The best kind of motivation is self-motivation.
You might not be intimately familiar with the term “self-motivation” but you almost certainly know this to be true.
Think about two separate experiences you have no doubt had:
- You have something you “have to do.” You’re not excited or passionate about it, but you know you need to get it done all the same, so you work hard to complete your task.
- You have something you “get to do.” You’re interested in your task—you may have even set this task for yourself rather than receiving it from someone else—and you are happy to put in the time and effort to complete it.
In which scenario are you more effective? In which scenario are you more efficient? In which scenario do you feel the most fulfilled?
I’m willing to bet that your answer to each of those questions is “Scenario 2.”
It won’t come as a surprise to you that doing something for its own sake and for your own purposes is likely to be more fulfilling, more enjoyable, and more successful than doing something to meet external standards or to please others.
The feeling you have in Scenario 2 is that of being “self-motivated.” Read on to learn more about self-motivation and why it’s so much more effective than the motivation in Scenario 1.
This article contains:
- What is the Meaning of Self-Motivation?
- 3 Examples of Self-Motivation
- The Psychology of Self-Motivation: How are Self-Efficacy and Motivation Related?
- The Importance of Self-Motivation
- Is Self-Motivation a Skill and Can It Be Developed Through Training?
- How to Foster Self-Motivation in the Workplace
- Research on Self-Motivation
- 17 Activities, Exercises, and Worksheets for Self-Motivation (PDF)
- 5 Meditations to Promote Self-Motivation
- Self-Motivation Quizzes, Questionnaires, and Tests
- Apps for Increasing Self-Motivation
- Popular Podcasts on Self-Motivation
- 22 Quotes and Messages to Ignite Self-Motivation
- 6 Images to Inspire Self-Motivation
- 15 Recommended Movies to Get Yourself Motivated
- TED Talks, Speeches, and Videos on Self-Motivation
- 7 Books on Self-Motivation
- A Take Home Message
What is the Meaning of Self-Motivation?
You probably already know what self-motivation is, but just in case your idea of what is it needs a bit of fleshing out, here’s a good definition:
“Self-motivation is, in its simplest form, the force that drives you to do things.” (Skills You Need, n.d.).
It’s the drive you have to work towards your goals, put effort into self-development, and achieve personal fulfillment.
It’s important to note here that self-motivation is generally driven by intrinsic motivation, or the motivation to achieve that comes from sincerely wanting to achieve and desiring the inherent rewards associated. It can also be driven by extrinsic motivation, the drive to achieve that comes from wanting the external rewards (like money, power, status, or recognition), although it’s clear that intrinsic motivation is usually a more effective and fulfilling drive.
Self-Motivation and Emotional Intelligence
According to emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, self-motivation is a key component of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the measure of an individual’s ability to recognize and manage their emotions and the emotions of other people.
The placement of self-motivation within emotional intelligence highlights its role within our ability to understand ourselves, relate to others, and to succeed in reaching our goals.
Goleman states that there are four components of motivation:
- Achievement drive, or the personal drive to achieve, improve, and meet certain standards.
- Commitment to your own personal goals.
- Initiative, or the “readiness to act on opportunities.”
- Optimism, the tendency to look ahead and persevere with the belief that you can reach your goals (Skills You Need, n.d.).
3 Examples of Self-Motivation
Self-motivation is easy to understand when you consider some examples:
- A man who goes to work every day just to pay the bills, keep his family off his back, and please his boss is not self-motivated, while a man who needs no external forces to make the trek into work every day and finds fulfillment in what he does is self-motivated.
- The student who only completes her homework when her parents remind her, nag her, or ground her for failure to complete is not self-motivated, but the student who completes her homework with no prodding because she wants to learn and succeed in school is self-motivated.
- The woman who only goes to the gym when her friends drag her there or because her doctor is adamant that she needs to exercise to get healthy again is not self-motivated, but the woman who sets an early alarm and schedules time to get to the gym whether anyone encourages her or not is self-motivated.
As you can see, self-motivation is all about where your drive comes from; if your motivation comes from within and pushes you to achieve for your own personal reasons, it can be considered self-motivation.
If you are only motivated to achieve standards set by someone else and not for your own internal satisfaction, you are probably not self-motivated.
It’s possible to be self-motivated in some areas of life and not in others. For example, if the man from the first example is not internally motivated to go to work but is sure to make time for his marathon training, he is not self-motivated when it comes to work but may be self-motivated regarding his training.
