Can we improve our motivation when we’re exhausted?

Is it possible to improve our motivation?

Can we improve our motivation through frequent work outs?
Can workout improve our motivation? Endorphins and motivation photo by Retha Ferguson on

In my previous post Why is motivation important, we learned what motivation is, and the two main types; intrinsic and extrinsic. In this post we’ll explore little or no motivation, what to do about it, and find out if it’s possible to improve our motivation.

Just to remind you that, in their simplest form, you can think about the two types of motivation as:

  • Extrinsic = related to what we have to do.
  • Intrinsic = related to what we want to do.

We’re all motivated by different things and at different points in our lives. The same task can have more intrinsic motivators at certain times and more extrinsic motivators at others. And most tasks have a combination of the two. But sometimes, some of us have:

Little or no motivation

Little or no motivation - what can we do to combat depression?
Little or no motivation, a typical case of depression — Photo by mikoto

My previous post ended quite abruptly because my energy and motivation were flagging, due to ill-health. And I’m pretty sure you’ve all had this happen on occasion? In fact, I think most people have.

Imagine J. K. Rowling thinking one day, “I can’t be bothered telling or writing stories anymore. It’s too much like hard work.” or

Holly Willoughby wakes up one morning, thinking, “nope, I’m not doing this, I just don’t feel like doing anything today.

At some point, most people will have had thoughts like this. The truth is, we all goes through periods where we have no motivation to do anything. We’ve all struggled to stay motivated when working towards a goal. It’s human nature. In fact, some days we have such a downer that even thinking about making positive changes feels impossible.

So, what can we do about this little or no motivation?

Little steps towards improving motivation
Little steps towards motivation — Photo from

Let’s start off with, it’s not hopeless! We can start our journey down the road to improved motivation — with some small steps.

When shopping, have you seen huge displays of vitamins, herbs, and other supplements like purple dandelion touted as energy boosters? They’re even added to teas, soft drinks and many other foods. However, there’s not much evidence that energy boosters like chamomile, turmeric ginseng, or crushed owls eyes actually work. Fortunately, we have ways to enhance our own natural energy levels and improve our motivation.

Okay, I know you don’t feel like doing anything some days, and you’re not alone. I’ve been there, and in fact I still get stuck in that downward spiral now and again. But I’ve learned some small steps to help me crawl out of that downer, and that’s what we’ll look at in this post.

We all have downers or lows in terms of energy and motivation. We can be stuck and overwhelmed from time to time, which can reduce motivation. It’s at times like this when we need to find that motivation within ourselves. The next time you feel exhausted and unmotivated, try one or several of the following suggestions to get motivated again.

Suggestions for how to improve your motivation

Practice improving your motivation - Yoga produces endorphins, which help in keeping you motivated
Practice improving your motivation — Photo by Elly Fairytale

So how can you practice improving your motivation? By doing just that – practicing. I’ve probably bored the pants off you when I say practice, but trust me, that’s what’s needed. Think of motivation as being a muscle, and that you have to keep practicing to strengthen it.

Some of you reading this have, like me, a mental illness which further reduces our energy and motivation to do anything. I get that and can empathise with you, but we all need to start somewhere. Why not here, and now?

We learned in previous posts that action comes first, and motivation comes after. So you……

Want to improve your motivation? Just get started!

Reach for the sky and stay positive to prevent mental illness.
Being positive makes it easier to stay motivated — Photo by Andre Furtado

Take action. Move. Do something. Get up out of your chair, if you’re physically able. Now, standing, raise your arms and hands up above over your head, as though reaching for the sky. Go on. You need to practice all this, so that when you really need it, you can use it in an instant. Hands up, and stretch……..

Life Hack suggest “letting loose all the body parts, allowing a non-disrupted flow of energy throughout it. This will make the blood flow better, especially coming to your head which needs to focus on demanding cognitive tasks. So stand up from your chair and stretch yourself out because it will make you more energized.” You can also try some simple stretches at work, in college or uni and even in your local park.

After a few minutes of reaching up and stretching, relax. Put your arms down by your sides and as you do so, relax some more. Make sure your shoulders drop down from your ears, unclench your teeth and your jaw, and uncurl your fingers. Relax. And breathe.

