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How To Be Self-Motivated: A Pep Talk & Some Tough Love

Someone uses tips on how to be self-motivated, by writing out a plan for their goals on a piece of paper and learning to take action. A keyboard sits next to stationary and a bowl of fruit on a white desk.
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My strength has always been doing things – being proactive, making decisions, taking action. It, like everything else in life, is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive, I jump at opportunities, I’m practical, focused, hard-working, and I’m good at deciding what I want and getting on with it. On the negative, it means I’m extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something, I always ‘need’ something to be working on, I’ve had to learn boundaries the hard way to stop repeatedly working myself into the ground and I’ve had to learn, again, the hard way, that I can’t expect everyone around me to be able to do the same.

Why am I telling you this? Because I was recently was questioned by a friend struggling with work and motivation and their questions left me stumped. I’d always put a lot of effort into motivating myself, but I’d never put much thought into the process or my reasoning behind the things I did, let alone how I’d explain it to someone. So of course, my writer’s heart has accepted the challenge and this post is my musings since.

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” – Jordan Belfort (there’s some tough love in this blog, so the quote felt fitting)

How do you motivate yourself?

This is such a big question and I could ramble for hours on end about it. I’ve written many in-depth blogs about how to motivate yourself and how to find inspiration, because there is just SO much you can do. But to make this snappy, I’ll round up my top ways to get motivated:

  • Find yourself a role model and seek their presence when you’re feeling particularly unmotivated
  • Have routines you enjoy to prepare yourself for doing tasks. For example, I like a clean, cosy space when I study so I always have a quick tidy, light a candle, make a coffee and find a good playlist to get me in the mood for getting stuck in
  • Break big goals down into little goals and plan step-by-step so you always know what to do next, and have something to aim for and look forward to
  • Find a friend to complete your goal with (gym buddies ftw!)
  • Always minimise distractions!
  • Have a solid reason why you’re doing what you’re doing (preferably written down, somewhere you can read it back when you need a boost, like your phone notes)
  • Learn your thought patterns and figure out which voice stops you from doing things. Frequently remind yourself that you’re capable and learning and that the process is about growing, not being the best, as you do more things, this belief should come naturally.
  • Set yourself fun goals and challenges to get in the habit of working on something (and make sure they’re achievable!)
  • Talk to yourself (or journal, meditate, talk to a friend, etc) about why you’re feeling unmotivated, then list possible solutions for fixing those problems
  • Have visual stimuli for your goals and the bigger picture you’re working towards. It sounds cheesy, but I’ve always loved dream-boards (even if they’re just little ones like a lock screen) and I really do think they work, reminding you every day exactly what you’re heading towards and why you’re putting the work in.

There are a few of my big helpers, but make sure to find what suits you. Use these as a start point, experiment, and as you learn yourself you’ll learn what best motivates you too.

How do you make yourself do something you don’t want to do?

Maybe you find yourself with a big overwhelming goal, where some of the smaller steps are things you just really don’t want to do. Maybe you’re working a job you don’t enjoy to get by whilst you’re studying or while you hunt for something better. Maybe you’re just a little fed up with what you need to do, even though you love it.

I think having the ‘why’ I mentioned earlier is really important here. Having a really strong reason why you’re doing this and knowing what it’ll help you do, even if it’s as simple as something helping you survive until you move on to something better, is one of the best ways to keep yourself motivated.

Recommended for you: How to Write When You Don’t Want To: Tips for Writer’s Block

How do you stop listening to reasons telling you not to?

Honestly, there’s no trick that’s going to stop voices of doubt and discouragement from rising up. But, you can learn to deal with them in a healthy way. I’ve gone into this in detail before in my blog about the chat I have with my fear and it works equally as well with the voices trying to kill your motivation.

Your mind is only trying to look out for you, like an overprotective parent. So treat it as such. Thank it for looking out for you, but be firm in your decision – “I hear your concerns, but we’re going to try this anyway because I believe it’ll be beneficial, even if we fail and even if it’s hard”.

Decide on your position in the argument. Do you believe you’ll benefit from doing this thing? Does it seem like the right thing to do? Does it/the outcome excite you? List all your reasons for doing it, decide firmly that it’s something you want to commit to and repeat those reasons whenever doubt arises.

The more you prove to your mind that you’re capable, the more you push your comfort zone and accept failures gracefully, the more comfortable your mind will become with difficult situations because it’ll trust you to handle them, regardless of the outcome.

Recommended for you: How to Be More Confident: Learning to Love Who You Are

How do you practice motivating yourself?

Practising motivating yourself is all about discipline, and to learn discipline, you have to start small. This was something I learnt as a kid and I believe is one of the reasons I find taking action second nature today. My dad’s always been a standards man, no matter how big or small the job, no matter how insignificant the task seems, he has his standards and he expects them met. That’s a lesson I learnt early on.

In my mid-teens, I discovered that I had so much more energy, happiness and motivation when I did things I truly cared about and upheld my standards and principles. Likewise, the more disciplined I was with small habits, the easier the big things became. I started putting things away as soon as I’d finished using them, I did my homework as soon as I could and always on time, I didn’t lay in unless my body needed it, I always made sure I wasn’t late to things. They seem like small things, but they’re helpful actions that made my life easier. They became second nature and suddenly, bigger things started to become easier and more approachable too.

So start small, start doing small things to make your life better and work your way up. Do it for your benefit. Empower yourself to do those things because they’re important to you and because they’ll benefit you.

Learn to see failures for the lessons they are

Failure is difficult to face, but every failure comes with a lesson. It’s difficult to see when you’re in the thick of it and it’s always important to let yourself feel the emotional responses that will come from a disappointment, but as that begins to pass, see if you can find the lesson hidden in the rubble. I find it really helpful to note the lesson down, no matter how trivial the failure. After a while of doing this, you’ll find your mind jumping straight to finding the positive when you’re faced with a disappointing situation and that, in time, will make it easier and easier to move on positively.

Take responsibility for your life

Here’s a little bit of tough love. You are the only person responsible for where you stand today. Of course, circumstance is important, be compassionate with yourself, feel your emotions, understand and empathise with your circumstance, but never ever let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Maybe you’ll have to take an unconventional route, maybe you’ll take a little longer or have to work a little harder than everyone else, but you can’t reject the cards you’ve been given, you can only make the most of them.

Falling into a victim mentality or putting limits on yourself will only hurt you, haven’t you had enough of that? If the world has treated you badly or unfairly, the least you can do is make sure you treat yourself well. Even when you’re the victim, you still have to pick yourself up if you want to keep moving forward. It’s not fair, but it is real and all you can do is make the most of your time.

Recommended for you: How To Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Build a relationship with yourself

This one is massively important and unfortunately, really underrated. Having a good relationship with yourself is what’ll keep you going when things are tough, what’ll allow you to feel proud and grateful when you reach a goal, what’ll keep you focussed.

You’re doing this for you and you only. It’s great to have people around you that support you, it’s great to be motivated by others and you may even find it more motivating that way, but you’ll benefit more long term if you do this by yourself. Not only does this mean you’ll set goals that are true to who you are and what you want, unclouded by others’ needs or opinions, it will also help you grow a whole host of other skills: confidence, self-compassion, self-belief and self-efficacy.

So focus on yourself. Listen to your body and realise when it needs a rest. Thank, reward and congratulate yourself every time you take a step forward. Pick yourself up, look after yourself and be compassionate when you fall. You have to live with yourself your whole life, make sure you lift yourself up.


There, my musings on how to be self-motivated. If you found it helpful, make sure to bookmark it for future times when you need a motivation boost.

You’re doing great. Love, Ella-Rose xx

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