KICKSTART YOURSELF By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc(Hons)


The secret to self motivation is the way you communicate with yourself. Communicate negatively and all you'll get is resistance and apathy; change how you talk to yourself and you'll get enthusiasm and positive action !



What is motivation, and where does it come from? How come some people always seem to have so much motivation and energy, while others struggle with apathy and lack of direction? How do we 'get motivated'?

Motivation is an energy - an energy to do, to accomplish. In order to understand this energy a little better, take a few moments now to think of a specific time when you were really motivated - a time when you felt that energy to do, strongly. Take the time to remember where you were, what you were thinking, and how you motivated yourself. How did you communicate with yourself in order to get motivated?

You will no doubt have found that you used one of two simple motivation strategies - either a positive motivation strategy, or a negative motivation strategy.

Negative motivation is a form of motivation that moves you away from a negative happening or experience - moving you away from something you don't want to happen. The essential motivating part of negative motivation is the thought of something 'bad' happening. Negative motivation often comes from an external source with the threat of some kind of punishment if you don't do something.

For example, your parents telling you you have to clean up your room, or mow the lawn, or you won't be allowed to go out on Saturday night. Or your teacher saying you must have the assignment handed in by Monday morning, otherwise you'll get detention. And so you motivate yourself to do whatever it is, because you don't want those negative consequences to happen

Of course, we can also motivate ourselves in this negative way - leaving early for work because you don't want to be late; doing your homework assignments because you don't want to fail; or watching the foods you eat because you don't want to get fat.


In contrast, positive motivation is a form of motivation which moves you toward a positive happening or experience, moving you toward something you do want to happen, and the essential motivating part of positive motivation is the thought of this 'good' experience or result happening. For example, working out at the gym four times a week because you like the way you look and feel when you work out regularly, or working to a study timetable because you want a good grade.

While both negative and positive motivation can have important roles in motivating us to avoid personal danger, get out of bed in the morning, earn a living, and keep healthy and fit, there is a significant difference in the consequences of using each type of motivation in your life.

Negative motivation can result in excessive anxiety and tension, while positive motivation tends to positively energise and arouse you. Negative motivation causes you to think about what you don't want, while positive motivation gets you focused on what you do want.

Having a positive focus is important - because we move toward what we think about. I like to say that human beings are like guided missiles, and the guidance system of us is the thoughts we think.

Think about not wanting to go into the water trap or the bunker when you're about to hit your iron off the tee, and that's often where your end up! Think about not wanting to get nervous and mess up the important speech, and that's often just what you do! Think about not being late for that important meeting, and often everything seems to conspire to make you late!

We move toward what we think about, so it's important to imagine and picture what we want rather than what we don't want.



One way to identify your current motivation strategy is to simply pay attention to the words and images you use when you're motivating yourself, or others. What words do you use when you want to motivate yourself to do something?

If you're saying to yourself things like, "I have to go to work today"; or "I've got to improve my fitness"; or "I must finish this report by Friday"; or "I ought to stop smoking"; then you're using a negative motivation strategy, and you're not managing yourself as effectively as you could.

Positive motivation grows out of desire and wanting - not from should's, have to's, ought's, and must's, and the more you can choose to live your life and do every task from a "I'm doing it because I choose to and want to" way of thinking and talking to yourself, the better your life works, and the more successful you are in the long run. Working in this way with yourself, you manage yourself better and you don't get 'resistance' from yourself because you feel forced to do something again your will.

Remember how you felt when your parents said you had to help with the dishes, or had to mow the lawn, or had to do some other chore, when you wanted to watch television or play with your friends?

You felt pushed and of course you resisted, and as a result your heart wasn't in it when you did the chore, was it? The same thing happens if you communicate to yourself in that way - if you use "have to's", "ought to's", "should's" and "must's", then you'll find yourself unconsciously resisting yourself, even if it's a task that's worthwhile, for a cherished goal you want to achieve.

So from now on, every time you hear yourself say "should", or "ought to", or "must" or "have to" about any task that you're undertaking ..... stop, and deliberately change your language to 'want to". You want to "want to"! Rather than should, ought to, have to and must, use words like want to, like to, desire to, love to. You want to do this to enhance your motivation!



I encourage you to try it right this instant. Right now, think of six tasks that are on your agenda to do this week. They might be work tasks, an assignment due for some course you're doing, home chores, or training for your sport - it doesn't matter.


As you think of each task, rather than say to yourself, "I have to do such-and-such", think instead: "I want to get that report to my boss by Friday morning"; or " I want to go to the gym three times this week"; or "I want to practice my chipping for an hour three afternoons this week"; or I want to get the washing and ironing done tomorrow". I now use this process for everything I choose to do - including wanting to put in my tax return on time!

Did you notice the difference in the way you felt about the tasks when you changed the language you used? You would have felt more relaxed and at ease about doing the tasks, and felt more 'motivated' to do them.


About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)

Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings" books, and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research. He is based on the Gold Coast at the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre.

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