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For most of us, COVID-19 has changed our routines. For some, this change includes a decrease in mobility by working virtually from home. Such reduced mobility affects motivation.

The verb motivation derives from the Latin word ‘movere’, which means 'to move'. COVID-19 has reduced movement significantly for numerous people. I live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world (NYC) yet, the “city that never sleeps” seems to be in a prolonged state of napping during this pandemic.

Let us define motivation as an internal impetus that can be stimulated from rewards, beliefs, feelings, and even ingrained attributes or habits. Years ago, while pursuing my doctorate, I chose an elective class on motivation and learned that there are two kinds, intrinsic and extrinsic; both are drivers of behaviors.

Intrinsic motivation means that one is driven by an internal drive to engage in an activity for his/her own sake. This person can be driven internally by satisfaction, enjoyment, passion, mastery or self-expression.

For example:

  • Some people are intrinsically motivated to clean, cook and or organize their home.

  • Some people are intrinsically motivated to read books, learn virtually, and exercise at home.

  • Some people are intrinsically mindful about what they eat.

Extrinsic motivation means that one is driven by an external stimulus; to engage in an activity as-a-means-to an-end. Degrees, titles, promotions, benefits, perks and other measures of success drive extrinsic motivation.

For example:

  • Some people dislike cleaning, cooking and are just bad at organizing, but to avoid embarrassment they might hire a cleaning service, or may clean only when guests are coming over.

  • Some people find reading books boring; however, the extrinsic structure of a classroom or a library may be a prerequisite for them to engage in reading a book.

  • Some people may need the extrinsic structure of meal planning, or a nutritionist, to eat purposefully.

Motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, are both drivers of behaviors. According to Brian Tracy, the author of Eat that Frog, motivation requires a “motive”. A motive can be intrinsic, extrinsic, or both. His book primarily focuses on procrastination, which is what we do when we're not motivated.

Tracy suggests that we:

  1. Figure out what we want to achieve.

  2. Tackle the major tasks first.

  3. Think on paper (I do!). Have you ever heard the proverb, “out of sight out of mind”? What this means is that you may forget people or things that are no longer visible or present. Work with a visible, in-sight, daily list of goals (I do!).

  4. Give ourselves achievable goals and make time for them. It works!

I often hear people say they ‘don’t feel' motivated, but motivation is not just a feeling; to move, requires an action. So, when we reduce our mobility, we reduce our motivation. For me, after practicing yoga, I feel more motivated, and alive, because yoga demands that I move (movere).

Move out of the box

Anthony Robbins discusses how “emotion” comes from ‘motion’ in his audiobook, Get the Edge: A 7-Day Program To Transform Your Life. “Most people live in a box, have a box cereal breakfast, get into their box car and drive to their box office, take the box elevator, have a box lunch, type on a box, at the end of the day return to the box home and turn on the box for entertainment,” he says.

During COVID-19, some of us are isolating ourselves in our 'boxed' homes. But now that we know that the word motivation comes from the Latin verb movere, to move— think of the ways to include more movement in your day and observe how you feel after a workout. More than ever, people are using virtual workouts, or going out for walks to feel alive. We must mindfully and intentionally movere—move! Get out of the box and exercise; your body and brain need it! It’s an immune system booster!

I clearly remember my clinical supervision as a young therapist, and learning how we get in our own way and resist (in conscious and unconscious ways) what we want. Think about it! Evaluate how we get in our own way, via lack of motivation and procrastination - how we resist what we want. Motivation does not mean ‘being on 24/7’. Self-care and connecting with family/friends are important needs too.

Let’s keep in mind that COVID-19 has impacted us physically, emotionally, and mentally. This pandemic has caused us grief, anxiety, and depression, while exacerbating existing mental health struggles. Anxiety and depression can cause a lack of motivation and mental health services can help get you ‘moving’ in the right direction.


Schunk, D.H., Meece, J.L, Pintrich, P.R. (2014). Motivation in Education, Theory, Research, and Applications. Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Tracy, Brian. (2017). Eat that Frog! ; 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Incorporated.

Robbins, Anthony. (2000). Get the Edge Transcript A 7 Day Program to Transform Your Life. The Anthony Robbins Companies.

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