What is motivation?

Where does motivation come from, and how do we find it? We all kind of know what it is, but often it just seems like something that is missing. Some people seem so full of motivation and energy, but for most of us, it’s common to feel like motivation is hard to find, and even harder to hang on to, especially when it comes to tasks we find tedious, time consuming or not very high on our list of priorities.

So when we’re going through a difficult time, such as the frightening experience of your child receiving a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment, made additionally complicated by COVID-19, it can seem impossible to find the motivation to do anything other than the essentials to keep your family safe.
However, it’s not always possible to focus solely on what is most important to you right now. Everyday life continues and with it comes all the mundane tasks such as paying bills and going to work, which can seem so pointless or irrelevant at this time.

So how do we find motivation?

We often tell ourselves that we should just be able to get things done, should be able to just find motivation, should be able to do better. However, telling ourselves off and expecting to just be able to do more, sadly does not magically make it happen. At Redkite, we understand that motivation for getting things done or making changes might at this stage be non-existent, and that you might be hanging on by the tips of your fingers and that’s all you can do right now. But if you do want or need to make changes, there are other ways to approach it and we’d like to share a few simple tips that might help to make this more manageable.

Set the bar low

Any small achievement is an achievement, and the sense of success will motivate you to move on to further tasks. If you feel like more exercise would be good for you, try walking down the street and back, that’s it. If you have a long list of house maintenance tasks, pick one and complete it, with no expectation on you to do more, unless you feel like it.

Identify your reasons for doing something

It can be really helpful to reflect on why you need or want to do something or to make a change. This can help you identify and look forward to the positive benefits, and help you realise that not doing the task or making the change leaves you worse off than putting up with the short term hassle and then reaping the benefits.

Identify obstacles

Identifying the obstacles standing in your way, and how you could minimize them, might be helpful too, as it is about making it as easy for you as possible. For example, you might be struggling to get something done on your own and asking a friend or family member for help would remove that obstacle.

A little is better than nothing

Forget the all-or-nothing mentality, and try to get past any sense of perfectionism you might have and just do what you can. Anything is always better than nothing. We can be so hard on ourselves and feel like unless we do something “properly” or “perfectly” it doesn’t hold any value, but that’s simply not true.


If you feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do, write everything down in a list, and then prioritise which tasks are urgent and which can wait. People are different so perhaps it won’t work for you, but there can be a great sense of achievement in crossing off tasks on your list, which is why we recommend including even small tasks on the list.
Another good tip is to start with the hardest task first, the one you least want to do, as this frees up mental energy from not having to dread the task all day and help to make you feel accomplished.

Self care

As clichéd as it sounds, a cancer experience is not a sprint but more like a really long marathon, sometimes followed by another marathon. We often hear from parents that their only goal and most important job is to look after their child or children. They are extremely motivated to do whatever is best for their child, but what about what their needs as well? Self-care might be pretty far down your list of priorities right now, but without it, the marathon is a whole lot harder if not impossible to complete. This can be things such as your nutrition, sleep, exercise and socialising. We often see parents neglect their own health and medical appointments too… but having a check-up with your doctor might be really helpful; something as simple as low iron can contribute to lack of energy and motivation.


Last, but not least, reward yourself, especially for the more challenging tasks or changes you’re trying to make. A reward can be something small like a break, or a little treat, or something bigger. We realise it can be really difficult to take any time out for yourself when your child is unwell, so you might have to get a little creative when thinking about what makes you smile or feel a boost of energy. A reward is also to praise yourself and recognise your achievements, even if they’re sometimes small. You’re doing the best you can, and that deserves recognition.
All of this can sound a lot easier said than done. Redkite acknowledges that parents in your situation face a lot of challenges, and if your basic needs are not met, such as having a safe home environment and enough money for food and medication, then focusing on self-care and making positive changes can be impossible.

Please remember that you do not have to do everything on your own. If you think it would be helpful to talk to someone about any obstacles you’re facing, or how to find motivation then Redkite’s Social Workers are here to help. You can call us from Monday – Friday 9.00am – 7.00pm AEST or email us at

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