How do you Motivate Yourself?

I watched the BBC and OU’s The Truth About programme last week about the science behind improving your mental health, with psychologist Tanya Byron and footballer Alex Scott.

There were lots of useful practical tips for improving well-being and the thing I found most useful was COM-B.  This is a tool for motivating yourself by removing the barriers to changing behaviour.  It’s basically a shorthand way to say that to change behaviour (B) you need:

  • Capability – do you have the skills to do it?
  • Opportunity – do you have the opportunity to do it?
  • Motivation – do you really want to do it?

If you know what’s stopping you, what the barriers are, then you can address them.

I tried applying this to myself – during #lockdown I wanted to maintain my fitness by doing pilates at home, but it wasn’t happening.  So what was stopping me?   I know what exercises to do, so I have the Capability.  I have space and time at home to do it, so I have the Opportunity.  Maybe the problem was Motivation – how could I convince myself to do it? 

To motivate myself, I realised I needed three things:

  • Dissatisfaction with the status quo, with feeling unfit
  • A motivating vision in my head or a real picture of myself looking fit
  • Actionable first steps – small achievable goals which are easy to get started on.

I put a photo on my desk of me after playing tennis with my sons and I made a diary entry to do pilates while listening to my favourite radio programme.  It worked!  I now have a regular pilates slot to keep myself fit for when we can play tennis again.  It sounds simple, but if you are struggling to get something done, try this approach.    

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