The Psychology of Self-Motivation: How are Self-Efficacy and Motivation Related?
Psychologist Scott Geller is at the forefront of research on self-motivation, and he explains that there are three questions you can use to determine whether you (or someone in your life) is self-motivated:
- Can you do it?
- Will it work?
- Is it worth it?
If the answer to each of these three questions is “Yes,” you are likely self-motivated.
If you believe you can do it, you have self-efficacy. If you believe it will work, you have response efficacy—belief that the action you are taking will lead to the outcome you want. And if you believe it is worth it, you have weighed the cost with the consequences and decided the consequences outweighed the cost (Geller, 2016).
Speaking of consequences, Geller considers “consequences” one of four vital “C” words that underpin self-motivation:
- Consequences: to be self-motivated, you have to sincerely want the consequences associated with the actions you take rather than simply doing something to avoid negative consequences.
- Competence: if you answer all three of the questions above with a “Yes,” you will feel competent in your ability to get things done.
- Choice: having a sense of autonomy, of choice over your actions, encourages self-motivation.
- Community: having social support and connections with others is critical for feeling motivated and believing in yourself and your power to achieve (Geller, 2016).
Much of Geller’s work on self-motivation is grounded in the research of the renowned psychologist and self-efficacy researcher Albert Bandura. Back in 1981, Bandura set the stage for Geller’s current conceptualization of self-motivation with this description:
“[S]elf-motivation… requires personal standards against which to evaluate ongoing performance. By making self-satisfaction conditional on a certain level of performance, individuals create self-inducements to persist in their efforts until their performances match internal standards. Both the anticipated satisfactions for matching attainments and the dissatisfactions with insufficient ones provide incentives for self-directed actions” (Bandura & Schunk, 1981).
From this quote, you can see where Geller’s three questions come from. Believing that you can do it, that it will work, and that it is worth it are the forces that drive you to match the internal standards you set for yourself.
The Importance of Self-Motivation
As you have likely guessed already, self-motivation is an important concept; while we are certainly capable of getting things done to please others and meet external standards, these efforts are not what we would call a “labor of love.” In other words, doing things because we feel we have to do them or to gain some external reward is enough in many cases, but it doesn’t invoke the passion that drives innovation and excellence.
It’s fine to use external sources to motivate you in some areas, but if you’re not doing anything that’s self-motivated, you are unlikely to feel personally fulfilled and to find deeper meaning in your life.
Not only do we generally do better work when we are self-motivated, we are also better able to cope with stress and simply happier when we are doing what we want to be doing.
Is Self-Motivation a Skill and Can It Be Developed Through Training?
Given the benefits of being self-motivated, your next question might be: Can I become more self-motivated?
The answer is definitely yes!
Self-motivation is driven by a set of skills that are within your control. Read on to learn how to use this to your advantage.
12 Tips and Skills to Motivate Yourself Today
The Skills You Need website lists six vital skills that form the foundation of self-motivation, and they are all skills that you can develop through sustained effort:
- Setting high but realistic goals (e.g., SMART goals).
- Taking the right level of risk.
- Seeking constant feedback to figure out how to improve.
- Being committed to personal and/or organizational goals and going “the extra mile” to achieve them.
- Actively seeking out opportunities and seizing them when they occur.
- The ability to deal with setbacks and continue in pursuing your goals despite obstacles (i.e., resilience).
Further, there are six things you can do to maintain your self-motivation:
- Continue learning and acquiring knowledge (i.e., develop a love of learning).
- Spend time with motivated, enthusiastic, and supportive people.
- Cultivate a positive mindset and work on your optimism and resilience.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and work on them.
- Avoid procrastination and work on your time management skills.
- Get help when you need it, and be willing to help others succeed (Skills You Need, n.d.).
14 Strategies for Students to Increase their Self-Motivation to Study
Students are particularly well-suited to reap the benefits of self-motivation, but it can be hard to be self-motivated in our current educational environment.
Luckily, there are some things you can do as teachers, parents, and other important adults to help students become self-motivated, as well as some strategies specifically for students to apply.
What you can do to encourage self-motivation in your students:
- Provide students with as much autonomy or freedom of choice as possible (e.g., give students a choice in their seating arrangements or a range of options for their final project, and implement problem-based learning).