I mentioned in my last post that I’d used this technique and followed through with helping to clean my flat. That motivated me further to think about other odd jobs I can tackle. So, the action certainly motivated me.

Control your stress

Take time to relax and prevent anxiety- and panic attacks
Stop! And breathe. Do away with anxiety! — Photo by Criativithy

We all know that stress-induced emotions consume massive amounts of our energy and reduce our motivation. So, know your limits as to how much stress you can realistically take on.

Talking to family, close friends, or perhaps a counsellor can all help reduce stress and get your mojo back. Relationships play a major part in our lives and are the main source of our happiness. So, one of the best energy boosters is actually meeting up and just having a good time. In the meantime, when you start to feel stressed, stop!

Take a moment, and breathe. I mean really breathe. First, exhale through your mouth, in little puffs – out until you feel you can’t do it anymore. Second, inhale slowly and deeply, in through your nose until your lungs are filled with air. Out again through your mouth, little puffs, slowly. In through your nose. When you’ve done this three times, you can stop, and relax.

Remember that your body cannot be both relaxed and stressed at the same time

You might also want to try other natural stress relievers like mindfulness, hypnosis, yoga, acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, relaxation and visualisation. There’s heaps of evidence proving that these techniques help reduce stress and can promote improved motivation. So don’t dismiss them until you’ve tried them.

Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to prescribe ‘nature-pills’ in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect, Neuroscience News, 2019.

Lighten your load

It's harder to be motivated if you are working under stress.
Lighten your load, avoid stress factors — Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile

Overwork is one reason for fatigue i.e. at work or at home, or because of our ever-increasing social commitments. However, you can also be fatigued due to depression or other mental illnesses. Try streamlining your list of ‘have- to-do’ activities. List your priorities in terms of the essential tasks first. Cut back on those that are less important. You might want to try asking people for help, at home, at work or in your role as fundraiser at the kids’ school.

Start by saying “No!” to people who regularly ask favours — you don’t have to tell them why or that you’re too stressed out and overloaded. Say calmly and firmly “No!” and if you must elaborate, try saying “No, not today.” And. Smile. Then don’t suddenly change your mind, like “Oh! Okay, go on then,” even if they persist.

You might also find one of my previous articles Strategies to relieve your stress helpful.

Stay in the moment

A recent study by Harvard students suggests that living in the moment significantly reduces mental illness
Stay in the moment — Photo by Samuel Silitonga

Whenever we’re doing something, we’re always thinking about the next thing we’ve got to do. So we’re constantly chasing things in the future, which is never quite here, in the moment. For example:

You’re working on a project at work at the moment, but you can’t stop thinking about the meeting you’ve got in an hour. When you get to the meeting, you’re thinking about picking the kids up and what’s for dinner. During dinner you’re thinking about the call you have to make to mum before you go to bed.

When you finally get into bed, you’re thinking about (nope, not that) putting a wash on before breakfast. On you go, in this never-ending cycle until you’re dizzy, you’re exhausted, out of energy and motivation to do anything. Sound familiar?

Stop! Stay in the moment and enjoy now! We can all try to plan for the future, but I’ve yet to meet someone who can see into the future. So, stop wasting time thinking and worrying about things that might never happen. Living in the moment not only brings energy but saves the energy you’d waste thinking and worrying about everything you’ve got to do next.

Mindfulness is an effective tool you can use to stay, and live in the moment.

I’ve read that the best way to increase motivation is to power up our self-motivation. That’s what we’ll look at in my next post, and I’ll let you have some tried and tested strategies that might help you.

Over to you

What do you think?
Over to you

Have you tried any of the above ways to improve your motivation? Or, will you give them a go? I look forward to receiving your feedback, any constructive criticism, or your comments and any questions. In the meantime, keep practicing 😉


Why is motivation important

Is motivation important in everyday life?

Motivation is important in life
Motivation is important — Image by Clique Images @ unsplash

Of course motivation is important, and in almost every aspect of human behavior too. Why? Without it, we’d do nothing; not work, have no hobbies, and no meeting up with family or friends.

Do you wish you were more motivated sometimes? I think we all do. There are times like weekends when you just want to chill out in your pj’s, and that’s okay. But on other days, we need the motivation to go to the gym, walk the dogs or go to work.

