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Getting motivated for the new year

This page added 28 November 2011
By Stephanie K
ADAVIC Volunteer

We’re all guilty of procrastinating or putting things off because we feel unmotivated to complete them.  Traditionally, one time of year when we promise ourselves we will become more motivated is going into the new year. While New Year’s resolutions seem like a good idea at the time, staying focused and actually completing them is quite challenging. Although there is no absolute solution for enhancing motivation, in understanding how motivation works and the key components behind it, hopefully we can transform our intentions into achievements.

What is motivation?

Our motivation to do something can come from an internal need or drive, known as intrinsic motivation, or from an external source, referred to as extrinsic motivation. If we are intrinsically motivated to complete a task, then we see the task as fulfilling our own personal needs and therefore the task is rewarding in itself. For example, a task such as drinking a glass of water is intrinsically motivating because in doing it we quench our thirst.

Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to complete the task because of an external reward, such as going to work because you will get paid. One factor that can reduce motivation is if we change the source of the motivation from being intrinsic to extrinsic, or vice versa. For example, if someone was completing a task voluntarily and the source of reward became extrinsic, such as getting paid to do it, then they may be less motivated to do it because they are suddenly being controlled in how the task should be fulfilled.

Another factor influencing our motivation is our sense of self-efficacy. If we believe in ourselves and our ability to perform a task successfully then we are said to have high self-efficacy. We are more likely to have high self-efficacy if we have performed the task successfully before, if we have observed others perform it successfully, or if we receive encouragement from others while doing it.

SMART goals

A practical way of using this information is to set “SMART” goals and to create suitable rewards once these goals have been completed. SMART goals are those that use the following principles:

State an objective that is precise rather than being vague or generalising. For example, setting a goal to lose five kilograms is more precise than just aiming to lose weight.


If you include an element in your goal that can be measured for change then you will be able to visibly tell when you have  completed it. Using the previous example, you can measure if you have reached your goal by standing on scales to measure a change in your weight.


Keep your goals small. It is more likely that you will remain motivated to complete a series of small goals rather than just setting a large goal that is overwhelming. This links back to self-efficacy; if we don’t think that we can achieve it then we are going to be unmotivated to do it. Continuing on with the same example, if you set the goal to lose five kilograms in two days you are not going to be motivated to complete it because it is an unrealistic deadline to work to.

Relevant (and resourced)

Make sure your goal has a focus that is relevant and realistic to your life and what you want to achieve. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be very motivated to complete a task that has no significance or rewards for you and your life.
The “R” in “SMART” can also refer to ensuring your goals are resourced. You need to know you have resources to help you achieve what you want to achieve, such as a friend to support you or an instruction book on how to complete a task, so that you have high self-efficacy that you can achieve it. For example, ADAVIC has many resources that can help you to achieve goals relating to your mental health such as support groups and an online forum, as well as a blog (, and of course this newsletter.

The best way to remain motivated is to set deadlines. If you say you will achieve the goal by a certain time then you can’t keep putting it off for too long – time catches up with all of us! Just remember to keep your deadlines realistic.

Some things you could try to keep focused and motivated

  • A great way to make sure you remain on track with your goals is to write them down. If they are written down, you are less likely to forget them and they feel more “real”. You can also divide the goal into small tasks that you can tick off to show that you have made progress.
  • Mark in the date that you want to have achieved your goal by on your calendar or diary. You can also use the calendar on your computer (usually connected to the email application) so that you can use it as a detailed daily time planner to make sure you set aside some time each day to work towards your goal.
  • Get some sticky notes and put them around the house to remind yourself of what needs to be done, or write the goal down and attach it to somewhere you will see it each day, such as on the fridge or in the bathroom.
  • Think up rewards that you personally look forward to. Some examples may include:
  • Letting yourself watch an episode of your favourite TV show after you have completed the task
  • Giving yourself a food treat when you have reached a significant milestone. This doesn’t have to be unhealthy; you could treat yourself to some fresh market produce, or you could go and buy your favourite meal from a local restaurant to celebrate completion.
  • Giving yourself a break. When you have completed your goal take some time out and do something relaxing like going for a walk.

Ultimately, the issue of motivation is a complex one. The main thing is to work out what works for you on an individual level. Keep your goals SMART and keep your focus small and realistic, the less overwhelmed you feel, the more motivated you will be.

  • Edith Cowan University. (2010). Management For Performance (MPS): how to set and write SMART objectives. Available via
  • Passer, M.W., & Smith, R.E. (2009). Psychology: the science of mind and behaviour. (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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