- Provide useful feedback, praise hard work, and deliver critical feedback using words like “and” and “what if” instead of “but” to encourage student competence.
- Cultivate a high-quality relationship with your students by taking a genuine interest in them, acting friendly, staying flexible and keeping your focus on the end goal of learning, and don’t give up on them.
- Encourage your students to think, write about, and discuss how what they are learning is relevant to their own lives (Ferlazzo, 2015).
What students can do to bolster their own self-motivation:
- Attach meaning to your studies; take personal ownership over your knowledge and learning.
- Create a plan: map your semester, your month, your week, and even your day.
- Build a routine and apply time management skills to become more organized and productive.
- Identify several comfortable study environments (they should be quiet and have few distractions).
- Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, and exercise regularly to stay healthy.
- Tame the “time monsters”: internet, video games, any unproductive time spent with friends.
- Avoid multi-tasking by choosing one subject or task at a time and focusing all of your attention on it.
- Take planned—and well-earned—breaks to stay refreshed and motivated.
- Connect with a support system of friends and family who will encourage you to do your best.
- Talk positively to yourself (Buckle, 2013).
How to Foster Self-Motivation in the Workplace
You may find it much easier to encourage self-motivation in the workplace than in school; after all, everyone in the workplace is there because they chose to be there. They might have vastly disparate reasons for being there, but they were likely not compelled to work in their specific organization against their will. Talk to a student, and you will likely hear a different—and more dramatic—version of their reasons for going to class!
There are many ways to foster self-motivation in the workplace, including:
- Giving your employees one-on-one attention, feedback, and recognition.
- Ensure your employees have opportunities for meaningful advancement, as well as training and education opportunities.
- Set the example in terms of tone, work ethic, and values; be a role model for positivity, optimism, and hard work.
- Cultivate an uplifting and motivating culture that encourages employees to want to do their best.
- Foster socialization through teamwork and team-based activities, projects, and events.
- Stay as transparent as possible and open yourself up to questions, concerns, and ideas from your employees; implement an “open-door policy” to ensure your employees feel heard (DeMers, 2015).
Nick Nanton and J. W. Dicks from Fast Company offer some further strategies to ensure that both you and your employees stay motivated:
- Sell your mission statement to your team as you would to an investor; ensure the people working to meet that mission understand it and buy into it.
- Foster a culture where each employee has a specific job and a specific role with the organization, and give them room to grow and opportunities to implement ambitious new ideas.
- Focus on inspiring your staff instead of just motivating them; inspired employees will be inherently motivated.
- Show your team recognition and appreciation for the hard work they do.
- Share your passion with your team and lead from the front by developing a positive mindset and displaying a positive attitude (2015).
Techniques to Motivate Yourself at Work
You can also take control of your own motivation at work, rather than waiting for someone higher up to encourage it. Some good tips and techniques for becoming more self-motivated at work include:
- Finding work that interests you (this is a vital tip—it’s much easier to be self-motivated when you are passionate about what you do and fully engaged in it).
- Request feedback from your boss or colleague to learn about where you can improve and enhancing role clarity.
- Learn a new skill that is relevant to your role (or your desired role).
- Ask for a raise; financial incentives are generally considered extrinsic motivation, but if you’re generally happy with your position then being paid what you think you are worth can be extra self-motivating.
- Remind yourself of your “why,” the reason you do the work you do; when you are doing meaningful work, you are more likely to find fulfillment and stay self-motivated.
- Volunteer your services to others (this is especially helpful if you have trouble defining your “why”).
- Take a vacation to allow yourself to rest, recharge, and come back refreshed and ready to work! (Stahl, 2016)
Research on Self-Motivation
The research on self-motivation clarifies its vital role in helping us achieve our goals. Check out the findings on two important and related topics below.
Self-Discipline and Self-Motivation
While self-discipline and self-motivation are two distinct concepts, self-discipline is vital to maintaining self-motivation. It’s not enough to simply be self-motivated; to achieve your goals, you need to couple self-motivation with self-discipline.
A study of online learners showed that even though they might all be considered self-motivated (since they are all taking a voluntary course with the goal of learning), those with self-discipline were the most likely to succeed. Those who were highly self-disciplined displayed higher competence at the end of the course, fulfilled more external tasks, and were more effective in achieving their goals (Gorbunovs, Kapenieks, & Cakula, 2016).
Self-Motivation and Weight Loss
Self-motivation is a key component of weight loss for most people. Research on the connection between the two is quite clear.
