January 4, 2021|Kim's Blog, Management Skills|
Self-Motivation – Ten top tips (Video)

It’s the start of a New Year! Last year – with all the problems created by the Covid restrictions – it was really hard to keep going sometimes – even for those who usually excel at self-motivation. Apart from the odd bad day, I managed to maintain high motivation levels myself and amongst my coaching clients. So my first short (nine minutes) video for 2021 is on Self-Motivation – Ten top tips (Video).

(Video script)

Hi. I’m Kim Tasso. As it’s the start of a New Year I thought it might be a good idea to share some tips on personal motivation – to help with those New Year’s Resolutions.

What is motivation?

Motivation is a huge topic – and psychologists and neuroscientists are discovering new things about motivation all the time.
Many people are interested in how to motivate their team members and employees – and there are many articles on this topic on my blog. (See the list below).
A motive is a person’s reason for doing something and comprises three elements:

  • Direction (What a person is trying to do)
  • Effort (How hard a person is trying) and
  • Persistence (How long a person continues trying).

Daniel Goleman, the author of several books on Emotional Intelligence, identified four elements that make up motivation:

  • Personal drive to achieve, the desire to improve or to meet certain standards;
  • Commitment to personal or organisational goals;
  • Initiative, which he defined as ‘readiness to act on opportunities’; and
  • Optimism, the ability to keep going and pursue goals in the face of setbacks. This is also known as resilience.

In 1943 Maslow offered a well-known hierarchy of needs to explain that motivation starts with the most basic needs and only when they have been met are we motivated to tackle higher needs:

  • Self-actualisation
  • Esteem needs
  • Belongingness and love needs
  • Safety needs
  • Physiological needs

But today I wanted to share some ideas that might help you with your own personal motivation as we enter a new year – still restricted by all the Covid regulations. Please remember that different things motivate different people – so a one size doesn’t fit all. What motivates you might not motivate someone else.

10 Motivation tips

Consider personality types (Dog photo)

So let’s start with those personal differences in motivation….
You may have watched my video on the personality types of dogs, cats and bears.
This loosely relates to McLelland’s model of motivation which suggests that people are motivated by:

  • Dogs – dependent – social affiliation – connecting with people
  • Cats – detached – task completion – getting the job done and achievement
  • Bears – dominant – motivated by power and control

 So if we apply that to fitness – a dog might join a class to exercise with other people, a cat might get a fitbit and measure themselves against their daily targets and personal best and a bear might set up their own running or cycling club. 

Move towards gains and away from pains (Comedy and tragedy drama masks)

Psychologists suggest that people are either motivated to move towards opportunities and potential gains or motivated to move away from pains and problems and risks.
Consider the concept of losing weight – if you are someone who moves towards things you will consider how great you will look and feel when you are your new slimmer self. If you are someone who moves away from problems you will focus on the health issues you will avoid if you shed those extra pounds.
So which do you think you are?
Either way you should shape your goals so that they harness your natural inclination to move towards or away from and add a modifying element of your goal to harness the other aspect as well.

Use rewards (Star)

Reward is pretty important in motivation. So make sure you are clear on what reward you will receive if you complete your activity.
There’s another personal difference here. Some people are motivated by extrinsic rewards (what we have to do) – for example, receiving a payment from someone else. Others by intrinsic rewards (what we want to do) – for example, the satisfaction of knowing that you have achieved something or done a job well.
Rewards don’t have to be big – just exciting enough to spur you on. For example, if I do my hour workout in the evening I will reward myself with an episode of my fave TV show.

Set goals (Dartboard – target)

A key element of motivation is having a goal.
Ed Locke said: “A goal is what an individual is trying to accomplish; it is the object or aim of an action”. He offers some interesting insights:

  • Difficult goals lead to higher performance than easy goals
  • Specific goals lead to higher performance than general ‘do your best’ goals
  • Knowledge of results (feedback) is essential if the full performance benefits of setting difficult and specific goals are to be achieved.

