What is Motivation

Some days in recovery will feel amazing, some days….not so much.  They key is to stay motivated to do the next right thing, even when it does not feel so good at the moment.   For example, my ultimate goal is to be healthy and available for my kids.  I hate needles, so getting vaccinated is a daunting task for me.  In order to stay motivated to get that shot, I remember my ultimate goal—being healthy for my kids, the pain of the shot is short lived and I have survived much worse.

It is also helpful if you think of recovery as a journey.  You have a destination in mind.  The safest way to get there is to take the charted route.  Off-roading may seem like a lot of fun, but you may get lost or worse.  Likewise, if you stop at every tourist attraction along the way, you may never reach your destination.  What is more important to you?  Getting to your destination or everything else in between?

Motivation is a combination of desire, willingness and ability.  It is your ability to keep your eye on the destination, and choose to do things that move you closer to that end point, instead of detouring you.  If you are motivated, you not only want to do something, but are willing to get up and do it.  Sometimes you have to make your own motivation because the task (cleaning, taxes) is, in itself, just not that much fun.  You motivate yourself all the time.

  • Have you ever accomplished something you were not motivated to do?
    • What was it?
    • How did you get yourself motivated?

Effectively enhancing your motivation requires:

  • Empathy and understanding
  • Identifying discrepancies between your desired situation and your current situation
  • Overcoming resistance to change (more rewarding behaviors or fears about change)
  • Supporting self-efficacy

Example:  Some days I am not motivated to clean.  Without motivation I will not get myself up off the couch.  So….I identify all the reasons I don’t want to change, highlight the discrepancies between my current situation (feeling stressed in a messy, stinky house) vs. my desired situation (feeling content in a clean house).  I identify some things that would make cleaning more rewarding, put on my favorite music, and brew a strong pot of decaf coffee.  When the cleaning is done, I reward myself and remind myself that I did it, and it wasn’t so bad.

Changing involves:

  • Recognizing that something needs to be done
  • Increasing motivation
    • Defining the problem (create crisis) and the end goal (identify the solution)
    • Identifying the benefits to doing what you need to reach your goal
    • Addressing the drawbacks to doing what you need to reach your goal
  • Creating a plan
  • Implementing that plan
  • Adjusting the plan as needed to ensure that working toward this goal is more rewarding than staying the same

Motivation is a key, changeable feature in long-term recovery.  Some days you are going to be less motivated than others to do the next right thing.  By planning for those low motivation days, you can reduce your chances of relapsing into old ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Assumptions About Motivation

Let’s begin by looking at the following assumptions about motivation:

  • Motivation is a key to change. –You need to be motivated to do something.
  • Motivation and people are multidimensional – You are motivated by how things make you feel physically and emotionally, and how things impact your lifestyle.
  • Motivation is dynamic and fluctuating. That is, some days you may feel motivated to do something, and other days, not so much.  This might be because other things are requiring your attention, you didn’t sleep well, you are fighting off a cold, or maybe you just lost sight of the reasons you want to change.
  • Motivation is influenced by social interactions. When you tell someone about a goal, you are more likely to complete the task. Friends also influence what is important to you.
  • Motivation can be modified. Even if it is something that you do not initially want to do (like taxes or exercise), you can find ways to motivate yourself.

Learn more about goal setting and improving motivation 


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