Motivation: How to Harness it for Good

Have you ever needed to do something but just could NOT bring yourself to do it? Maybe you’re sitting on your couch binge watching your favourite Netflix series while that pile of laundry in the corner grows and grows. We’ve all been there. It can seem nearly impossible to leave the comfort of your couch and do what needs to be done, especially during long winter months. Canadian problems, eh?
What does motivation even mean? The dictionary provides one of those very unhelpful definitions that seems to be cyclical and leaves you even more confused. According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, motivation is the act or process of getting motivated. So, what does it mean to be motivated? According to the same dictionary, motivated means to provide with a motive. Great. The term motive is something that causes a person to act. After that merry-go-round I think it is fair to come to the conclusion that motivation, deriving from the terms motivate and motive, means that something causes a person to act and do something.

Several months ago I took a 3-day course on the Foundations of Motivational Interviewing hosted by the Paul Burke Training Group. In this course we talked about what motivation means. The instructor spoke on how frequently we as caregivers, siblings, mothers, neighbours, and community members are quick to call someone ‘unmotivated.’ We come up with ideas of what another person should be doing or how they should behave, and when they do not complete OUR ideas of what THEY should be doing, we assume that they are lazy or unmotivated. Reflecting back on the dictionary definition, let’s remember that motivation is something that drives an act. This something and the following act are not set in stone by definition. So, what about what THEY want to do? The key point here is that they ARE in fact motivated, but instead of what we are wanting for them, they are motivated for what they want. *gasp* This means that when you are putting off your laundry it is not that you are unmotivated; you are simply more motivated to watch Netflix. As Paul Burke highlighted; “People are not unmotivated. They are just motivated for something else.”
Alright, so what’s next? How do I get motivated for what ‘should’ be done?

You have a choice to make. Do you want to do laundry, or do you want to sit on the couch and binge watch TV? Both have pros and cons; start by identifying these. “If I tackle the laundry I’ll have a tidier home. I’ll have clean clothes for work tomorrow (important)…but at the same time laundry is tedious and time consuming. This Netlflix show is exciting and entertaining! TV is self-care for me. On the other hand, I get enough screen time throughout the day, and I’m not really doing anything productive with my time when I’m plopped on the couch.” What sounds more convincing? If you really want to motivate yourself to make a choice, you can then highlight the pros of that particular choice and the cons of the other options. “I mean, I really do want a tidier house, and I want to look nice in public in clean clothes. If I watch TV I’ll be wasting my time; but if I get the laundry done it’ll be out of the way.” You may have to have this conversation with yourself for a while before you finally decide. The point here is that you need to make a choice. The only person that should be making a choice for yourself is YOU. Don’t worry what others think about you. Make a choice that makes YOU happy, but make sure that you weigh the pros and cons first!
Finally, because the world is not black and white and not everything works out like a Cinderella story: compromise with yourself. Negotiate even! If you have already laid out all pros and cons that you can possibly think of, yet you still have not been able to make a decision that you are content with; find a happy medium. Maybe this means doing laundry during commercial breaks (or when Netflix judgingly asks you if you’re still watching), or maybe folding laundry in front of the TV. At the end of the day, just be kind to yourself and find what works for YOU.
What motivation techniques work for you? How do you keep motivated when doing mundane tasks?
Please Note: While many thoughts from this post reflect Motivational Interviewing approaches, it is important to be aware that there is much more to the actual Motivational Interviewing technique that is not represented by this discussion. I highly recommend the training on this topic instructed by Paul Burke. For more information on this training follow the link below:

-Thoughts from Michelle Cronkhite, the Service Enhancement Coordinator at MPCSSN