Motivation is goal-directed behaviour, explains Jodie Bradham, a psychologist at Bond University . “It is the drive that turns our wants into action”. If there were that easy we would all play tennis like Lleyton Hewitt, paint like Pablo Picasso and have a bank account the size of Bill Gates’. What distinguishes one who is able to act on motivation from one who isn’t?  “What separates Lleyton Hewitt and Bill Gates from the average Joe Citizen is an internal resilience, a belief in their own worth and ability that keeps them motivated”, says de Prazer. “Can the rest of us change? Yes, you can  build internal resilience”.

Research has defined two types of motivation: internal and external. Those who are internally motivated, typically the Cathy Freemans of the world, are spurred on by a sense of inner satisfaction that they will derive from the outcome. Others are more externally motivated, believing that the public acclaim will make their efforts worthwhile. This is useful information, says de Prazer, in determining what distracts you, drives and restrains you from realizing your goals. The most crucial step in motivating yourself is to know what it is that you want. It sounds simplistic, but often overlooked. “We all know that we should eat balanced meals, drink in moderation, not smoke, exercise daily”, says de Prazer, “but sometimes we think we want one thing, then we don’t achieve it. If we were to examine the forces that drive us and limit us, sometimes we might find that the priority to change wasn’t really as important as something else in our life”. Once you have determined what it is you want, the way to realize it is to plan steping stones to get there. At the AIS athletes establish two types of goals: an outcome goal and a performance goal, explains de Prazer. “An outcome goal might be, “I want to make the Olympic team.” While a performance goal is, “I want to make the Olympic track team, therefore I will need to run 100 metres under 10 seconds. What can I do over the next six months to do that? How can I use my training sessions each week and each month to work towards that goal?”

This way athletes are continuously meeting goals and will feel a degree of satisfaction with their efforts whether they end up on the Olympics squad or not. “The same principles apply to people who want to go to the gym or lose weight”, she says. “To feel motivated about changing our behaviour, we need to feel reasonably confident that the energy we invest will be worthwhile,” say s Bradham. “Ensuring your goals are realistic is critical to success”. The answer is to plan to increase your goals by achieving increments. “Success builds success, motivation builds motivation,” says Bradham.

Tangible rewards also help maintain the momentum. De Prazer says that if there is no reward for your hard efforts early on, you are less likely to sustain them. “It seems more rewarding to stay under the Doona on a cold winter’s morning, so there must be a reward of equal value to get up and go to the gym,” she says. “A suggestion is to go with a friend so the reward will be catching up with him or her. If your goal is to not eat junk food for a week, buy yourself a magazine at the end of the week”. Giving yourself clear directions and acknowledging your achievements are the keys to sustaining your motivation. “Many people know what they need to do but they neglect to reward themselves as they begin to make progress,” cautions Bradham. “Your ability to reward yourself depends upon your belief in your ability to achieve a goal.” Bradham’s suspicion is that the businessman whose resolve to lose weight weakened in the face of the buffet has deep-seated self-beliefs that are preventing him from acting on his desire to slim down.

Which brings us full circle to the difference between those who act easily on motivation and those who struggle. The internal resilience of the likes of Lleyton Hewitt is built on a foundation that includes his value system, his sense of self-worth a trust in his ability to fulfil his ambitions and a belief that he is deserving. In Robbins’s terms, he is able to surpass any limitations he has imposed on himself and believe he will succeed.

From Creative Visualisation by Shakti Gawain (Bantum New Age Books)

Main text taken from Sunday Life July 14, 2002 .


Psychologists agree that keeping a diary is a powerful tool.


Writing down positive, present-tense statements that foresee you reaching your goal. For example: I am relaxed and calm in the face of stress.


Write a list of everything you feel thankful for.


Make a list of everything you have succeeded at. Success builds upon success.


Compile a list of all your best qualities. The more the better.


Write your goal in one succinct sentence. Describe this as thoroughly as possible, bring it to life. Feel it, smell it, give it texture. Visualisation is a powerful tool for bringing your goals into reality.


The road to success is dotted with obstacles. Psychologist Jodie Bradham lists the most common and offers a strategy to overcome them:


If conflicting motives are at play, an honest evaluation of the situation is needed. Ask yourself what do I want? What am I willing to give up to achieve my objectives? How will I know when I have achieved my goal?


Are they realistic? Divide objectives into short-term (two to three weeks) and long-term goals (six months or more).


If you are ravenous but trying to eat healthily, have fruit at the ready to snack on. Foresee problems and avoid them.


Discuss goals with family and friends and ask for their support.


Don't let a lapse trigger a relapse. Acknowledge when you stray and be constructive about getting back on track.


Remind yourself of the successes you are giving and  the reasons for setting your goal in the first place.