In my previous post Is self-confidence important, the words motivation and action were mentioned briefly. We found out that if there’s no action, there’s no motivation. We also learned that action comes before, and motivation comes after, and with that, comes more motivation. In this post we’ll explore why it’s important.

So what is it?

Motivation causes you to act. adult blur books close up
Motivation causes you to act i.e. to study — Photo by Pixabay on

Motivation is the process that guides, initiates, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.

It is what causes you to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.

It involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.”

Very Well Mind

Why it’s important

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Motivation is the desire to do things -Photo by Artem Beliaikin

Motivation is a starting point for all our choices such as partners, careers, or hobbies. It’s the reason for people’s actions, desires and needs, it makes people ready to act. It’s the force that pushes us on to develop, to change, improve and to achieve. 

Psychology Today said “Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals.”

In school or uni, if we’re motivated we learn better and remember more of what we learned. At work, we’re more likely to complete tasks on time, and in the gym, we’re more able to push ourselves that little bit further.

You can read about the 9 or 11 types of motivation, but broadly speaking, there are two main types:

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation - woman wearing black sports bra and jogger shorts smiling
Intrinsic motivation — Photo by nappy on
  • is engaging in an activity for its own sake. You enjoy the activity because it’s fun or challenging, not because you’ll get a reward or avoid punishment.
  • where people are generally motivated by a desire to satisfy human needs and comes from within. It’s driven by a personal interest or enjoyment in the task itself, be that at work, in college or in sport. For example, you love tennis and you want to get better at it. You don’t want to compete in the next Olympics, you just want to play, and be better. You’d also love to wipe that smile of your big-headed pal’s face.
  • might come from a person’s own self-confidence and discipline, a desire to please their boss or do well for their company or the desire to achieve certain professional or personal goals.
  • results in growth, i.e. growth due to challenges you’ve overcome or are experiencing. This might come after a divorce or separation and mental or physical illness.
  • is clearly visible in young infants, that consistently try to grasp, throw, bite, squash or shout at new objects they encounter. Even if less important as they grow, human adults are still often intrinsically motivated while they play crosswords, make paintings, do gardening or just read novels or watch movies, according to Ryan and Deci (2000) 

Yet, to get a clearer picture of intrinsic motivation, one needs to understand that it has been defined by contrast to:

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation such as money, silver and gold coins
Extrinsic motivation such as money — Photo by Pixabay on
  • refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as praise, money, fame, or grades. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual.
  • can be driven by psychological or tangible rewards. The psychological rewards like praise, positive feelings or lack of criticism can sometimes come from within. However, they’re a type of motivating reward that is external to the actual process of participating in the event. The tangible rewards like new toys, a bonus at work or extra pocket money are simply always external.
  • refers to doing something not because you enjoy it, but because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.
  • where you don’t want to do something, but you must do it, i.e. take various medications each day. It feels more out of necessity rather than an activity that will bring you enjoyment or fulfilment.

Do you look forward to your daily workout because you have a bet with your best friend about who can lose the most weight? Then you’re extrinsically motivated — in this situation, at least. We’re never just intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. We can be either or, in different situations.

So now we know that motivation is important, what it is, and the two main types. In my next post we’ll explore little or no motivation, and what to do about it. In the meantime:

Over to you

While I felt motivated to complete this topic in one post, I honestly don’t have the energy. When researching this article, I saw several google suggestions as to How to motivate yourself when you’re tired, fatigued or just plain exhausted! I haven’t read these Bullsh*t claims yet but once I do, I’ll let you have my opinion. I might just have to eat my words 😉 As always, I’m happy to read any comments, receive constructive criticism and answer any questions.


How to improve your self-confidence

I’m guessing you’d like to improve your self-confidence?

Improve your self-confidence
Improve your self-confidence — Image by Raychan @ Unsplash

Yes? I mean, we can all do with a little improvement, a few tweaks here and there, right? Okay, in my previous post we looked at Why self-confidence is important and explored the impact and some causes of low self-confidence. We also looked at the benefits and what happens when we possess confidence. So moving on, let’s see How you can maintain and improve your self-confidence.

