Build Your Motivation Toolbox

It’s Monday. You drag yourself out of bed and wish you didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. And you beat yourself up for it You say, it’s only this part of my work that I hate. If I could afford to hire someone to do this part, I’d be golden. If it weren’t Monday, I’d be fine. I’m not motivated, so I must not have genuine talent. Well, if that were true, your problem isn’t Monday. Heck, it could be any day of the week. Where’s your motivation toolbox? Don’t have one? Start building your motivation toolbox today. Fill it with tools you can and will use may help you through so you can figure out what is holding you back.

Creatives like you don’t have an HR department or a supervisor to guide you. Sometimes you don’t even have a paycheck to motivate you. You need to know how to motivate yourself. To know how to motivate yourself, you need to understand the psychology of motivation.

Image of a steam train against a rustic wood wallpaper with your motivation from the words of Ralph Marston: What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.

Understanding the Types of Motivation

The problem with understanding the types of motivation is that there are hundreds of types identified by various gurus on the internet. So let’s boil it down to the two most basic definitions.

Extrinsic motivations are those rewards are benefits that are external to you. Things like paychecks, prizes, bonuses, and promotions are extrinsic. You’re thinking this doesn’t apply to you. Have you entered a contest or had your work judged? That prize is extrinsic.

Self-motivation is internal to you. Your values, your needs, your education, and your priorities all play a part in self-motivation. More simply put, self-motivation drives you to action.

Because self-motivation is internal to you, finding the motivational tools that will work for you requires education, self-assessment, and trial and error.


Self-assessment ought to come first. You don’t always choose to do that first because it’s scary. When you’re feeling unmotivated to do your creative work, you are afraid that you aren’t enough. 

You are enough. Perhaps that’s what you’ve forgotten. Remember, you are a creative. You were brave enough to begin the walk down your creative path. You are brave. You can do this.

The first thing to assess is your life situation (yours and your immediate family). Are you safe? Do you have shelter, food, and clothes? If you don’t have the basics, you aren’t lacking motivation. You lack security. Get help. There are homeless hotlines and abuse hotlines in most cities. Call or text SAMHSA’s free, 24-hour national helpline  1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Now, take a minute remind yourself why you chose to express your creativity. How does it make you feel when you’re working? How does it make you feel when you figure out a new technique or solve a problem or finish a piece? Yeah, that feeling. Does it still have meaning for you?

Need more help with your self-assessment? Positive Psychology is one site that has useful self-assessment tools.

There are hundreds of thousands of self-assessment tools on the internet. Find tools that help you find answers. Use caution when seeking out the one(s) you prefer. Look for experts: well-known medical sites, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are among some of the externally educated experts. Self-educated experts can also be helpful. But sometimes they are narrowly self-educated. Do yourself the favor of choosing multiple sources of information. 


You’ve completed your self-assessment. Now you know where your weaknesses lie. What do you need to know in order to move forward? Do you need to educate yourself about the psychology of motivation? Educate yourself about creativity. Maybe there’s an area you know very little about or perhaps you need to dig deeper into the next skill level.

Collect Tools

Whatever self-assessment and education you do, collect the tools you need. Don’t expect that you will remember them because they excite you now. Write it down. Put it on post-it-notes, or tape a message to your work table, or make your own motivational tape.

Read 5 Tips for Staying Motivated. On this website, you can also find tips for creating your joy toolbox, your I-can-do-it toolbox, and your mental health first aid kit

Trial and Error

So you’ve educated yourself and found new ways to motivate yourself. Try it. Even if you’ve done your self-assessment and education, not everything will work. That’s okay. You’re prepared. Go to the next tool on your list. You will find two or three that will work really well for you. Don’t stop there. Have more than you need in your toolbox. 

image of repeated script "you can" in pastel colors--your motivation tools can be simple ones

Been There, Done That

In time, you’ll develop the habits you need to make you your best creative self. Even those strong habits will falter once in a while. But you’ve been there and done that. You’ll recognize it for what it is: the next step in your growth as a creative. You’ll reach for your motivation toolbox and find what you need. 

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