In multiple studies, researchers found that participants who reported greater autonomy support and self-determined motivation were more effective in losing weight, more likely to keep the weight off for longer periods of time, and more positive about their weight loss journey (Teixeira, Silva, Mata, Palmeira, & Markland, 2012). When we have our own closely held reasons for wanting to lose weight—and these reasons are based on personal fulfillment rather than meeting external standards—we are much more likely to find success.
17 Activities, Exercises, and Worksheets for Self-Motivation (PDF)
If you are looking for some more specific and practical ways to improve self-motivation than the more general strategies and tips listed earlier, you’ll be happy to know that there are tons of resources out there for you!
Check out the activities, exercises, and worksheets below for ways to enhance your self-motivation (or share them with your clients to help them get self-motivated).
Quick and Easy Motivation Techniques
Some techniques and exercises are more difficult than others; if you’re looking for a quick and easy exercise or activity to boost your motivation, try these:
- Listen to motivational music, like:
a. Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now
b. Paul Engemann’s Push it to the Limit
c. Queen’s We Will Rock You
d. Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone
e. ACDC’s Thunderstruck
- Watch a motivational movie, like:
a. Forrest Gump
b. The Pursuit of Happiness
c. Life is Beautiful
d. Rain Man
e. The Family Man
- Read books that boost motivation from authors like:
a. Napoleon Hill
b. Brian Tracy
c. Tony Robbins
d. Jim Rohn (Mueller, 2012)
More Powerful Motivation Techniques
If you need something a bit stronger, try these techniques:
- Set wisely chosen and deeply personal goals that you are excited about working towards.
- Schedule rewards for yourself when you accomplish your goals (or steps towards your goals, for the larger ones).
- Visualize yourself achieving and fulfilling these goals.
- Create a vision board with your goals, aims, and dreams in mind, and post it somewhere you will see it often.
- Pay attention to your “hierarchy of needs” (a la Abraham Maslow) and ensure you are meeting your lower-level needs (including physiological needs like food and sleep, safety needs, social needs, and esteem needs).
- Consider using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), the study linking neurology, language, and programming to understand human experience and motivation.
- Envision what could happen when you reach your goals, as well as what could happen when you fail to reach your goals.
- Incorporate things you are interested in and engage your curiosity when setting and working towards your goals.
- Make a commitment to someone or something to ensure your future self will find it difficult to change plans or put things off (Mueller, 2012).
Self-Motivation Workbook (PDF)
This workbook is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to develop their self-motivation.
It contains 23 pages of self-motivation information, activities, and exercises to help you find the drive you need to achieve your goals within yourself.
You’ll find sections like:
- What Makes People Self-Motivated?
- Lack of Energy or Self-Motivation?
- Making Decisions
- Don’t Make Excuses
- Be Clear About Your Decisions
- The Three Decisions That Will Shape Your Life
- The NAC Concept of Pain and Pleasure
- Transforming Yourself
Please note that you will need to register with www.plr.me to download this workbook.
Exercise: Build Self-Efficacy
Building self-efficacy is one of the best ways to develop your self-motivation. It might sound difficult or complex, but there are three simple activities you can do to help you get there:
- Ensure early success by choosing activities or steps that you know you can do.
- Watch others succeed in the activity you want to try—this is particularly effective if the person you are observing is similar to you and/or close to you.
- Find a supportive voice, like a coach, counselor, friendly manager, or mentor to encourage you and give you feedback (Mantell, 2012).
Set SMART Goals
As noted earlier, setting SMART goals is a great way to enhance your self-motivation.
When you set these goals, make sure they are:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Attainable
- R – Realistic
- T – Timely
Ensuring that your goals are smart goals is one of the best things you can do to build a foundation for self-motivation. If your goals are SMART, you are much more likely to find it easy to motivate yourself!
Seven Key Ways to Getting Motivated—A Worksheet
This worksheet from the Health Fitness Corporation offers a comprehensive experience in thinking about and working towards self-motivation.
It is focused on seven key methods that you can implement to get self-motivated:
- Make it Wonderful (visualize the lifestyle change you want)
- Love and Respect Yourself
- Consider the Costs
- Involve Other People
- Make a Plan and Break It Down
- Make Sure Your Environment Supports Your Goal
- Pay Attention to Your Feelings
For each key, there are several prompts and questions for you to complete that will get you thinking and help you understand how you can implement the keys you are learning in your own life.
