Let’s Talk About… Motivation

By Jeremy Godwin

What do you want out of life? How do you motivate yourself to make it happen in a healthy way? That’s what I’m talking about this week on… Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of practical advice for better mental health.

So, get comfortable, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health…

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This podcast episode was originally released on 6 February, 2022.

Hello and welcome to Episode 117, I’m Jeremy Godwin and thanks so much for joining me!

This week I’m talking about motivation and I’ll be covering what motivation is (and what it isn’t), why it matters, and how to manage your motivation. So, let’s talk!

Introduction

What gets you out of bed in the morning? What keeps you going? How do you find the strength and determination to persevere in spite of challenges and setbacks, and how do you keep yourself moving forward each day so that you can be the best version of yourself possible? Today’s episode is all about trying to find answers to these questions and more, and since I am someone who can sometimes struggle with procrastination (and by ‘sometimes’ I mean ‘I have a massive issue with procrastination and I need help,’ which is precisely why I work with both a therapist, for my personal stuff, and a coach, for my work stuff!). 

The absolute irony of this week’s topic is that on the day I was supposed to sit down and write it, I was completely unmotivated. Completely. That’s right; I had no motivation to talk about motivation… which somehow feels very meta (and I’m talking about the dictionary definition of ‘meta’, when the thing you’re describing is actually describing the thing… I’m definitely not talking about Lord Zuckerberg’s ‘metaverse’ there). By way of explanation, just let me clarify that it’s the middle of summer here and it has been both very hot and very humid (my two least-favourite types of weather), which has meant several nights of rough sleep in spite of air conditioning… and when I don’t get a full eight hours of quality sleep, I am not the most pleasant person to be around (so please, spare a thought for my poor partner who has to live with this tired, grumpy mess!). 

So let’s begin with some definitions and let’s talk about…

What motivation is and what it isn’t

If you look in the Oxford Dictionary, ‘motivation’ is defined as a ‘desire or willingness to do something’… now, that’s a fairly good definition, and who am I to question the dictionary (but here I go anyway!) however I would argue that ‘motivation’ is about having both the desire and the willingness to do something. Why do I say that? Because, in my experience at least, you can have all the desire in the world to do something but without the willingness to actually put in the work, you probably won’t make any progress.

Because the thing is that ‘motivation’ is not some magical thing that happens because you tell yourself to be motivated, or because you read a quote on Instagram telling you to push your limits… motivation comes from both wanting something and being willing to put in the work. Struggling with your motivation does not make you a failure; it makes you human

Motivation is less about forcing yourself to do something through sheer willpower (which we often tend to resist), and more to do with creating small and simple habits every day that you can slowly build on. In short, it’s about seeking to find a healthy balance between getting stuff done and taking care of yourself.

Everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to getting stuff done and making positive changes; you do not need to go from zero to 100 overnight (and, in fact, you shouldn’t… because that tends to be unsustainable in the long term, so it has a higher likelihood of failure or burning out — or both!).

Motivation is one of those topics that almost everyone seems to have an opinion on, not to mention hundreds of thousands of different tools and techniques for managing it… while this episode is about motivation broadly, I’m also exploring that feeling of little to no motivation since it’s one of those things that many of us experience from time to time (or more often). 

The thing about a lack of motivation is that it has a flow-on effect to other areas of your life and other people (for example, I’m a few days late getting this episode to my audio editor and the person who translates my transcripts into Spanish… so I’m very sorry to both of you!)… so this episode is probably going to wind up being a way for me to work through some things out loud and hopefully that serves some type of educational purpose for you!

If you’re looking to hear from a motivation guru, someone who can provide you with life-changing systems and hacks that will completely revolutionise your life, then I am not that person (not even remotely!). What I am, however, is someone who would fundamentally much rather spend a day having a Drag Race marathon than throw myself into an extensive to-do list of things… which, I think, makes me uniquely qualified to talk about this subject, because I have had to find reliable ways to push through my natural “I-don’t-want-to!” mindset so that I can make progress with my work every day (I mean, these podcasts don’t write themselves!).

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about…

Why motivation matters

And it matters because motivation is about having something to work towards, no matter how small that might be. I talked about hope back in Episode 17 and having a goal or need that we are striving for helps us to keep on putting one foot in front of the other, even when the going gets tough (because that is when the tough get going, as we were reliably informed by Billy Ocean in the 1980’s). 

The thing about problems and challenges is that they will rarely ever just resolve themselves without some sort of effort on your part (at least in terms of the things you can directly control, like what you do and say), so to create change you need to summon up the motivation to actually create that change. The good news is that tough times do not last forever, so with a combination of motivated effort and perseverance you can and will create positive change in your life.

