Reclaiming and Sustaining Motivation

Samantha Curiale-Feinman, MS.Ed., TSHH, Director


Motivation is essential for individual growth. When people set goals for themselves, it is our motivation that provides the determination to work towards accomplishing them. Motivation also works in the background to lead problem solving when things do not go as planned.


There are two main types of motivation: Extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is motivation driven by external or tangible rewards, such as money, prizes, grades, and praise. Intrinsic motivation is motivation driven by internalized rewards, such as self-fulfillment, enjoyment, and autonomy. It is important to note that regardless of the type of motivation that drives you, motivation can be different depending on the context of the goal and can change across time. What motivates you to do one thing, may not motivate you to do another, and what motivates you in the beginning of a goal, may not motivate you through the finish line.


We have all been there: You wake up in the morning and you spring up, ready to seize the day. On the other hand, there are days when you open your eyes and have to force yourself to get out of bed. This is our motivation: Our general readiness (or lack thereof) to do things. There are several factors working in the background that may affect daily levels of motivation, both positively and negatively. Here are a couple factors that commonly affect motivation:


Novelty: Sometimes the newness of a goal is motivating enough to help us work towards completion. We tend to go through a “Honeymoon Phase” where we are relying on the excitement of wanting to accomplish something to get us through. However, if the goal is long term, and we do not accomplish it before that “Honeymoon Phase” is over, we may see the novelty of it dwindle, leading our motivation to fall. We refer to this with many of our clients as their level of stamina. They may begin a semester or project with high levels of energy and determination, but then mid-way through may start slipping behind, procrastinating, or avoiding completing the tasks needed to reach the goal.


Tip: If you find yourself losing motivation because your goal feels unsurmountable, try incorporating extrinsic rewards into your routine to celebrate small wins. Break down your larger goal into smaller tasks that work towards achieving your larger goal. Identify small rewards you can provide yourself each time you complete a task, as these rewards can increase the likelihood that you continue onto the next step.


Emotions: Emotions can play a large part in our levels of motivation, and how we feel can affect motivation levels either positively or negatively. You are more likely to focus if you are feeling happy, which can lead to higher levels of productivity. On the contrary, if you are unhappy, you are more likely to be distracted, which can lead to procrastination or the unlikelihood you will initiate tasks. Many are reporting negative effects on their motivation during the current global pandemic, sighting daily feelings such as increased loneliness and isolation, the concern of getting sick or making others sick, and worries about the future.


Tip: If your motivation levels are being affected by negative emotions, try and begin your day by managing your mood and being kind to yourself. Frame and focus your thoughts first thing around the positive. Remind yourself that you can be successful and productive in whatever output that looks like for the day. Incorporate mood boosters into your day, such as exercise, hobbies, or self-care activities. Congratulate and reward yourself for each small victory.


In summary, if you feel your motivation slipping, take a step back and assess the situation. What is directly affecting your motivation? Once you identify why you are feeling unmotivated, try incorporating some of the suggestions above and hold yourself (or ask someone else to help hold you) accountable for following through. Reassess your motivation levels consistently and incorporate minor tweaks as needed. You got this!!