Ah! Enough of the negative self-talk already! If you want to improve your self-confidence, you can — if you’re willing to take action. And not just one action — done a few times. You need repeated actions — until you feel and portray that confidence. Even ‘fake it til you make it’ needs practice until you actually do feel it and ‘make it’. Moreover, just sitting around thinking about improving our self-confidence, isn’t enough. We also need the motivation to start.

So I need motivation too?

Action before motivation leads to self-confidence
Action before motivation —Image by Pavla Kozáková from Pixabay 

Hmm, but how do we get motivated, you ask! By Action! Action is the catalyst for motivation, and we’ll cover these topics in more depth in another post. But in the meantime, let’s remember that action is the precursor to motivation.

Lots of people seeking motivation will wait for someone or something to motivate them, but that’s not always going to happen. We need to get up, off our backsides, and take action to motivate ourselves.

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of feeling than to feel yourself into a new way of acting.”

Harry Stack Sullivan

Now, read that quote again — slowly this time. What Mr Sullivan is saying is:

  • we need to STOP saying: “I must get motivated to take action” and
  • START saying: “I will take action to get motivated

So, just to be clear, Action comes first, motivation comes after.

A bit of psychology, and action!

We are what we think!
We are what we think — Image by Bobby Johnson @ Unsplash

Did you know that we’re shaped by our thoughts, we become what we think? And again, this isn’t that ‘fake it til you make it’ bullsh*t. Our thoughts really can change the way we behave, the decisions we make, and the feelings we experience. In short, they have a lot of influence over us, even more so than we think.

So, knowing all of this, now what to do?

Think action! And actually move — now! Go on. Stand and stretch your arms and hands up towards the sky, and hold. Exhale out through your mouth until you can’t do any more, then breathe in slowly through your nose and slowly out through your mouth. Stretch those arms up higher, like you’re punching the air. Think to yourself “Whoohoo! I’ve got some action going on here”, or some other positive mantra. And, relax.

Action and motivation

Action leads to motivation to win
Action leads to motivation to win — Image by Craig Boudreaux @ Unsplash

Having done the above exercise, I wonder how you feel? Believe it or not — and in the name of research — I actually did this when I woke up. And, it worked! It got me so motivated, I’ve helped clean my flat today. OKay, I’m exhausted and achy, but let me tell you, it’s worth it. Everything looks so shiny and each room smells divine.

Has that improved my self-confidence? No, not really. But that wasn’t my intention. I actually have heaps of self-confidence — now. I just wanted to test the action leads to motivation theory. I’m satisfied that it worked.

Because the moment I got moving — I started taking action — I started to feel motivated, which led to more motivation. I’m now motivated to start helping to empty a few cupboards. This will, in turn, lead to even more action — next week when I do the cupboards. And the cycle will continue, as long as I continue to take action.

Remember: Action leads to motivation, and not the other way around. Any action is better than no action at all. Stop waiting for motivation, and start motivating yourself.

Action, motivation and self-confidence

Action, motivation and self-confidence
Bags of self-confidence — Image by Brooke Cagle @ Unsplash

We know that action leads to motivation, we’ve done the above exercise and now we’re motivated to do something about improving our self-confidence.

Self-confidence can be observed in lots of ways, for example:

  • in your body language; not slouching down, sit or stand upright, head up, eye contact and smiling
  • how you behave; easily engaging with others, positively greeting people, putting yourself forward for tasks, whether it’s at work or in your local community offering to run the tombola stall at the summer fete, and
  • in what you say and how you say it; offering positive suggestions at work or college, speaking confidently and clearly without mumbling or umming and ahhing

Displaying a positive image to others can help us to improve our self-confidence. If we act confidently, others are more likely to respond well, and this positive feedback will help us to believe in ourselves.

How to improve your self-confidence

Ways to improve self-confidence
Self-confidence — Image by Sharon Mccutcheon @ Unsplash

Whether you lack confidence in one specific area or you struggle to feel confident about anything, these strategies can help.