Click here to view this worksheet in PDF.
Getting Motivated to Change
This PDF from Texas Christian University’s Institute of Behavior Research offers tons of great handouts and worksheets on motivation, along with some instructions for use and tips and suggestions for implementing change-focused counseling and coaching (Bartholomew, Dansereau, & Simpson, 2006).
It breaks things down into four parts:
- Motivation 101
- The Art of Self-Motivation
- Staying Motivated
- Making it Second Nature
All four parts contain great resources, but the Art of Self-Motivation section includes some really useful handouts and worksheets, including:
- Motivation and Change handout (page 28)
- Taking a Hard Look – Pros and Cons (page 29)
- Target Log (page 30)
Some of the resources in this PDF are targeted towards recovering drug users, but it’s easy enough to alter and adapt them for more general use.
Click here to access this 63-page resource.
For more activities, exercises, and games to improve your motivation, click here and browse the many different options available.
5 Meditations to Promote Self-Motivation
Meditation can be a great way to help you maintain your self-motivation.
Try these meditations to help you stay self-motivated:
- Mountain Refuge Meditation for Self-Motivation (20-minute guided meditation from Meditainment)
- Meditation to Help Stop Procrastination (~29-minute guided meditation from Jason Stephenson)
- Guided Meditation – Motivation (~11-minute guided meditation from Minds with Integrity)
- 10 Minute Meditation for Motivation and Building a Positive Mindset (~10-minute guided meditation from The Mindful Movement)
- Guided Meditation – Increase Motivation and Confidence (9-minute guided meditation from Michael Mackenzie at Project Meditation)
Self-Motivation Quizzes, Questionnaires, and Tests
There are several fun quizzes and questionnaires you can use to explore your self-motivation. They aren’t all super rigorous and validated instruments, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful!
Self Motivation Quiz from Richard Step
You can find this quick 5-minute quiz from Richard Step at this link.
It includes 45 questions rated on a 3-point scale (with Rarely, Maybe, and A Lot as the three options).
You can take it with the focus on your life in general, or you can narrow your focus to one of several different areas, including:
- Academics and Schoolwork
- Business Ownership
- Career Growth and Change
- Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment
- Faith and Spirituality
- Family Life
- Fitness and Health
- Future Vision
- Goal Setting and Completion
- Helping Other People
- Hobbies and Casual Interests
- “I Was Asked to Take the Test”
- Just for Fun or Curiosity
- Leadership and Management
- Life Purpose and Passions
- Marriage and Relationships
- Money and Wealth
- Psychological Research
- Retirement and Legacy Living
- Self-Discovery and Development
- Shopping and Spending
- Teaching and Training Others
- Teamwork and Team Building
- Trauma Recovery
Your results from this quiz will help you determine “what makes you tick” or what your main motivators are.
Motivation Style Quiz
If you’re interested in the type of incentive or driver you are most responsive to, this quiz from Martha Beck at Oprah.com can help you find out.
It includes only 10 questions with five response options each, so it’s a quick and easy way to discover your motivation style.
Your results will be presented via a score on the five different motivator types:
Scores can range from 1 to 10, with higher scores indicating it is a greater motivator for you. Anything with a score of 6 or higher can be considered one of your major motivators, while anything below 3 is only minimally important. Your main motivational style is the component with the highest score.
Along with your scores, you will see descriptions of each motivation style to get an idea of what your “type” is like.
Click here to access this quiz.
The Self-Motivation Inventory
For a slightly more research-backed scale of self-motivation, you might want to consider the Self-Motivation Inventory.
This inventory will help you determine your level of self-motivation, and whether you’re more driven by internal or external motivators.
It includes 30 items rated on a scale from 1 (less true) to 5 (more true), dependent upon how well you feel each item describes you.
A few sample items include:
- I frequently think about how good I will feel when I accomplish what I have set out to do.
- If asked about what motivates me to succeed, I would say that the number one factor is a sense of personal fulfillment, that I gave my all and did my best.
- When I think about the reward for doing something, the first thing I think about is the sense of accomplishment or achievement.
- On several occasions, I have given myself a consequence for making a poor or less optimal decision. For instance, if I chose to eat an extra helping of dessert, I tell myself to work out an extra 10 minutes at the gym.
- Even if something makes me feel slightly nervous or uncomfortable, I typically do not have much trouble getting myself to do it.