How do you do that? Well, that sounds like a good excuse to get into the how-to part of today’s episode; so, let’s talk about…

How to manage your motivation

Alright, so this week I’m offering a whole bunch of ideas rather than a step-by-step process; some of these naturally go hand-in-hand with one another, some are more pieces of advice for you to consider… so my suggestion is to pick a couple, try them, then come back and try another couple once you’re ready. And a reminder here that you’ll find the full transcript for every episode available (for free!) at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes (plus the more recent ones are translated into Spanish as well). So, my first bit of advice is…

Know your baseline — so this is about knowing yourself and being honest about your preferences and default motivation (which I talked about in Episode 62, about self-awareness). My default position is to have a burst of creativity in the mornings, and then by the afternoon I am unable to focus on writing and more likely to be found nailing an audition for The Walking Dead (yep, that was a zombie joke; not my best work, but it’ll do!). Anyway, my point is that by knowing my cycles throughout the day I can manage my workload to match that. I write in the mornings, and I do meetings and client appointments in the afternoon because I’m better at talking that time of day rather than trying to write (they really are very different skills). Know what your baseline looks and feels like, and consider how you can allocate different types of work to different parts of your day based on your natural rhythms. OK, so next…

Do what motivates you — so this one probably sounds so incredibly obvious, but so often we try to push ourselves to do things that we just don’t have the heart for… so we need to think about why that might be the case. Look, we’re always going to have to do some things that maybe aren’t our absolute favourite (otherwise we’d probably spend all day indulging ourselves with bad habits, like Hedonism Bot on Futurama!) but if something is making you feel miserable, then it has to go. Find out what motivates you and do more of that, because that then makes it easier to do the stuff that you maybe don’t feel quite so enthusiastic about. Next…

Do something — and at this stage I must point out that Macy Gray told us in 1999 to “get up, get out and do something; don’t let the days of your life pass you by”… and she was right! I mean, if you spend every day on the couch then you’re hardly going to be able to run a marathon tomorrow, but you can get up and take a walk for 10-15 minutes (OK, maybe 5-10!) and then build it up over time. Everybody has to start somewhere; the main thing is to start by simply doing something because that’s how progress is made. Speaking of marathons and lofty goals, my next point is…

Start small — just five minutes spent doing something can be enough to kick-start your motivation (or, at the very least, it can mean you have done something rather than nothing). I did that with this episode; on the third day of feeling “meh” I pushed myself to do just five minutes as a way of not feeling so bad about myself (because I knew that my future self was going to get really annoyed with past self!). Speaking of starting small, my next tip is…

Take your time — because all good things take time. I know this is a really tough one, especially since our society is so geared towards getting everything now (if not sooner)… but one of the main reasons why people lose motivation and give up on pursuing the things they want is because they haven’t given it enough time to naturally build. 99.9% of us will not experience overnight success (and of the 0.1% that do, I would wager that many won’t sustain that beyond a few months… but more on that shortly). Instead of focusing on how far away the outcome seems, focus on just the next step you need to take to keep moving forward. Everything has to start from somewhere and most things take time, effort and perseverance to build into something bigger; I have mentioned many times in this show that in the first week of this podcast I had a total of four plays (and one of those was me checking the audio!)… in late January 2022 I just celebrated one million total plays of the show, which is a huge amount of growth for an independent show in just two years (so thank you to all of you for joining me on this journey, by the way!). Speaking of, my next tip is…

Focus on one step at a time — take whatever it is you want to achieve or you have to do, break it down into small bite-size chunks, and then just focus on one step at a time. Why? Because when we take small actions, we feel less overwhelmed by the size of whatever it is that we need to do or want to achieve. Next…

Focus on what really matters — and this point is very much about choosing to find your motivation from within, rather than letting external factors determine what you do or don’t do. Using my work as an example again, while I really do appreciate the results of my efforts in terms of listener numbers, that stuff is completely outside of my direct control (aside from maybe doing some promotional stuff, but even then I’d argue that is only influencing the results rather than directly controlling them). Instead of letting myself get hung up on how this episode performs versus the last one, my focus is to do the best work I can do each episode and create content that adds value (and which I feel proud to put my name to). Everything else is out of my control; once the episode is out there, it’s out of my control. Instead of getting hung up on things you can never control, instead be clear on your priorities (which I talked about all the way back in Episode 3) and choose to focus on what really matters to you. I also talked more about this idea in the success episode (which was Episode 74), so check that out for more on the subject. OK, next…

Keep it simple — one of the things I learned the hard way when I was dealing with the worst of my depression and anxiety in the first half of the 2010’s is that when your life is complicated, things tend to become more complicated rather than less. So over the last few years I have been proactively working on making my life as simple as possible, by (again) being clear on my priorities and making them the centre of everything I focus on, and it has made an enormous difference in every single area of my life. Simplicity is a topic I explored back in Episode 63 of the podcast; the main point here is that when you focus on creating and maintaining a simpler life for yourself, one that is built around what matters most to you, then it becomes easier to find the motivation to do what you need to do (notice I said ‘easier’, not ‘easy’ — it still takes effort!). I also just talked about simplicity and mental health in the most recent episode of my show on YouTube, Better Mental Health, and you’ll find that linked in the episode description. OK, next…

