Close this search box.

Motivate Yourself: 1 Weird Way To Do It

my living room and office
My living room, kitchen and office

You know you should do it but never actually do it. You know you should motivate yourself to learn new skills, practise English more often, work out more, read books instead of wasting time on social media, cut down on sugar or quit smoking, but you never really get down to it because:

  • “I’m not [insert positive adjective] enough!”
  • “I’m too [insert negative adjective]!”
  • “I don’t have enough [insert noun]!”

These stories that you keep believing will never get you anywhere.

I’m no productivity expert or psychologist, and I’m not famous for having achieved anything superlative, but I can tell you how I motivate myself to turn should-do tasks into must-do tasks.

See the picture at the top of this page? That’s my living room, my kitchen and my office. 

I work from home. Every day I have online classes to teach, podcast episodes to record, stories to write, emails to send, articles to edit, university papers to submit, marketing to do and lessons to prepare.

Given that I’m pretty busy, I only spend a disgraceful 7 minutes at the most making my lunch. I mostly eat food that’s quick to prepare so I can save time. Sadly, what’s quick to prepare is also unhealthy to eat.

I know I should spend more time cooking, but I never do it because “I don’t have enough time!” and “I’m not motivated enough to cook!”

These are 2 stories I made up and believed up to a couple of months ago. Then something changed. I turned “cooking a healthy meal for lunch” into an urgent priority.  


I scared myself. I started thinking about all the negative consequences of eating unhealthy processed food that’s quick to make. Belly fat, lack of energy, high blood sugar levels, diabetes, nutritional deficiency…CANCER! I pictured all the negative consequences I’d have to face if I kept eating junk food for lunch. 

It’s weird but, somehow, this works for me. Scaring myself on purpose is a mental tool that also helped me to:

  • quit smoking in 2013 (If I smoke, I’ll get cancer and die!)
  • read more books (If I don’t read, I won’t grow and stay ignorant!)
  • get serious about learning English (If I can’t speak English well, I won’t be able to communicate with non-Italian speakers!)
  • become vegan (If I eat animals, somebody will make them suffer and kill them for me!)

Stop believing stories that limit your potential. Start believing horrific stories that will make you take action. Brainstorm all the negative consequences, results and disadvantages of not doing what you know you should do.  

Motivate yourself by making a frightening list. Picture the worst possible scenario. Get worried. Catastrophise. 

Here are some sentence stems to help you:

  • If I don’t work on my English vocabulary, I won’t be able to…
  • If I keep spending my evenings on social media, I will have a lot less time to……and become…
  • A terrible consequence of not achieving this goal I have would be that…

Try it out and see if it works.


Extra link: here’s a short article I liked about motivation. You can also listen to it – 

Click on my glass of beer to sign up for Better Writers, my weekly newsletter for online writers who speak English as a second language. I share writing tips, insights, and resources to help you do one thing: become a better writer.