When you have answered each of the 30 questions, add them all up for an overall score. Your score will place you within one of the following categories:
- Total Score 113-150: highly self-motivated
- Total Score 75-112: somewhat self-motivated
- Total Score 38-74: slightly self-motivated (perhaps in one or two areas, but not overall)
- Total Score 0-37: not at all self-motivated (more externally motivated)
This inventory was developed by Milana Leshinsky and Larina Kase, and you can find it at this link.
Apps for Increasing Self-Motivation
If you’ve committed to becoming more self-motivated and working towards your goals, these 7 apps can help you get started and maintain your drive:
- DayOneApp – a journaling app that allows you to add pictures, local weather data, and geo-location to each journal entry.
- MyFitnessPal – a food- and exercise-focused app that helps you determine calories and overall nutrition of the food you eat as well as recording your exercise activity.
- Unstuck – this helpful app provides you with access to digital coaches, tips, and advice to help you find motivation, make decisions, and solve problems.
- Happier – this positivity app encourages you to collect positive moments and experiences throughout your day and add them to your “mental Rolodex,” helping you cultivate positivity, optimism, and gratitude.
- Brightest – this self-improvement app is intended to help you “shape up your home and simplify your life” with guidelines and tips on things like organization, cleaning, and do-it-yourself projects that will remove the clutter from your (mental and physical) space.
- Headout – an app that shares exciting, last-minute deals on fun experiences, including nearby activities, events, and tours. Make sure you make time to rest and relax in addition to all the work!
- Coach.me – this app acts as a sort of digital coach by posing powerful questions that will help you narrow down your desires, set goals, and stay open-minded and on track (Boss, 2016).
Popular Podcasts on Self-Motivation
If you’re a podcast person, you’re in luck! There are plenty of motivation-related podcasts available.
Here’s just a quick sample of the podcasts out there:
- The Daily Boost: Best Daily Motivation
- The Accidental Creative
- Inspire Nation – Daily Inspiration, Motivation, Meditation
- The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes
- The Tony Robbins Podcast
- Happier with Gretchen Rubin
- Beyond the To Do List – Personal Productivity Perspectives
- The Charlene Show
- The Ziglar Show – Inspiring Your True Performance
- Courageous Self-Confidence
Check out other great podcasts on improving your motivation at https://player.fm/.
22 Quotes and Messages to Ignite Self-Motivation
Sometimes you just need a quick boost to get self-motivated; quotes are a great way to get the spike in motivation that you need. Give these quotes and messages a try the next time you’re lacking in motivation.
“Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends.”
“The only time you fail is when you fall down and stay down.”
“Most people can motivate themselves to do things simply by knowing that those things need to be done. But not me. For me, motivation is this horrible, scary game where I try to make myself do something while I actively avoid doing it. If I win, I have to do something I don’t want to do. And if I lose, I’m one step closer to ruining my entire life. And I never know whether I’m going to win or lose until the last second.”
“Always choose the future over the past. What do we do now?”
“You are your master. Only you have the master keys to open the inner locks.”
These 17 quotes from Lydia Sweatt (2016) are a great way to get the boost of motivation you need:
Norman Vincent Peale:
“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
“Where there is a will, there is a way. If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything to keep what you want from ending, do it. Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door and keep it open.”
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
“Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.”
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
W. Clement Stone:
“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”
“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.”
“There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.”
“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“We aim above the mark to hit the mark.”
“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.”
Simone de Beauvoir:
“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.”
“You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
“Why should you continue going after your dreams? Because seeing the look on the faces of the people who said you couldn’t… will be priceless.”
Harriet Beecher Stow:
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
6 Images to Inspire Self-Motivation
Similarly, sometimes a motivational poster, meme, or image can work wonders for your self-motivation. Below are six of my favorite motivation-related images.
- You’ve probably seen it before—the classic road-sign image.
I don’t know about you, but there’s something that calls to me in this image: the blue sky and clouds, the angle encouraging us to look up, and “Motivation” in big letters. For some reason, it just works!
Looking at this image makes me think about life as a journey and motivation as an important piece of that journey. If we want to reach our next destination, we need to put forth some effort to make it happen. And when we do, seeing that big road sign welcoming us to the place we want to be can often be reward enough.
- Another simple image, this one simply says is “Yes I can!”