Focus on one thing at a time — because multitasking rarely works for most people and it can actually increase your stress levels, since you’re usually trying to juggle lots of different things at once while knowing that you’re not really giving any of them 100% of your attention. Make life easier for yourself by focusing on just one thing at a time; for example, when I write I choose to put on noise cancelling headphones and also turn on the ‘do not disturb’ function on both my phone and my computer, so that I can give 100% attention to what I’m doing… which usually makes it easier to get the work done in a more efficient way. Which actually leads to my next point…

Minimise distractions — I am so easily distracted it’s not funny, and the only time I seem to be even remotely interested in doing the laundry or reorganising my storage cupboards is when I’m in the middle of an important deadline (I am not joking when I say I have been tempted a few times to go and get myself properly tested for ADD or attention deficit disorder, but I keep on getting distracted; not a joke, just a fact!). Do what you can to reduce or minimise distractions; if you’re prone to having the urge to wash your clothes at the exact moment you’re supposed to be writing, then set the washing machine to turn itself on early in the morning so that it’s done by the time you get up… then there’s nothing to be done other than hanging it out, so the distraction is minimised. Sometimes, however, it just doesn’t matter what you do and you wind up struggling to push past even the slightest distraction — and so that leads to my next point…

If you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it — sometimes you’re just not going to be operating at 100%, and I think it’s perfectly fine to give yourself a break (physically and mentally) every now and then so you can recharge your batteries and rediscover your mojo. If you’re prone to motivation challenges from time to time, create a buffer in your diary so you have time for an unplanned break if and when you might need it; my general rule of thumb is to figure out how long you think something will take you (especially bigger tasks), double it and then use that as the time you allow for it. If you finish it earlier then hooray, you finished it earlier… but if not, you have a solid buffer to take your time with whatever it is. This applies at home and with work; I’m a firm believer in underpromising and overdelivering rather than committing to things with unrealistic timeframes and then constantly running over your deadlines. I don’t get it right all the time, but most of the time it works! This is a simple and easy thing you can do, and speaking of ‘easy’ my next point is…

Make things as easy as possible for yourself — and hopefully this one is fairly self-explanatory (because it means it’s easier to do the thing rather than overcomplicating things, like I discussed earlier), but let me take a moment to give you another example from my work. I used to spend a stupid amount of time creating and uploading my social media posts throughout each week, and it made me really annoyed, until my coach pushed me to block out time every few weeks to do it in one block of time. I’m now onto my second month of doing it this way and it just makes life so much easier; instead of trying to find the motivation and inspiration necessary to do that type of creative work on an ongoing basis, I have a half-day blocked out once a month to get into full creative mode… which is actually inspiring me to try new things and new ways of using my social media (so follow me on Instagram if you don’t already; I have an account for this podcast, @ltamentalhealth, as well as my general account @jeremygodwinofficial where I talk more about my work and offer daily life advice that doesn’t suck… you’ll find both accounts linked in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on). My point is this: make things as easy as you can for yourself, which will make it easier to get things done. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, because the wheel works just fine. Keep things as simple as possible, because the quicker you can get something done, the more you will feel a sense of achievement and be more likely to keep going (and, by the way, please remind yourself of that when you get distracted and wind up doing things the hard way!). Speaking of doing things, my next point is…

Get rid of to-do lists, reminders and notifications — because all they do is bombard you with little distractions. I mean, you kind-of need to have somewhat of a list (otherwise you’ll have no idea what you’re doing), but please don’t have a great big long to-do list sitting in front of you, or reminders popping up on your phone every five minutes to do this or that. Instead, identify the two or three main things you need to achieve each day then do those first, then you can slowly work your way through other less urgent things as appropriate. And you’ll notice I mentioned ‘notifications’ a moment ago… I absolutely cannot stand notifications and I have all of them switched off on every one of my devices with the exception of phone calls and messages from my partner and immediate family. Every time a notification goes off, it’s a little distraction that takes you away from whatever you are trying to do (and if you’re easily distracted like I can be, it can feel almost impossible to return your focus to whatever you’re trying to get done). This very much goes hand-in-hand with the ‘one thing at a time’ message I gave earlier, and it also makes life easier for you because it keeps you on-task.

