Have you ever found yourself struggling to stay motivated, even though you’re fully aware of what needs to be done? You’re not alone. Many of us experience this disconnect between our intentions and actions, leading to self-sabotage and frustration. Let’s dive into the psychological theories behind motivation to unravel the mystery of why we sometimes fail to “get things done.”

Understanding Motivation: Beyond Willpower

  1. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation (Self-Determination Theory): Developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, this theory suggests there are two main types of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, such as a personal interest or enjoyment in the task itself, while extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards or pressures. Recognizing which type of motivation is driving your actions can help you align your goals more effectively.
  2. The Role of Dopamine (Neuroscience Perspective): Dopamine, often dubbed the ‘feel-good hormone,’ plays a crucial role in our motivation. Neuroscience research shows that dopamine is not just about pleasure, but more about anticipating rewards. Understanding this can help us structure our tasks and goals in a way that maximizes this anticipatory effect, rather than relying solely on discipline.

The Truth About Procrastination: A Psychological Defense Mechanism

  1. Fear of Failure (and Success): Often, procrastination is not about laziness but fear. This could be the fear of failure or even the fear of success. Both fears can lead to self-sabotaging behavior as a means of psychological protection.
  2. Perfectionism Paradox: For some, the desire to do everything perfectly leads to procrastination. When the expectation of oneself is set too high, the fear of not meeting these standards can be paralyzing.

Some strategies to Enhance Motivation

  1. Setting Realistic Goals (Goal Setting Theory): Locke and Latham’s Goal Setting Theory emphasizes the importance of clear and challenging goals. Instead of vague resolutions, try setting SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, rather than saying “I want to be more fit,” set a goal like “I will run 30 minutes every day for the next three months.”
  2. Harnessing the Power of Habits (Habit Formation): According to Charles Duhigg, habits are formed by a loop of cue, routine, and reward. Identify a cue (like a time of day), establish a routine (like a 15-minute meditation), and then reward yourself. This method can help turn sporadic actions into steady habits.
  3. The Pomodoro Technique: This time management method encourages working in short bursts with breaks in between. It’s effective in preventing burnout and maintaining high levels of productivity.
  4. Mindful Acceptance (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy): A core aspect of ACT, as developed by Steven C. Hayes, is learning to accept your feelings without judgment. Apply this by acknowledging your current state of motivation without self-criticism, and commit to taking small, manageable actions aligned with your values.

By integrating these scientifically-backed strategies into your daily life, you can transform your approach to motivation. It’s not about overpowering your natural tendencies, but understanding and working with them to achieve your goals.

Your Journey with Dr Sophie Coaching

Understanding the underlying psychological theories of motivation can be empowering. It helps us stop beating ourselves up for perceived laziness and instead, approach our goals with strategies that align with how our minds work.

As we explore these strategies together, I will guide you through a personalized approach to enhance your motivation, grounded in emotional intelligence and leadership. Let’s unlock your potential and find joy in the journey toward your goals.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie



  1. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-717.
  2. Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Random House.
  3. Cirillo, F. (2006). The Pomodoro Technique. Cirillo Company.
  4. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (2011). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The Process and Practice of Mindful Change (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.