How Self-Motivated Are You?

Taking Charge of Your Goals and Achievements


Find your source of energy.

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Are you motivated to achieve what you really want in life?

And how hard do you push yourself to get things done?

Wanting to do something and motivating yourself to actually do it are two different things.

So, what's the difference between those who never reach their goals, year after year, and those who achieve one goal after another? Often, it's their self-motivation.

Self-motivation is the force that keeps pushing us to go on – it's our internal drive to achieve, produce, develop, and keep moving forward. When you think you're ready to quit something, or you just don't know how to start, your self-motivation is what pushes you to go on.

With self-motivation, you'll learn and grow – regardless of the specific situation. That's why it's such a fundamental tool for reaching your goals, achieving your dreams, and succeeding, in this journey we call life.

So, how self-motivated are you? We've put together a short quiz to give you a better understanding of how self-motivated you are. After the quiz, we'll discuss some specific tips for improving your self-motivation, so that you can achieve still more in your life.

The Self-Motivation Quiz


For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

   12 Statements to Answer

at All
Rarely Some
Often Very
1 I'm unsure of my ability to achieve the goals I set for myself.
2 When working on my goals, I put in maximum effort and work even harder if I've suffered a setback.
3 I regularly set goals and objectives to achieve my vision for my life.
4 I think positively about setting goals and making sure my needs are met.
5 I use rewards (and consequences) to keep myself focused. For example, if I finish my report on time, I allow myself to take a coffee break.
6 I believe that if I work hard and apply my abilities and talents, I will be successful.
7 I worry about deadlines and getting things done, which causes stress and anxiety.
8 When an unexpected event threatens or jeopardizes my goal, I tend to walk away, set a different goal, and move in a new direction.
9 When I come up with a really good idea, I am surprised by my creativity. I figure it is my lucky day, and caution myself not to get used to the feeling.
10 I tend to do the minimum amount of work necessary to keep my boss and my team satisfied.
11 I tend to worry about why I won't reach my goals, and I often focus on why something probably won't work.
12 I create a vivid and powerful vision of my future success before embarking on a new goal.
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
44-60 Wonderful! You get things done, and you don't let anything stand in your way. You make a conscious effort to stay self-motivated, and you spend significant time and effort on setting goals and acting to achieve those goals. You attract and inspire others with your success. Treasure this – and be aware that not everyone is as self-motivated as you are! (Read below for more.)
28-43 You're doing OK on self-motivation. You're certainly not failing – however, you could achieve much more. To achieve what you want, try to increase the motivation factors in all areas of your life. Read the relevant sections below, and work on them to strengthen your self-motivation.
12-27 You allow your personal doubts and fears to keep you from succeeding. You've probably had a few incomplete goals in the past, so you may have convinced yourself that you aren't self-motivated – and then you've made that come true. Break this harmful pattern now, and start believing in yourself again. The tools and tips below will help you get back your motivation.

Factors in Self-Motivation

Self-motivation is complex. It's linked to your level of initiative in setting challenging goals for yourself; your belief that you have the skills and abilities needed to achieve those goals; and your expectation that if you put in enough hard work, you will succeed (or at least be in the running, if it's a competitive situation).

Four factors are necessary to build the strongest levels of self-motivation:

  1. Self-confidence and self-efficacy.
  2. Positive thinking, and positive thinking about the future.
  3. Focus and strong goals.
  4. A motivating environment.

By working on all of these together, you should quickly improve your self-motivation. Let's look at each of these factors individually.

1. Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy

(Statements 1, 2, 6, 8)

Part of being self-motivated is having good levels of self-assurance, self-confidence, and self-efficacy. More on these below!

Being highly self-assured means you will set challenging goals for yourself, and it's also a resiliency factor for when you encounter setbacks. If you don't believe in yourself you'll be much more likely to think, "I knew I couldn't do this" instead of, "This one failure isn't going to stop me!"

Albert Bandura, a psychologist from Stanford University, defined self-efficacy as a belief in our own ability to succeed, and our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. This belief has a huge impact on your approach to goal setting and your behavioral choices as you work toward those goals.

According to Bandura's research, high self-efficacy results in an ability to view difficult goals as a challenge, whereas people with low self-efficacy would likely view the same goals as being beyond their abilities, and might not even attempt to achieve them.

It also contributes to how much effort a person puts into a goal in the first place, and how much he or she perseveres despite setbacks.

By developing a general level of self-confidence in yourself, you will not only believe you can succeed, but you'll also recognize and enjoy the successes you've already had. That, in turn, will inspire you to build on those successes. The momentum created by self-confidence is hard to beat.

Take these steps:

  • Think about the achievements in your life.
  • Examine your strengths   to understand what you can build on.
  • Determine what other people see as your strengths and key capabilities.
  • Set achievable goals for yourself, work to achieve them, and enjoy that achievement.
  • Seek out mentors and other people who model the competencies, skills, and attributes you desire.

