How to Get (and Stay) Motivated

WARNING: DO NOT just watch this, nod your head and go on with your life. These videos are short nuggets, but APPLYING them is infinitely more important. Take time to think about them, absorb them, look over the study questions, and think of just one way to apply them to your own situation.


  • Asking where motivation comes from is asking the wrong question. Instead of looking for a long term fix in the form of “motivation,” you want to make systematic behavior changes that you can sustain.
  • Use motivation as a trigger for making changes but do not rely on it for the long term. Motivation is always fleeting.
  • Pushing through a task while waiting for motivation to strike is a losing strategy.
  • Don’t simply blame “laziness” when you can’t get something done. If you question the deeper reasons you are not tackling a given task, you will see opportunities for effective change.

Study Questions

  1. How can you use those short term bursts of energy that we call “motivation” as triggers? Think about something you would like to accomplish when “motivation” strikes. Now write down three concrete steps you can take in those moments to change your behavior in a systematic way. What can you do right then to make it easier for you to move forward the next day or the next week with consistency? (E.g., You decide you want to eat healthier so you will look great at your high school reunion. Make sure you stock the right foods and freeze a few quick meals so on the days when you aren’t as focused on your goal, healthy food choices are easy to make.)
  2. Think about a time when you needed to get something done but couldn’t because you weren’t “motivated.” Now ask yourself what was really holding you back. Were you tired? Were you intimidated by the project? Afraid of the outcome? Or just trying to push through when you really needed to come back to it at a more optimal time? The answers to these tough questions will point you towards becoming more masterful and making long-term effective change.
  3. Study the habits of someone you think of as “highly motivated.” Does that person attack every task with burning passion or does he or she rely on systems to keep moving towards goals? What kinds of behavioral habits has he or she developed? Can you use any as models for your own systematic changes?