4 Guidelines for Self-motivation

Having troubles staying motivated? Here are four essential guidelines for self-motivation.
4 Guidelines for Self-motivation
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 12 March, 2024

Self-motivation isn’t a bed of roses; there are times when we feel that we’re capable of “conquering the world”, while there are others when we may feel incapable of taking a step out of our comfort zone.

What can we do to maintain our focus and interest? The truth is that the development of self-motivation is part of daily and constant work. However, it’s what activates us and helps us to give meaning to the actions we take. Let’s take a look at some useful guidelines to boost it.

4 tips for better self-motivation

An article shared by the non-profit organization Digital Promise defines self-motivation as “the force that drives you to do things”. This can be motivated by various internal and external factors, such as a love for someone, a desire to do something, or simply the need for money.

In any case, staying motivated is a way to increase productivity, be more creative, and, of course, manage stress. That’s why self-motivation is considered an important skill. So, how can you improve your self-motivation? Take note of the following tips!

1. Strengthen your self-esteem

Self-motivation also has to do with self-esteem: that is, valuing ourselves, respecting ourselves, and believing we’re capable. In this sense, it’s important to recognize our achievements and experiences, as well as to accept our difficulties and know that we are imperfect (abandon the pretense of being so).

All this allows us to get moving and trust in our capabilities. In turn, it’s key to consider ourselves worthy of well-being and success. But how can we achieve better self-esteem? Well, the best starting point is self-care.

Getting enough rest, eating well, finding a balance between leisure and work, and learning to set boundaries are some examples.

Motivation requires not only an achievement-oriented growth mindset, but also listening to and making room for our most basic biological and bodily needs.

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2. Learn how to strike a healthy balance between optimism and reality

To stay motivated we must be able to consider that our decisions and actions bring us closer to what we want to achieve. We may not be completely satisfied with the results, but they do bring us closer.

It’s important to have an optimistic view of the future and the confidence that we will be able to achieve our goals. Otherwise, there would be no point in taking action. Of course, it’s also in our best interest to identify obstacles and accept the existence of difficulties, but that should not be our main ‘lens’. Negative thinking should not overwhelm us.

On the other hand, motivation can’t rest on complete fantasy or naïve optimism based on the belief that “things will work out”. There’s a phrase that says that “You make your own luck”; after all, action is required to take advantage of any opportunity.

In this sense, apart from confidence, we must also learn to deal with the frustration that things don’t always go as planned. We must avoid goals that are too demanding (or unattainable) and choose to be realistic.

3. Work on your self-knowledge

Knowing oneself is also key to developing self-motivation. Knowing what motivates us will not only help us to orient our efforts, but also to identify how to achieve them at a personal level.

A review published in the Annual Review of Psychology comments that introspection is key to developing self-knowledge. In particular, it helps to construct beneficial personal narratives. In addition, it also helps us to look at ourselves through the eyes of others and observe our own behavior.

Introspection exercises are those that allow us to perceive, interpret, and understand our own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Therefore, it’s fundamental for self-knowledge.

4. Learn how to get organized 

Another guideline for self-motivation has to do with relying on order and establishing priorities. Otherwise, the feeling of not having control over anything can be overwhelming.

So, to begin with, we can establish what it is we really want to achieve. Then we need to start breaking that goal down into smaller, more manageable units.

For example, I would like to pass an English final exam. Then the questions would be: how much time do you have? What do you need to study? It’s also important to identify if you’re starting from scratch, if it’s just a review, etc.

In this process, it’s a good idea to discover a means of organizing ourselves that works best for us; this may mean keeping an agenda, a calendar, or whatever suits you.

The fact of being able to set small, achievable, and concrete goals, works as a ‘pill’ of motivation on a daily basis. Finally, we must remember that perseverance is also very important for self-motivation.

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The importance of self-motivation in our lives

Motivation is that which mobilizes a person to perform a certain activity by using the resources available to him/her and adopting a certain behavior. It also has to do with persistence and intention.

If we think of self-motivation as movement and energy, then we’ll know why it’s important in our lives. It’s necessary to feel enthusiasm, to have the drive to ‘keep walking’ and to try.

This is what keeps us connected to the activities we do; it’s there to give us meaning, but also to encourage us to change.

Motivation also requires asking ourselves about demotivation

Self-motivation has its flipside, which is none other than demotivation. However, we rarely do the reflective exercise of identifying what it is that demotivates us or absorbs our energy. However, knowing what it is that we don’t like and what we would like to change allows us to find points to act or spaces to intervene.

Always remember that this process is directly related to self-esteem and emotional states; therefore, a prolonged period of listlessness and discomfort is detrimental to one’s health. In this sense, it’s important to pay attention to how you feel and not to underestimate it.

Once you’re aware of those things that keep you rooted in dissatisfaction, you will have more tools to think about what things you want to change. Here, self-motivation will give you the impetus to encourage you to get moving and to think about change.

At this point, it isn’t necessary to think about ‘great feats’; self-motivation isn’t about a 180-degree turnaround. Sometimes, it’s about small decisions that already lead to greater well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.