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Western Reserve Psychological Associates, Inc.Empowering change for over 40 years
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Motivation—What is it?

"I want to exercise, but I just don't have the motivation." We hear that a lot and we say it ourselves. Whether the behavioral goal is to exercise, pay the bills, study, do the taxes or just get to work on time. So what is this quality of "motivation" that we are lacking?

For most of us motivation is the incentive or inducement to move. It may be maintained by an inner excitement about achieving a goal and it can also be maintained by an external incentive. External incentives can either be rewards for performance or fear of the consequences of non-performance. Sometimes when we say, "I'm just not motivated" we mean, "I'm just not anxious enough about it yet." Other times it may mean "I'm too anxious about it to start."

What the psychologist can do in cognitive therapy is help you explore your own motivation or barriers to it. We can't inject you with motivation. You will have to do your homework. These factors are necessary:

  • A clear awareness of the benefits of change.

  • Awareness of all factors that maintain the status quo.

  • An honest log of your current behavior and accompanying thoughts.

  • A willingness to change any external factors that maintain the status quo.

  • Remembering that anything you do often can reinforce what you do less often.

  • Willingness to experiment, fail, and then revise your experiment. (e.g. if 20 minutes is too much, try for ten minutes).

  • Changing what you say to yourself-"I can make choices".

  • Willingness to make a significant commitment of time to supervising yourself.

One thing that does not work to improve behavior is punishment for non-performance. It does help, though, to write down what you are doing instead of what you planned to do.

This may sound like even more work than just doing "it"! And it may be, but at least you will learn some things about yourself.

Bonnie L. Fraser, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

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