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How to find your motivation


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Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

Reviewed by Jessica Roper, MBA,听Director of Career Services

At a glance

  • Motivation is the intrinsic or extrinsic force that propels us to action.
  • Getting and staying motivated is driven by four categories of factors: biological, psychological, social and environmental.
  • Identifying your values, mitigating fear and anxiety and framing our environment in an optimal way all help you get motivated.
  • Get more career advice with 澳门天天彩开奖记录鈥檚听听on LinkedIn!

This article was updated on December 4, 2023.

Motivation is what inspires us to听take action and go after goals. It can be either intrinsic (originating from within oneself) or extrinsic (driven by external factors), but it鈥檚 essential if we鈥檙e to achieve what we set out to do.

What, then, if you鈥檙e feeling unmotivated? Burnout, failure, rejection 鈥 any number of things can rob us of our direction and our motivation, especially when it comes to our careers. But all is not lost! There are ways to听get and stay motivated, and it starts with understanding the factors that drive motivation in the first place.

Why is motivation important and how does it work?

Motivation is crucial for success, driving us to accomplish goals, overcome obstacles and stay focused and committed. It can help us听find fulfillment. Without motivation, we struggle to find energy, passion and enthusiasm, which can lead to procrastination or failure.

While it鈥檚 powerful, motivation isn鈥檛 magic. Feeling motivated depends on specific factors for its existence; specifically, biological, psychological, social and environmental factors.

  • Biologically,motivation is influenced by feel-good hormones like dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, reward and adrenaline.
  • Psychologically,听our beliefs, expectations and emotions, including fear, excitement and anxiety, can motivate us.
  • Socially,motivation is driven by our values and social expectations from family, friends and co-workers.
  • Environmentally,our resources and opportunities, as well as the limitations of our social or physical environments, can affect our motivation.

Finding and increasing motivation

Knowing that multiple factors influence motivation, it鈥檚 important to capitalize on ways to听increase motivation in each area.


For , motivation can get held up by task initiation or executive dysfunction. This can lead to a lot of anxiety, fear and feelings of low self-worth. It鈥檚 almost like a roadblock to being the high achiever you are at heart.

As a听high-achieving leader with ADHD听myself, I have figured out the following hacks for finding and boosting biological motivation.

1. Trigger the achievement-dopamine cycle.Taking action on something will usually trigger the dopamine hit I need to increase my pleasure and adrenaline centers, leading me to want to repeat the achievement-dopamine cycle. If you鈥檙e staring at a list of things to do and can鈥檛 find the energy to get started, pick the easiest or quickest task to complete. Alternately, you can set a 10-minute timer and do an unrelated task to get started. Or you can even write down a task you already accomplished, and cross it off the list to trigger that feeling of accomplishment.

2. Work the rewards system.听Biologically, getting a reward triggers that dopamine hit. This is why crossing things off lists feels so good! I like to set myself up with a reward I can look forward to on particularly tough days. This could be a favorite dessert after dinner, an episode of my latest Netflix binge or quality time with my spouse.

3. Work with your body, not against it.听We all have a finite level of energy each day. A while back I audited my daily tasks to better understand and manage my energy levels. I implemented a regimented morning routine based on feeling my best, which allows me to have higher energy levels throughout the day. The takeaway? Address the tasks you have the energy for, and plan for tomorrow.

4. Set yourself up for success.听I find that setting personal deadlines days or weeks in advance of due dates is critical for low-energy days, as it creates extrinsic tension and motivates me to complete tasks.


When we鈥檙e excited about a project, it can be easy to get started because the passion is the driving force behind our motivation.

It鈥檚 also possible for anxiety to motivate us, as anyone who鈥檚 had a deadline knows.

Emotions, in other words, can build motivation. But the听kind of emotion we leverage matters. Negative emotions might help motivate in the short term, but they can cause a reverse effect in the long term. Why? Because we start associating fear and anxiety with accomplishing tasks.

