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Motivation: How to get started and staying motivated

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Motivation is the drive to achieve your goals or needs.
  • Motivation is important to break old habits and to develop healthy ones.
  • Many people struggle with getting and staying motivated, especially if they have mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
  • You may find it helpful to set specific, measurable goals that you can divide into small steps.
  • Ask your family and friends to support you and help you stay motivated.

What is motivation?

Motivation is the drive to achieve your goals or needs. It is influenced by:

  • how much you want the goal
  • what you will gain
  • what you will lose from not achieving your goal
  • your personal expectations

Most people want to change at least one thing in their life. But it can be challenging to find the motivation just to make a start. It helps if you understand what motivation means to you so you can find your own ways to get motivated.

Why is motivation important?

Motivation is important because it:

How can I get motivated?

Most people struggle with motivation, but it is even more challenging if you have mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Here are some tips:

  • Set yourself one specific, achievable goal.
  • Think about how to include that goal in your life, what you need to do to make it happen. Then put a timeframe on it (such as one week or one month).
  • Break your goal into small, easy tasks and set regular reminders to complete each step.
  • Use your family and friends as support – tell them about your goals and encourage them to help keep you motivated.

ReachOut.com has more tips on getting motivated.

How can I stay on track to achieve my goal?

  • Make your goal part of your routine by using a diary or app for reminders.
  • Positive self-talk is important and effective in managing depression or anxiety. Instead of saying 'I can't', say 'I can try'.
  • Mindfulnesshelps keep you relaxed and focused.
  • Start a class or join a support group. Support groups can be as effective as professional help.
  • Reward yourself when you have completed a step or goal.

How can I stay motivated?

Here are some tips:

  • Regularly review your goals and progress. Seeing progress is a great motivator in itself, and also improves your self-esteem.
  • Continue to set new goals. Think about what you want to achieve next week, next month and next year. Tackle one goal at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Keep the momentum up. It takes most people about 2 months to develop a new habit, but for some people, it can take much longer. Keeping the momentum and routine helps it feel more automatic over time.
  • Find mentors, for example, someone you look up to who is experienced in the habit you want to change. Finding social or support groups with the same interest can help you find a mentor.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Positive friends and family enhance your positive self-talk. This also helps to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Use exercise as one of your daily goals to improve your mental health.

What to do if you lose motivation

Setbacks are normal, but developing resilience can help you carry on and continue from where you left off.

Here are some tips to help you find your motivation again:

  • Review your goals and see if they are realistic in the timeframe you have set. You may need to break your goal down further into smaller and more achievable goals.
  • Remember why you wanted to get motivated or reach that goal in the first place.
  • Take motivation from others – feel inspired by reading a book. Talk to your mentor, or friends or family who have reached similar goals to the ones you have set.
  • Sometimes you just need to take a break and start afresh.

ReachOut.com has useful information on finding motivation when you are struggling to stay motivated.

Where to get help

  • If you are struggling to get motivated, talk to someone you trust, or a counsellor who can provide useful strategies.
  • If you have a mental illness, you may be eligible for a mental health care plan, which can help with the cost of counselling. Ask your doctor for help with this.

You may want to bookmark and revisit this page when you need help with motivation.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022


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