As you begin to recognize how much you've already achieved – and understand how much potential you have – you will have the confidence to set goals and achieve the things you desire. The more you look for reasons to believe in yourself, the easier it will be to find ways to motivate yourself.

Our article on Building Self-Confidence   teaches you how to develop this self-confidence, and gives you steps you can use to start feeling great about yourself. It will also put you firmly on the path to self-assurance and self-efficacy.

2. Positive Thinking, and Positive Thinking About the Future

(Statements 4, 9, 11, 12)

Your life today is the result of your attitudes and choices in the past. Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today. – Author Unknown

Positive thinking is closely related to self-confidence as a factor in self-motivation. It's important to look at things positively, especially when things aren't going as planned and you're ready to give up.

If you think that things are going to go wrong or that you won't succeed, this may influence things in such a way that your predictions will come true. This is particularly the case if you need to work hard to achieve success, or if you need to persuade others to support you in order to succeed. Your thoughts can have a major influence on whether you succeed or fail, so make sure those thoughts are "on your side."

Positive thinking also helps you think about an attractive future that you want to realize. When you expect positive results, your choices will be more positive, and you'll be less likely to leave outcomes to fate or chance. Having a vivid picture of success, combined with positive thinking, helps you bridge the gap between wanting something and going out to get it.

To apply "the power of positive thinking", do the following:

  • Become aware of your thoughts. Write down these down throughout the day.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones.
  • Create a strong and vivid picture of what it will be like to achieve your goals.
  • Develop affirmations or statements that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day. These statements should remind you of what you want to achieve, and why you will achieve it.
  • Practice positive thinking until you automatically think about yourself and the world in a positive way, every day.

For even more tips, see our article on Rational Positive Thinking  . You can also take our short quiz, Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker?  .

3. Focus and Strong Goals

(Statements 3, 7)

As we've said above, a key part of building self-motivation is to start setting strong goals. These give you focus, a clear sense of direction, and the self-confidence that comes from recognizing your own achievement.

First, determine your direction through effective goal setting.

When you set a goal, you make a promise to yourself. Part of the strength of this is that it gives you a clear direction. Part is that you've made this promise to yourself, and you'll want to keep this promise. And part is that it's a challenge, and it's fun to try to meet that challenge!

But don't set just any goal. According to Locke's goal-setting theory  , your goal should have the following characteristics:

  • Clarity – Effective goals are clear, measurable, specific, and based on behavior, not outcomes.
  • Challenge – Goals should be difficult enough to be interesting, but not so difficult that you can't reach them.
  • Commitment – Goals should be attainable, and should be relevant – that is, they should contribute in a significant way to the major objectives you're trying to achieve.
  • Regularity of Feedback – Monitor your progress towards your goals regularly to maintain your sense of momentum and enthusiasm, and enjoy your progress towards those goals.
  • Sufficient Respect For Complexity – If the goal involves complex work, make sure that you don't over-commit yourself. Complex work can take an unpredictably long time to complete (particularly if you have to learn how to do the task "on the job").

When you have a variety of goals, be sure to schedule your time and resources effectively. You can achieve the "focus" part of self-motivation by prioritizing and establishing a schedule that will help you succeed. It doesn't make sense to work until you're exhausted or give up one goal to achieve another.

Using tools like the Action Priority Matrix  , you can quickly and easily see how each goal activity fits into the bigger picture of your overall objectives. If you fully understand your priorities, you probably won't feel as pressured to do everything at once. This can reduce stress and help you to concentrate on the most important strategies.

See our article on Prioritization   for a summary, and for links to our top time management and prioritization tools.

4. Motivating Environment

(Statements 5, 10)

The final thing to focus on is surrounding yourself with people and resources that will remind you of your goals, and help you with your internal motivation. These are external factors – they'll help you get motivated from the outside, which is different from the internal motivation we've discussed so far. However, the more factors you have working for you, the better.

You can't just rely on these "environmental" or outside elements alone to motivate you, but you can use them for extra support. Try the following:

  • Look for team work opportunities. Working in a team makes you accountable to others.
  • Ask your boss for specific targets and objectives to help you measure your success.
  • Ask for interesting assignments. See our article on Maximizing Job Satisfaction   for tips on getting the most from your job.
  • Set up some goals that you can easily achieve. Quick wins are great for getting you motivated.
  • Buddy up with people who you trust to be supportive, and ask them to help keep you accountable.
  • Try not to work by yourself too much. Balance the amount of time you work from home with time spent working with others.

When you start your self-motivation program, you may tend to rely heavily on these external factors. As you get more comfortable and confident with your self-motivation, you'll probably use them only as needed, and for a little extra help.

Key Points

Self-motivation doesn't come naturally to everyone. And even those who are highly self-motivated need some extra help every now and then.

Build your self-motivation by practicing goal-setting skills, and combining those with positive thinking, the creation of powerful visions of success, and the building of high levels of self-efficacy and self-confidence.