It also points out the best motivation is self-motivation; as we’ve learned in this piece, that is truly the case. When we are motivated for our own internal reasons and committed to reach our goals for personal fulfillment rather than meeting the standards of others, we are more likely to succeed.
Sometimes, all we need is a quick reminder that “Yes I can!” Keep this image handy, especially when you’re working towards a particularly challenging goal, and it might give you the boost of motivation you need to stay on track.
- This image says: “I cannot change yesterday, but I can change today”. It is such an important point to remember, especially for those of us who struggle with leaving the past where it belongs: in the past.
It can be all too easy to dwell on past experiences, mistakes you’ve made, and roads that you should have taken. However, that does nothing to improve your current state. It’s good to reflect on what has brought you to where you are today, but letting worry, shame, embarrassment, and self-doubt based on your past creep into your present is a sure recipe for failure.
Remember that yesterday is done and gone—you can’t change it, so there’s no point dwelling on it. Take your lessons learned and apply them to something you can change: today.
- This is another classic image in self-motivation and self-esteem—probably because it has a kitten in it. Kittens make for popular images! This image says: “What matters most is how you see yourself”.
Besides being cute, it also gets an important point across: that what is most important is the perspective you take on yourself. What other people think simply doesn’t matter most of the time. It’s what YOU think and feel about yourself that drives your behavior.
If you want to stay motivated and achieve your long-term goals, make sure you work on your sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy. See the best in yourself when you look in the mirror, and you’ll ensure that the best in yourself is what you manifest through your actions.
- This exhilarating (and potentially anxiety-inducing) image reminds us that what seems impossible is not always truly impossible. Of course, some things are truly impossible, based on things like gravity and the laws of nature, but this image isn’t about those things. It’s about things that seem impossible until you actually try them.
Challenge yourself to give something that seems impossible at least one solid attempt, and you may be surprised at the outcome.
- Another favorite image, this meme is both adorable and motivational! It says: “Don’t worry, you got this”. When I’m in need of some self-motivation, sometimes a little light-heartedness and humor can give me the boost that I simply can’t get from solemn inspirational quotes.
Looking at this cute little guy and telling myself, “You got this!” gets me in the right frame of mind to take on a new challenge with enthusiasm and a smile on my face.
15 Recommended Movies to Get Yourself Motivated
If you’re a cinephile, you might find movies a good source of motivation.
If so, this list of 15 movies that can motivate you might be just what you need:
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Queen of Katwe (2016)
- Apollo 13 (1995)
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
- The Queen (2006)
- 42 (2013)
- Lion (2016)
- Southpaw (2015)
- The African Queen (1951)
- Dangal (2016)
- Field of Dreams (1989)
- My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
- The Finest Hours (2016)
- Begin Again (2013)
And a bonus…
- Sing Street (2016)
To see descriptions of the motivational power of each movie, read Samuel R. Murrian’s (2017) piece on these movies here.
TED Talks, Speeches, and Videos on Self-Motivation
Don’t have time for a full-length feature presentation? That’s okay! There are also tons of great TED Talks, YouTube videos, and speeches on self-motivation. Check out any of the talks listed below to learn more about self-motivation:
- The Psychology of Self-Motivation by Scott Geller
- How Can We Become More Self-Motivated by Kyra G.
- Self Motivation by Brendan Clark
- The Secret to Self-Motivation by Mel Robbins and Tom Bilyeu
- Self-Motivation Techniques: Your Reason Why by Profound Self Improvement
7 Books on Self-Motivation
Of course, there’s always the old-fashioned option to learn more about self-motivation: reading!
Check out these excellent books on self-motivation if you want to learn more:
- Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation by Edward L. Deci and Richard Flaste (Amazon link)
- The Self-Motivation Handbook by Jim Cathcart (Amazon link)
- Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development by Carol Dweck (Amazon link)
- The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard (Amazon link)
- The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden (Amazon link)
- No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy (Amazon link)
- The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson (Amazon link)
A Take Home Message
In this piece, we covered a lot of information: what self-motivation is, how it fits into similar concepts in psychology, how you can boost it in yourself, and how you can encourage it in others.
Hopefully, you learned something new from reading this piece, but if not, at least you got some good movie, video, podcast, and app recommendations!
What’s your take on self-motivation? What works best for you? Do you find yourself motivated more by external rewards or by internal drives? Did you find that your motivation differs in different areas of life? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Thanks for reading, and good luck self-motivating!
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