We all know about SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time Specific) goals – those are the rational elements. (Tape measure)
But what about the emotional elements that are so important for motivation? In the book “Coaching with compassion”  the authors advise you to create a compelling vision of your future selves to motivate us.
Or we can ensure our goals have SPARC (Lighter):

  • Self-determination
  • Purpose
  • Alignment
  • Reward
  • Challenge

To re-engage with a previous goal, set a goal with a low-high range that averages that same. This engages both challenge and attainability influence factors. 

Break it down into bite-size pieces

In an earlier video about resilience I talked about the need to break down big goals into smaller bite sized pieces. This way they don’t seem so daunting. And with smaller goals you can make more progress quickly and that – in itself – is motivating.
A similar approach is to use the stepping stones approach to goal setting – look at the big long term goal and identify the smaller short term goals that will get you on your way.

Make a small start

In a similar vein, remember the Chinese saying “The journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step”. Rather than put off a project or activity – allocate just a short amount of time – say 15 minutes – to start on your goal.
Just making that start will be motivating. And you will be on your way.
And tracking your progress is motivating in itself. 

Focus on the smallest element

In behavioural science there is the idea of small area hypothesis. This means that the smaller number is more motivating.
Koo and Fishbach’s small-area hypothesis states that individuals in pursuit of a goal exhibit stronger motivation when they focus on whichever is smaller in size: the area of their completed actions or their remaining actions needed to reach a goal (e.g., focusing on 10% of completed actions is more motivating than on the 90% remaining) 

Write it down (Pencil)

Psychologists know that we are more likely to achieve a goal if we visualise what it might look like if we achieve a goal – using all of our senses – and then write it down. Maybe this is how the idea of a to do list was born!
The very act of writing something down increases the likelihood of us completing the action – some argue that this is due to psychological rules of consistency and avoiding cognitive dissonance.
So write it down – and refer back to what you have written regularly 

Work with a buddy

Another suggestion is that you work with a buddy or colleague to achieve your goal. Ideally you should associate with enthusiastic and positive people who will be more motivating to you than negative people with negative attitudes. Emotional contagion is real.
Tell someone else what you hope to do or achieve and you will be more motivated to tackle and achieve your goal knowing that someone else will be holding you to account.
It’s even better if you share the goal with your buddy so you can spur each other on. This is the basis for many slimming clubs – sharing your success with others. 

Eat the frog (Frog)

Most people don’t like the idea of eating a frog. Apologies to French viewers – I too enjoy frog’s legs as a delicacy.
But the idea here is that you complete the least popular or daunting task first – get it out of the way – and then you will feel more energised and motivated to tackle other tasks.
So. Thank you for watching and listening. I hope that you found a couple of ideas in Self-Motivation – Ten top tips (Video) to help you with your self-motivation. Happy New Year!

Related articles on motivation

Book review: Neuroscience for organizational change by Hilary Scarlett | Kim Tasso (May 2020)
Changing behaviour in the workplace to boost productivity – psychology | Kim Tasso (December 2019)
Helping people change: Coaching with compassion | Kim Tasso (October 2019)
Reinforcements: How to get people to help you by Heidi Grant | Kim Tasso (October 2018)
The art of giving feedback – top tips | Kim Tasso (June 2018)
Change management – Millennials, metaphors and resistance | Kim Tasso (October 2017)
Managing teams and virtual teams – 13 top tips – Kim Tasso | Kim Tasso (May 2016)
Motivating people in a property business | Kim Tasso (January 2016)
ready to change? remember the change process | Kim Tasso (January 2016)
People management in a property partnership | Kim Tasso (December 2015)
Change management book – Switch (Chip & Dan Heath) | Kim Tasso (September 2015)
Small changes that spark big influence (persuasion science) | Kim Tasso (November 2014)
Creativity and good and bad stress – Kim Tasso | Kim Tasso (October 2014)
Crazy busy – Book review – Dealing with stress | Kim Tasso (October 2009)
motivation for marketing in professional service firms | Kim Tasso (December 2005)