Lost Your Motivation? Here’s How to Find It

There are times in life when we don’t feel as if we are as productive as we could be. There are things we want, but sometimes it’s tough to find the motivation to take action. Below are some suggestions on ways to find motivation in your everyday life and at work.

What is Motivation?

As humans, we have a reason for every time we take an action. That “reason”, that “why” we do anything is called the motivator. We are moved to action, and motivation is the core of that action.

For example, if you start running away from a swarm of bees, running is your action and fear is your motivation. If you spend money on a lottery ticket, winning money is your motivation. If you exercise, an endorphin rush or the desire to lose weight may be your motivation.

What all of these examples have in common, along with any motivators, is that they are compelled by feelings. The way our brains are structured, feelings almost always trump thoughts.

What Motivates You?

What motivates you will be specific to what provides you with a compelling feeling. Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Switch, talk about focusing on emotions. How you feel can determine your level of motivation.

If you’re feeling very hungry, that may be your motivation to eat. If you’re excited about getting a paycheck, that may be your “why” you go to work. When you begin to understand your feelings and what can motivate you, you may be more apt to take action.

John O’Leary, in his book On Fire, talks about his motivation to learn how to write with no hands. At nine years old, John was in a fire that burned 100% of his body. His willpower kept him alive and sent him home from the hospital after five months of medical treatment.

Once home, his mom offered, “John, if you learn how to write, you can go back to school!” That feeling did not excite John. Hence, that was not a particularly great motivator. He was not motivated to write.

However, a visit from John’s hero, American sportscaster Jack Buck, made a different impression. Mr. Buck brought John a signed baseball from a player on the St. Louis Cardinals. He then offered, “If you write this player a thank you note, I’m sure he will send you another ball.”

In two weeks, John figured out to write with no hands, and sure enough another baseball arrived by mail. He continued to write notes. And he continued to collect baseballs. His collection finally grew to 60.

What excited John (what connecting to “feeling”) is what became the motivator.

Feeling Good

A psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Fredrickson, writes that positive emotions compel individuals to take action. Her definition of positive feelings include: joy, contentment and love. Her belief and research show that through mindfulness, kindness, and even meditation, people can increase their level of positivity; thus, creating motivation.

Finding meaning in what we do can also be a valuable motivator. In his Ted Talk seminar, Dan Ariely talks about how when people feel they have a “purpose,” they are more apt to take action. Feeling value in what you are about to partake in can be a great motivator.


Finding ways to reward yourself for tasks completed is an important element in adding to your feelings of success. In the workplace, reward plays a big part in encouraging positive behavior and motivating employees. Reward also plays a large part in motivating students.

Understanding what compels you emotionally may bring you closer to an understanding of what can motivate you. And in learning what motivates you, you may find yourself feeling more productive, fulfilled, and overall more joyous.


Dr. Dave Campbell Commentary:

Everyone has their own motivating factors, triggers or events. For me, as a physician and humanitarian, our MSNBC Morning Joe medical reporting trip to the impoverished island country of Haiti, just after category 4 Hurricane Matthew devastated the homes, crops, towns and villages in 2016 was a life-changing journey. Then to read about Dr. Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder clinched it for me.  Dr. Farmer continues to dedicate his life as a physician to treating the poorest of the poor. His altruism is a beacon for all physicians that went into the practice of medicine to help others. Dr. Farmer has triggered and motivated me to practice medicine with the utmost safety, consideration and compassion, and highest quality.

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The Truth Behind Why You Don’t Exercise

The truth about why you’re not sticking to your exercise program is different than what you think.

Exercise Excuses, Excuses

You made a plan to get in shape. You have a schedule and a routine set up. But, you don’t stick to it. Why not? Are you feeling tired, sick, overwhelmed? Or is the truth glaring at you, and you don’t want to admit it? That’s right. The honest reason why you’re not exercising is because you are choosing to do something else. Yep, right again.

If your Pilates class is at 6pm, but you’re forced to work late, you can’t use that as an excuse. You can exercise afterwards, instead of going home and perusing social media. Your choice. If your alarm rings at 5am so you can get to the gym and you turn it off, what gives? You miss the workout because you chose to sleep.

There is no judgment here. Your choices are your own and sometimes the best ones for your body. Missing a day of exercise is not the end of the world. Claiming that other things get in the way of your workouts may be true, but they’re not excuses. They are choices.

Getting to the Core

You’re choosing other activities—besides exercising—for particular reasons. Look within and figure out why something else on your list is trumping that walk around the lake like you planned. Does the other thing seem easier? More fun? Whatever the reason, in your mind, the other choice seems more appealing.

Take Action

You know that exercise benefits us in a multitude of ways. You’ve already made a deal with yourself to partake more often, even steadily. So now follow through and keep your promise to your body and yourself. Here are some tools you can use to get back on track…

1) Remind yourself how good you feel after a workout.

2) Set up a healthy reward for yourself after you exercise. This could be leisure time watching a show, treating yourself to a low-sugar dessert, or putting a dollar in your “workout jar” to save for a rainy-day purchase.

3) Find friends or an online group that supports you and your exercise program. Most everyone experiences the same angst, and we need the village.

4) Remind yourself that exercise is positive. Get your mindset into the groove that working out is awesome. Forget complaining. “I love to exercise” should be your mantra.

5) Hold yourself accountable. Be your own parent without rebelling. Remind yourself that you made a great deal and that sticking to it will reap great rewards!

No doubt it’s a challenge to stay on the exercise path. Sure enough, before long, your program will become a habit—and an amazingly positive one at that. Just remember, your health is really all you have, and exercising is essential to maintaining that.  Onward!

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