To counteract negative emotions and increase motivation psychologically,听adding relaxation techniques听such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation to your daily routine can help reduce anxiety.

Personally, I鈥檝e adopted a meditation routine each morning. This allows me to really think through my tasks for the day and understand why I鈥檓 feeling anxious about a particular task before I attempt to start it.

Adding therapy and coaching听has allowed me to understand the reasoning behind my fears and anxieties. From there, I can work through them and heal in a safe and supported environment. If you find anxiety and fear are stalling your motivation, it couldn鈥檛 hurt to get some professional insight.

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5 steps to finding happiness


What you value (your 鈥渨hy,鈥 in other words) is the听most critical factor听in getting motivated.

When it comes to tackling something on your to-do list, ask yourself听why you鈥檙e doing it and how it aligns with your values. In fact, creating a list of your core values will help you make connections to your list of tasks and build motivation to accomplish them.

If your task is doing the dishes, for example, maybe something you value is your family. Visualizing the love you have for your family can help drive your desire to complete the task.

Having听accountability partners听will also help build extrinsic motivation. This is why coaching is helpful for so many people. Asking friends or co-workers to check in with you after a certain amount of time also works. The desire to share your accomplishments can increase motivation to start checking things off your lists.


Our environment and resources can play a big role in building motivation. If you walk into your workspace and feel overwhelmed, for example, it might be time for change. Take a look around to audit which things inspire you and align with your values, and which things leave you feeling overwhelmed. Get rid of things that negatively impact you so that your environment aligns with and supports your work.

From there, ask yourself whether you have the right resources. If not,听what tools, education, training, mentoring or coaching could benefit you? Getting the right support and resources will help eliminate distractions, increase your focus and give you the ability to increase your personal motivation.

In my office, I鈥檝e added听ambient music and lighting听to get me in a good headspace. I also use the听Do Not Disturb听function on my phone to minimize distractions.

The INCUP method

For those of us who are neurodivergent, and even for those who aren鈥檛, the INCUP method is effective at building motivation.

INCUP stands for interest, novelty, challenge, urgency and passion. These five areas can help with task initiation, and they can drive meaning behind motivation:

1. Interest:听Take on tasks in areas of interest. For example, if you love numbers, working on your data or financial tasks first can help drive motivation. If you鈥檙e creative, working on projects that feed your creativity can help build motivation momentum.

2. Novelty:听Make a boring or routine task different and new. For instance, try conducting an ongoing job search from different coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. Or create different playlists to listen to while doing administrative tasks.

3. Challenge:听Adopt a gamified approach to projects by setting small and large milestones and then creating goals and rewards. Write them down and check them off to increase your confidence and feel empowered.

4. Urgency:听Boost your consistency and motivation by creating a project plan with actionable daily tasks that have deadlines. This makes it easier to show up for yourself. It might even help you complete your task or project ahead of schedule!

5. Passion or play:听Shift from 鈥淚听have听to do鈥 to 鈥淚听get听to do鈥 by engaging in activities that make you feel passionate or excited. Add in elements of fun or play if needed, to increase your happiness and alignment.

In the end, motivation is dynamic and听requires self-awareness and effort. The right tools, rewards, environment and techniques to get motivated and stay motivated will be different for each person and will depend on your environment, your values and your emotions. But if you put in the time to understand what best motivates you, and you work according to that knowledge, you鈥檒l not only accomplish more, but you鈥檒l do it in a way that aligns with who you are.

Portrait of Kara Dennison smiling


Kara Dennison is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), an executive career and Leadership coach and a Forbes contributor. She鈥檚 the CEO of Optimized Career Solutions. Her dream job is helping high achievers and leaders live authentic lives, starting with their careers. When she鈥檚 not writing for 澳门天天彩开奖记录 or coaching high achievers and leaders, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two black cats or swinging in the hammock out back in her small, remote town in Tennessee.

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