Finding motivation

Humans are social animals, and other people are a major stimulant for action. Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Especially during the virus pandemic, motivational problems have abounded.  Individuals have found themselves stuck at home, without much social stimulation, wondering why they find it so hard to get anything done.  Students have had to spend days indoors, with only remote support from their schools and universities.  Those who are unemployed have been faced with days on end without much support, and with the constant fear of benefits being removed.

In such an environment, finding motivation to get things done is tough.  That’s the first thing to acknowledge.  When a large number of people fall prey to the same thing, then the situation must be difficult.  Secondly, once we’ve acknowledged this, we need to look at how we can create a motivational atmosphere from a difficult environment.


The following are 7 key factors which provide key stores of motivation.  Some are hard to affect, and some easier, but they all influence how we approach tasks.

  1. Inherited personality – there is no doubt that character traits have an inherited element.  Therefore, we need to acknowledge that some of your motivation levels, you were born with.
  2. Survival strategies – as we grow up, in reaction to our environment, we develop survival strategies, standard ways of behaving that call us to action.  There is no guarantee that these actions are functional – sometimes they are well-adjusted, and sometimes they programme us  to ‘misfire’ and go awry.
  3. Incremental improvements – if we can make a small difference that is visible to us, then we are more motivated to keep trying.  By making change in small but visible steps, we can keep momentum.
  4. Fear and greed – we must acknowledge that, for some, the fear of loss, or desperation to acquire more of something, are key motivators.  Ultimately they may backfire (because these emotions do not have secure foundations), but they have to be acknowledged as motivating factors.
  5. Altruism and gratitude – if our value system allows, we can also find motivation in helping others, and in repaying them for the help they have given to us in the past.  In the average person, this motivation is weaker, but, once tapped, gives more consistent support than fear and greed.
  6. External signposts – the ‘nudge’ effect of what surrounds us is significant.  Our attention is drawn to whatever we see most often and most easily.  We can therefore arrange our own ‘advertising campaigns’ if we want to get more motivated.
  7. Other people – humans are social animals, and other people are therefore a major stimulant for action.  Loneliness is a great sapper of energy, but social engagement can enhance energy.

Items 1, 2 and 4 above are complex, and perhaps best approached with acute self-analysis or with the help of counselling. Items 3, 5, 6 and 7 above are probably the easiest to affect consistently with deliberate action.


Related to the above, here are 4 things any of us can do to enhance our own motivational support structure.

  1. Clearly identify small steps we can do today to make an improvement
  2. Link our action to an altruistic (i.e. selfless) motivation (e.g. raising money for charity)
  3. Create signposts around us (e.g. a notice board showing goals, and motivational quotes and pictures)
  4. Wrap our activity into a social network (e.g. join a club with the same aims as us)


If we want to lose weight and/or increase fitness:

  1. Know what today’s meal and exercise plan looks like
  2. Link our exercise goal to a charity event (e.g. a walk or run we can get fit for)
  3. Set up a functioning notice board within easy view
  4. Join supportive weight loss or running groups

If we want to write a book:

  1. Know what today’s writing plan looks like
  2. Be clear about the book’s contribution to society (or plan to share profits with charity)
  3. Set up a functioning notice board with plans, inspirations, and ideas
  4. Join supportive and relevant writing groups


To improve your motivational support structure, for your project:

  1. Have a clear daily short term plan
  2. Link your project to a public good (e.g. create a link to a charity)
  3. Set up visible, functioning notice boards showing plans and inspirational pictures and quotes
  4. Join supportive, like-minded groups