This past week I attended the PSR/RPS Manitoba conference on "Cultivating Motivation". I think almost everybody would like a little more motivation every now and then. Although there weren't any magical remedies (still no motivation pill), there were a few ideas that I found it helpful to think about, and I thought I would share them here.
Prior to working on finding motivation, it is really important that the person really believes a change is necessary. This assumes some discomfort with where the person currently is, and a vision for what the future could possibly be. I think this is where motivational interviewing can be really helpful.
Once you really believe you should make a change, what can help make that process happen? Many panel participants stressed the importance of having others believe in you and encourage you. Having another person to be a cheerleader, but also to hold you accountable can be helpful. Often, telling others what you will do makes you much more likely to follow through. Also, having someone to carry the torch of hope when you are unable to carry it yourself can be what helps get you through those really tough times. That genuine, caring relationship seems to be a common theme in many recovery stories.
The importance of setting goals, and then breaking them down into smaller, more achievable goals was also discussed. I have often heard from other workers that a client was not motivated enough because he or she did not follow through with tasks that needed to be done. Yet I usually find when working with these people that it is not that the person does not want the change; the person cannot figure out where to start. The cognitive deficits associated with a severe and persistent mental illness can make the process of figuring out all the small steps and determining the first one to take very difficult. I have seen amazing progress and follow-through when the person was helped to find the next very small step to take (a just-right challenge).
One of the consumers on the panel talked about the importance of giving the client responsibility and having expectations. Taking care of the person's needs does not encourage the person to take responsibility to find a way to take care of him or herself. Fulfilling purposeful, meaningful roles can be very motivating. When setting goals, it is also important to make them time-limited, which also makes a statement that you believe the person can accomplish the task in that time.
What makes finding motivation more difficult? When others judge you harshly, it can crush what little motivation you have managed to find. This can be especially difficult when dealing with a mental illness where there has often been a lot of stigma associated with it. Others trying to impose their views on you is very unmotivating, and often makes a person want to do the opposite of what he or she is being told to do. The grieving process can interfere with finding motivation, and sometimes grief needs to be worked through before other things can be addressed. Extra weight put on (often as a medication side-effect) can also be a barrier in that it makes it physically more difficult to do anything, and it hurts self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Personally, I do not feel I am a very motivated person, yet I seem to get a lot done. I tend to surround myself with other motivated people, and make commitments to others that I know I will follow through on. When I really want to make a big change and commit to making a big change, I tell everyone I know. For example, to motivate myself to exercise, I will sometimes pay money and sign up to do a running event. I know I will follow through with the event because I am too cheap to pay money and not go, so I have to do the training so I can complete it without making a fool out of myself.
I also find making just the first step helpful. For example, with exercise, I will tell myself that all I have to do is change into my exercise clothes. Usually, once I am in my exercise clothes I will then find it a lot easier to go exercise. With clients, I have found that encouragement to take the first step can also be incredibly helpful.
Occasionally, taking the time to write out my long-term and short-term goals, and develop a vision for the future I want can also be helpful.
I'd like to hear what works for you!