Alright, so beyond those specific tips I have a few broad bits of advice I’d like to share, starting with…

Enjoy yourself — I know this is a cliché to say but here it comes: life is a journey, not a destination! And if you’re not enjoying the journey, then it’s going to become harder and harder to find the motivation you need to keep going. Look, some things aren’t going to be fun to do but there’s a difference between struggling with something versus absolutely hating it; hate is a strong emotion, and if you hate something then something needs to change. Next…

Be true to yourself — there’s no point trying to be someone you’re not, so be 100% authentic and that will enable you to focus on the things that actually matter to you. For example, I mentioned the social media stuff before; for me, I’m just never going to be someone who tries to keep up with trends (and you certainly won’t see me shaking my butt and pointing at words, not that there’s anything wrong with that!), so I focus on a simple approach that is all about the basics. When you stay true to who you are and what you believe in, you feel more motivated to do things because it feels more in line with you and your unique outlook on life. OK, next…

Be grateful — I know, I say this one almost every episode (and it’s one of those go-to bits of advice that seems like a soundbite on Instagram now), but hear me out: the more you feel grateful for what you already have in your life, the less worried you are about external factors and validation from others… which, in turn, helps you to be more passionate about doing what feels right to you. Which leads me to my next point…

Give — when you give (and when it is received with gratitude and respect) it can feel inspiring, which helps to motivate you to do more good. Of course it needs to be reciprocated rather than allowing yourself to be taken advantage of by others (and remember what the Spice Girls told us: giving is good, as long as you’re getting) but it’s not necessarily about having a quid-pro-quo; if you’re just giving to get something in return, that’s not really giving. What does any of that have to do with motivation? Because when you give you feel good about yourself and what you do… and the better you feel, the better you feel! Motivation creates more motivation, and positive feelings create more motivation. And at this point I’ll be a tad cheeky and remind you that I offer exclusive content to my supporters on Patreon, and the funds from there help me to keep this show running, so if you’re feeling in a giving mood and you enjoy my content I would love it if you became a supporter too at patreon.com/jeremygodwin (and you’ll find it linked in the episode description as well). So, my next point is…

Celebrate your progress — because if you just focus on what’s next without taking time to recognise how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved, you can find that it’s hard to remain motivated… so celebrate your wins and reward yourself for milestones that you achieve for a bit of positive reinforcement. Next…

Do the work — because doing the work consistently is what creates sustainable results; whatever it is that you need to do or want to achieve isn’t going to magically do itself! Like I said earlier, even a little effort every day can add up over time to deliver big results… so do the work. And that leads to my next point…

Work with a coach — and this one applies for a bunch of different reasons: if you struggle with motivation, if you need someone to help you stay on track, if you need someone to talk things through with… a coach can help you in lots of different ways and keep you accountable for the goals that you set. If that’s not something that is within your budget, pair up with a trusted and supportive friend so you can keep one another accountable for whatever you want to achieve… whatever you do, get some support (especially if you’re prone to struggling with feeling motivated). 

Summary and Close-Out

Because when it comes to motivation and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: What you choose to do to achieve the things that you need to or want to is completely up to you, however it’s important to remind yourself on a regular basis that there is no result without effort. Motivation doesn’t just happen because you will it to (although that can certainly contribute to your motivation), but by choosing to find tools and techniques that work to keep you on track you’ll be pushing yourself to grow a little each day… and that is what helps you to take steps towards being the very best version of yourself possible. 

The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today? 

Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:

You didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

Unknown

Alright… that’s nearly it for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about trauma. Now, I’m aware this is going to be a challenging topic… but just because something might be difficult to talk about, that doesn’t mean we don’t discuss it (because the more we talk about it, the easier it gets!). Trauma is the expression we use to describe emotional shock following some type of stressful or disturbing event, and it can be really challenging to manage because it can be triggered when we least expect it by similar types of events. So next time I’ll be talking about what trauma is, why understanding it and addressing it matters, and how to manage trauma for the sake of your mental health.

I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 13th of February, 2022. 

And catch my latest YouTube video on Wednesday over on my Better Mental Health channel; take a moment to subscribe to my channel using the link in the episode description or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you can also join my mailing list for my free weekly newsletter (and you’ll find my website also linked in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on).

And, as always, find me on Instagram at @ltamentalhealth where I post extra content throughout the week.

Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time!

Jeremy 🙂

Let’s Talk About Mental Health is proudly produced by Reconnaissance Media, helping you find gratitude and meaning. For more information visit reconnaissancemedia.com

Special thanks to my supporters on Patreon (in alphabetical order): Amanda K., Hillary H., Janis & Steve A., Laila L., M., Maya H., Monique T., Monte W., Rachel D., Sonia K., Stuart F., Susan S., Tatiana A., Vanessa P. — your support is greatly appreciated and it helps me to keep my content ad-free. For a small monthly amount, you too can become a supporter on Patreon and access exclusive content while also supporting my work so I can remain ad-free; click here to find out more.

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Find more content at www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au

Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2022 Jeremy Godwin.

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