Your attitude and beliefs about your likelihood of success can predict whether or not you actually succeed. Set goals, and work hard to achieve them. Examine ways to improve your self-motivation, and regularly reassess your motivation levels. If you actively keep your internal motivation high, you can significantly increase the likelihood of achieving your hopes, dreams, and visions of the future.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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Comments (11)
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi lameyer1,
    Welcome to the Club. Indeed monitoring our own progress - either by ourselves or with someone else like a colleague or coach - can help us to stay on track towards our goals.

    This opportunity to pause and check in for progress allows us to see whether we are 'on course' or whether we need to make a few small adjustments to get back on track.

    If you would like support and encouragement here, we have a Goal Coaching section - viewforum.php?f=11 - where you can post your goals and your questions and I'll be happy to offer my support.

    Hope to see you around. Any questions, just let me know.
  • lameyer1 wrote Over a month ago
    A lot of practice and being mindful go in to the art of being successful in business and I am just beginning to see the importance of tracking your own personal progress.
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Barry,
    I think you are right about question #9 - the "best" choice should be 'not at all'. Positive thinking relates to self motivation and thinking that your creative idea is more fate than skill isn't self motivating at all. It would indicate you don't feel in control and that is a demotivator. I've emailed our editorial team to take a look and see if they agree as well. Thanks for the feedback!

  • barrypettit wrote Over a month ago
    I think this is a great tool! I am trying to understand the scoring of each question. Given that the highest self-motivation score is 60, I assume that each of the 12 questions is scored out of 5 (as there are 5 possible responses). However, given the nature of each question, I assume it varies as to whether the "Not At All" response gets a score of 5 or the "Very Often" response gets a 5. I went through the quiz and made a decision as to how each question would be scored out of 5; However, that scoring does not make sense in light of the score I got.

    I have narrowed it down to the difference in how one particular question is scored. For instance, question 9 is worded as "When I come up with a really good idea, I am surprised by my creativity. I figure it is my lucky day, and caution myself not to get used to the feeling." However, the response of "Very Often" gets a score of 5 (I found this by scoring all questions with the "sometimes" response which should get a score of 3 for a total of 36; when I scored #9 as "very often", it increased the score to 38). A score of 5 for this answer to this question does not make sense to me. If I "very often" feel that my creativity is a surprise to me, that it is a only a stroke of luck, this does not show much self-confidence which is a hallmark of self-motivation.

    Or is it because the authors of the quiz figure that a longing and searching for the creative spark is a motivating factor? That we will become complacent if we are over-confident in our creative largess? This doesn't make sense to me, however.

    Thoughts? Should this question be scored differently and this quiz calculation be changed?
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Lucy - a tactic to try in your effort to "Do" more is to ask yourself, "What one thing can I change or do right now that will move me in the direction I want to go?"

    Don't think about the big picture right away because often that degree of change is too daunting and we end up doing nothing. Break it down into tiny pieces - i.e. when you are reading a book and an idea inspires you, write it down and decide what you can do in the moment or at the very latest the next day to put the idea or concept in motion. The simple act of recording the idea is a small step in the right direction!

    I'm a big believer in starting small and building on tiny successes. Some people are blessed with an innate ability to drive change in their lives and the rest of us need to trick ourselves and use small victories to self motivate on a continuous basis.

    So what are you going to DO today?

  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    lucy2011, I totally relate with what you said about gaining knowledge, but having trouble to apply it. Someone once taught me the following: "To know and not to do, is not to know." I try and keep that in mind...not always successful, but it has helped me a lot to take action and DO something when I already have the knowledge.

  • lucy2011 wrote Over a month ago
    Dianna said:

    That is such an important point - we can "know" how to do a great many things but unless and until we actually DO something with that knowledge, positive change won't happen.

    That's a reminder for me. I love reading and acquiring information and skills, but have a hard time doing something with it (partly because I never feel competent enough). I'm trying to change that.
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    You couldn't have said it better: ...most of the ideas are old wisdom, but many people never stop to think about them and use them consciously for their benefit.

    That is such an important point - we can "know" how to do a great many things but unless and until we actually DO something with that knowledge, positive change won't happen.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • fafner wrote Over a month ago
    This is a great article. What I really like about these tests is that they pinpoint the problem areas that may be the cause of the larger problem. It gives me a clearer direction and a way to focus my attention.

    I have yet to complete my New Year bonus booklets to gain more clarity and direction in life, but already I can see it would be very beneficial for my progress. That is something I have never done at it is definitely lacking in my life.

    The idea of setting "practice goals" and rewarding myself for achieving them is also inspiring. I'll look into that.

    The thing is, most of the ideas are old wisdom, but many people never stop to think about them and use them consciously for their benefit.
  • Bree wrote Over a month ago
    Great article, as they all are!

    Even though I am generally highly motivated ... the article is a good reminder for when I am not feeling so motivated! So, thanks for that!

Show all comments

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