Motivation Techniques

An obstacle to success in the path of the weak,
becomes a steppingstone in the path of the strong.

Mastering self-motivation is a vital part of reaching our goals, since most goals tend to involve pushing through short-term pain to achieve a long-term gain. Goals in and of themselves are highly motivating, but to get even greater leverage we are now going to take a look at a toolbox of motivational tips and techniques. In a nutshell, the key to motivation is to make the things we want so compelling that it will make us overcome the mental inertia, procrastination, bad habits, limiting beliefs and fears that hold most people back. We are always motivated when there is something we want badly enough.

Pain and Pleasure

The primary motivation of human behavior is the pain and pleasure principle. Almost everything we do, we do out of our fear of pain or our desire to gain pleasure. It is our most basic survival instinct. If you are failing to take action or to create change in any area of your life there is only one reason: you have learned to associate taking action with more pain than pleasure.

You can imagine motivation as being a scale. On one side is pain and on the other is pleasure. For any decision you make, your brain is always weighing the perceived pain and pleasure based on your beliefs and perceptions, and this will motivate you to seek out experiences that may lead to pleasure while avoiding experiences that could cause pain.

If you are not following through with your plans and goals, it is because you have that scale weighted in the wrong direction. You are focusing on the perceived pain of taking action, instead of the pleasure of getting things done. At any moment in time, whatever you focus on is what is most real to you – so to motivate yourself you must focus on the pleasure of completing your goals, as well as the long-term pain of staying in your present situation without moving forward.


One of the easiest ways to stay motivated towards a goal is to commit that goal to paper and then to place that paper somewhere where you can see it every day. Once you have made a commitment like this you have burned your mental bridges and can no longer make excuses to put it off. To gain even more leverage you can announce your goal and its deadline to your encouraging friends, to get their support in helping you stay committed. When we make a public commitment like this it puts our integrity on the line, and we have a very strong psychological drive to remain congruent with what we say and do. Another great way to gain motivation is to make the task into a challenge. You can, for example, give a friend $100 or more as a cash reward to give back to you when you have completed a specific task, and if you fail or quit he gets to keep the money.

As a general rule, you should only share your commitments with supportive friends who believe in you. Otherwise your goal may sound impossible to them, and they will gladly try to “bring you back to your senses” by listing all the reasons why you cannot achieve it. If you have someone in your life that you know will support you no matter what, you should share at least one of your goals with them to see how much leverage this single technique can give you. If you cannot get yourself to make a full commitment to your goal and its action plan, then instead make a commitment to work on it just for today. If you can get yourself to follow through just for one day you can do it again the next day, and the momentum you build will make it easier and easier to keep going.

Your ability to make absolute commitments to your goals is a major key to success, because until those commitments are made, nothing really happens. Everyone you meet has a goal of becoming successful someday. They may think about it, wish, hope and dream, but very few of them will ever make the unequivocal decision that they are going to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal, and by not making the decision they have already decided to stay where they are.


One of the keys to motivation is to see yourself having already achieved your goal in the future, to experience success mentally. Try this by choosing one of your goals and imagining the satisfaction you will have when the goal is already accomplished. The greater you imagine the feeling of completion, the more motivated you will be and the faster you will achieve your goal. Every time you visualize a goal you increase your desire for it and diminish your fears, and you strengthen your motivation to make your visualization a reality.


To become motivated we need motives, which come from asking ourselves: What will I gain from this? You can apply this to a goal by writing down your reasons for wanting it in a brief paragraph on your goal list. The more reasons you have and the greater they are, the stronger your desire will be and the more motivated you will feel to achieve the goal. If you have five reasons you may want it, if you have twenty you may do it, but if you have a hundred reasons you will do anything to achieve it.


If you want to get really motivated towards a goal you can create a reward system for each step of it and for the completion of the entire goal. A goal in and of itself is a deferred reward, which are not as motivating as immediate rewards. It is only when the goal has been broken down into tasks and assigned immediate rewards that it becomes truly compelling. Determine what immediate rewards hold the most pleasure for you and create a list of at least 10 of them. It can be small treats, such as listening to music, taking a break or reading, whatever motivates you the most. Preferably, the reward should not be consumable since they will only motivate you until you have had enough of them. Next, write another list with larger deferred rewards, such as going out for a walk, a movie or shopping.

When your lists of rewards are done you can use them to assign small immediate rewards to the tasks on your to-do list and larger deferred rewards for the completion of the whole to-do list, or a goal on your goal list. Be sure to clearly visualize the rewards to make them motivating and discipline yourself to only give yourself the reward after you have achieved the task to 100%.

An alternative to giving yourself the reward directly is to give yourself a token for every success, for example a poker chip, as a symbol of what you have worked for. Using this system, you instead rate your rewards on a number scale, say 1-10, so you can exchange the tokens for rewards or save them up for even greater rewards. It may sound simple, but rewards are amazingly effective at changing behaviors and making us stay disciplined. The tasks will become much more enjoyable, procrastination will disappear and your efficiency will improve. Your focus will change away from the difficulty of the task and onto the enjoy-ability of the reward, and you will find yourself eager to move forward.


Procrastination is when we delay doing a task we need to complete because we fear it will involve a lot of pain and difficulty. We procrastinate because we imagine that doing the task will be more painful than the pleasure of having it completed. To overcome procrastination all you need to do is reverse this process. Focus instead on all the positive results you could get by taking action and all the negative consequences you may suffer from not doing it. Keep doing this until you have conditioned yourself to feel that if you procrastinate it will be much more painful than doing the task right away.

A person who procrastinates is waiting for the “right” time to do the job. He believes motivation will suddenly appear out of nowhere. An action-oriented person on the other hand knows that motivation builds from taking action. Remember the momentum principle. In many ways we are paralyzed by inaction, but once you discipline yourself to do even a small slice of a task, you will build forward momentum and stick with the task until completion. That is the key to eliminating procrastination. Discipline yourself to begin a small part of a task and that will get you going.


Underlining all great achievements in life is the quality of self-discipline – the willingness to do what you know you should do, when you should do it, whether you like it or not. It is the ability to delay short-term gratification to enjoy even greater rewards in the long-term. In a way it is a substitute for motivation, by using our willpower to force the behavior that we want.

The key to developing self-discipline is to see your decisions and actions using a long-time perspective. It is only when you consider the long-term consequences of your actions that you start to move forward in life. Rather than doing only what is fun and easy, you can discipline yourself to do what is hard but necessary to assure yourself a better life in the future. Self-discipline is a skill that affects every area of your life, and every disciplined act strengthens the habit. You should therefore resolve to be self-disciplined in all areas of success and in every other important area of your life.


  1. Motivation towards our goals can be enhanced through commitments, visualization, motives and rewards.
  2. To overcome procrastination, do just a small piece of the task to build momentum while focusing on the pleasure of having it done.
  3. When our motivation fails, self-discipline gives us the persistence we need to continue on.
Buy in Print:
Handbook of Success