  • Be honest with yourself. And don’t try to hide all the bits of you from others. When you meet someone and they ask about your job or your hobbies for instance. You chew your lips, desperately thinking of something interesting to say. If this is an issue; work on it.
  • If you’re embarrassed about your job, work on that. Think about the positive sides, like what skills you’ve gained that will help in your next job. You can then tell people that “Okay, it’s not the greatest job in the world but I’ve learned………” Obviously you don’t want to tell people everything about you but you can choose who you tell what too. Like train-spotting – tell it to your geeky friends.
  • In social or work situations, ask others about themselves – many people love talking about themselves. Ask questions. Ask about their hobbies, work, children, travels, and if you can’t think of a witty or cool response, say “Tell me more…..”
  • Walk in with a great big smile, a good strong handshake, and a firm and positive greeting, whether it’s an interview or a social gathering. Trust me, this is great in social circumstances. Everyone sees you smiling confidently, and want to know you, want to talk to you. They’re thinking “I want to be like her/him”, “She must be fun/interesting” or “He looks like he knows everyone, I’ll go over and say hi.”
  • Be around confident people — remember, anxiety feeds anxiety so try to stay away from people who are always anxious and lack self-confidence. Being around them will just feed your own insecurities. Just as anxiety is contagious, so too is confidence and being with confident, secure people will cultivate your inner confidence.
  • Because my sons were terrific athletes, swimmers, and medalists in Karate, their peers and cousins realised the boys’ confidence and felt confident with them and being around them.
  • Make others feel confident — confidence generates confidence. Where others feel confident, it helps you feel the same. Imagine you’re in a small boat with a friend and you lose one oar (yes, this happened to me). You tell your friend how good they are at solving problems, and they puff out their chest and manage to head towards safety. You’ve made them feel confident, and because they’re leading you towards safety, you feel confident in return.
  • Offer help or support to others. If you have skills and knowledge or experience in particular areas, offer your help to others. You might be able to help your neighbour who’s struggling to start her car. At work, a new colleague doesn’t know how to work the fancy printer.
  • In any situation, listen out for the “Oh my word, I could never bake a cake like that.” If you can bake, you might offer suggestions. “Crikey, I’m no good at maths.” or “I wish I knew how to……….” If you can help, support, or guide someone, give it a go. It will do wonders for your self-confidence, and you might make a new friend.
  • Peer support, mentors and supportive friends is also an important factor in gaining confidence. They can support you if you feel like your struggling — honestly, people love to share their knowledge and skills when asked.
  • Wearing appropriate clothing for the occasion; there’s nothing worse than feeling under or overdressed. Ask about the dress code if you have to. Make sure you’re comfortable so you’re not constantly pulling at your dress or having to keep pulling your trousers up.
  • If you can afford it, try a new look altogether or just have your hair styled and cut or coloured. Right, now you’re dressed and made up, take a good look in the mirror and breathe………. now, smile at yourself, a big smile and, breathe.
  • Dr. Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, found that participants in a study who wore a white lab coat exhibited more focused attention. In other words, when people dressed like a doctor, they behaved more like a doctor, or at least how they thought a doctor might behave. If you want to feel more confident, dress the way a confident version of yourself would.
  • Try things outside your comfort zone. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable but only for a little while. Charlie Houpert says “Confidence is ultimately about being comfortable in a wide variety of situations that would make most people feel uncomfortable.” So if you stretch your comfort zone every day, very quickly you’ll have a large comfort zone and be able to feel more comfortable even when outside of it.”
  • Mr Houpert goes on to say “This can involve more daunting changes, like taking a new job or confronting someone you usually avoid. However, it can also take smaller forms, like striking up a conversation with someone new if you’re normally shy, or trying a new food. It’s more important that you regularly expand your comfort zone rather than occasionally throwing yourself into the deep end.”

Last minute thoughts

The list could go on, but I think that might be enough to be getting on with? I do hope you’ll try some of the tips. Like Mr Houbert said, take small steps. Look at an area where you feel uncomfortable i.e. you’re shy, and would definitely like to change this — tackle that one first.

You could start by holding your head up high, smiling and talking to the man in your local newsagent. What about the young girl on the market stall where you buy your Romanesco broccoli each week? Tell she looks cold or say you love her sweater, is it handmade? You get my drift!

Over to you

Any questions

As you can see, I’ve always plenty to say. What about you? Do you feel comfortable and confident in talking to new people? I’m really interested in whether you try any of these tips and to find out if they worked for you. Do you have tips that might help others? I’m really happy for you to critique any of my posts, please do. And, as always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

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