Motivation: When Goal Setting is Not Enough

Motivation concept

EQ Theme: 
Emotional Self Awareness

“Eighty percent of success is showing up” – Woody Allen

So, I have talked about Goal Setting for the past few weeks. Great, but what if you just cannot get motivated? I know it gets difficult to keep up with all of the multiple obligations and responsibilities that you have as a student and a person in general. Especially this gloomy busy time of year! Believe me I know all too well what it is like to be an overwhelmed student.

Right now, when you are feeling that your motivation tank is low, it is important to find a way to “show up” and get stuff done even if you don’t “feel” like it. In the world of Psychology, this is called Behavioural Activation, which is a set of techniques often used for mood management. In a nutshell, involves learning to “act from the outside”. Conversely, when we “act from the inside” we wait to feel motivated before even getting started. “Feeling” like doing anything is very short-lived and rare. Since we can wait a very long time to feel like doing anything, we need to find ways of getting our butts moving.

To “act from the outside” you need to start following a written plan (make a list of what you want/need to get done), noticing your progress (crossing completed stuff off that list), notice the impact of completing tasks (feeling of control over your life and accomplishment) and reward yourself for getting motivated without having to “feel” like it. Good work! Take a break, go out with friends, play video games…whatever your reward is…do it!

“Show up in Your Own Life”

Sometimes it can help to tell someone else about your motivation goals (public support). If you have trouble getting momentum, start with doing things that you like, things that are fun. Also, try and do the most unpleasant things when you have the highest energy levels.

Today…create an Action Strategy!

Assess: What am I avoiding? How is it affecting my mood and motivation? What are my goals?

Choose: Make the choice to “self activate” (kick your own butt), because this will improve your current life situation and motivation level. Get out and get it done! Stop waiting for the “feeling” to come along and motivate you, work through your plan.

Observe the Results: Do I feel better or worse? Did this action help me improve my situation?



Remember that 80% of Success is SHOWING UP!

If you want to be successful in a career, in school or in life, you need to be an active participant in your own life. Learn from mistakes, learn new skills and always seek self-improvement.

You can always contact me directly via email or book an appointment for more personalized help. I look forward to hearing from you!


Dr. Heather Drummond, C.Psych.

Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * Human Muddling Through


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