Good Living

How to Find Motivation

By Cheryl Maguire

As a mom of three kids, there are endless quotidian tasks I must do. You can take your pick from my top three most dreaded chores of laundry, dishes, and the unpaid Uber services to my kid’s various destinations. Mustering up the motivation to do said tasks is an ongoing battle most parents can relate to feeling. Experts explain why it may be hard to find your motivation and ways to overcome these struggles.

Why is it hard to get motivated?

Dr. Andrew Westbrook, a post-doctoral researcher at Brown University says that you may lack motivation for doing a boring task because you feel like you might be missing out on doing something else that might be fun. It’s that fear of missing out that prevents you from cleaning those dishes.

It is also possible that the chore may be too overwhelming like that mountain of laundry you need to put away. Dr. Damon Korb, a developmental behavioral pediatrician in Los Gatos, Calif., and author of, Raising an Organized Child, says that people may lack the organizational skills to break a task down into steps. He also explains that some people might find it hard to exert mental effort towards a task unless they find it interesting.

Another challenge parents face is motivating their kids to help out around the house. Kids may seem like they are lazy or that they don’t care but they might not understand what is expected of them. Maria Sanders, clinical social worker, and certified parent coach says, “Motivation comes from feeling competent,” she says. 

Dr. Tsz Lun (Alan) Chu, sports psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green says that some people lack motivation because they feel like they don’t have a choice. “People say to themselves ‘I have to clean or do laundry and this thinking reduces our sense of autonomy,” he says. He also explains that sometimes people lack motivation due to a lack of any goals or purpose.


View Tasks as Opportunities

If you tell yourself ‘I can or I get to clean’ this changes your thinking of household tasks as opportunities and choices instead of something that has been forced upon you. It might also help to make it fun by playing music, watching a TV show, or doing the chore with a family member.

Chu explains that this idea is based on the psychological concept of self-determination theory which means that people are motivated when they meet their needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The autonomy is the sense of choice and the relatedness is the sense of connection you feel to others so it helps to do the task with someone else.

Be Curious

When parents see their kids are not doing what they are supposed to be doing they tend to blame and judge. Instead, Sanders recommends that parents should be curious about what is going on and try to work collaboratively by problem-solving. The best way to do this is by asking questions when you are feeling calm like, Why are you having a hard time putting away your clothes?

Create Healthy Routines

When you are tired you lack the energy to do any activities, including being a good parent. If you get eight hours of sleep, eat healthy foods, exercise, and practice self-care like meditation you will have more motivation to do even the most dreaded tasks like cleaning that toilet. 

Break the Task Down

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stack of dirty dishes in your sink, try setting a timer for 25 minutes and only clean during that time frame. You may find that it took less time than you thought. This is called the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method for breaking tasks down into smaller pieces.

Create Goals and Routines

When you create goals with a purpose it is easier to do it. So if you create a goal to do laundry every Sunday so that you have clean clothes for the week you be more motivated to achieve your goal. You will also have less time to think about how you don’t want to do it or say to yourself, “I’m too tired.” Instead, it will be a routine and commitment that becomes a habit.

“Reminding ourselves about long-term goals and purpose every day will help with motivation,” says Chu.

Korb recommends overcoming lack of motivation by not making it a daily decision rather than a routine that you committed to doing.

Sometimes it may help to think about your purpose as a parent when you driving to your fifth activity of the day. “Make a conscious choice and think about the ‘why’ such as being a good role model for our kids,” says Chu.

About the Author:

Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Washington Post, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, Good Life Family, and many other publications. 

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