the spark of motivation. When I have a difficult time staying motivated, I first like to write down the things I need to do and the things I want to do. Above I mentioned rewards. I will be honest, if I don’t receive some sort of reward, I will have a difficult time completing a task so I like to create my own rewards to make things easier. For example, let’s say on my list of needs, I must complete documentation for work. If I am in a slump, documentation will be harder for me to complete. This is where I get creative. I tell myself, “Self, if I can complete my documentation, I will choose something to do on my wants list and that will be my reward.” My need is to complete documentation and then the want aka reward is to read a couple pages in my book. I am rewarding myself for a task I did not feel like completing and because I knew a reward was waiting for me, that sparked motivation within me to finish my task. The more I do this, what I am doing is creating a habit so then one day I will wake up, do documentation and automatically reward myself. Habits are created through consistency and habits are better formed because we experienced motivation. Once the habit is created, the motivation is easier to feel.

Another way I like to think about motivation is utilizing association. What this means is let’s say I must complete documentation for work. I will light a candle with a specific scent or put on a specific genre of music to play in the background. I am associating these things with the task I must do. What this is, is classical conditioning. I light the candle, the scent comes in my nose and that will tell my brain it is time to document. Again, we practice consistency until we are conditioned, and it is not a thought anymore. We will just do it.

These are some ways that have helped me stay motivated for certain tasks and I want to acknowledge that this may or may not work for some people. Staying motivated is super hard work. I will encourage you to be gentle with yourself when you experience lack of motivation. If you notice lack of motivation for an extended period, this could be your sign to consult with a therapist. At Bella Valore, we will work with you to develop skills personally designed for you to help you feel motivated and achieve your goals! Call or email us today to schedule a consultation.

With gentleness,

Izzy Brown, MA, LPC, R-DMT



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