For the past few weeks we have been exploring the six key executive functions in my ADHD Sweet Spot membership.  Using our educational content and our three-times-a-week live small group coaching calls, we have been learning and implementing new strategies for conquering our executive functions.

The six functions are:

  • Working Memory
  • Inhibition
  • Self-Motivation
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Planning/Problem Solving
  • Self-Awareness
This blog post is going to go into greater detail on self-motivation


Self-motivation is an executive function that is challenged by ADHD. Self-motivation directly impacts your ability to initiate and complete tasks, especially when you lack inherent interest or passion. As ADHD expert Dr Russell Barkley says, ADHD has very little to do with knowledge and understanding, but is a disorder of doing – actually doing the thing, and that’s where self-motivation comes in.

Simply put, motivation is your willingness and desire to undertake tasks, and it is very helpfully fuelled by your enthusiasm and interest. ADHDers will often find motivation easy for activities that align with their passions, but find it a struggle to get into tasks that don’t inherently engage them.  Have you ever felt this?!

Self-motivation is not the same as general motivation.  Self-motivation is your ability to generate enthusiasm and drive for tasks that aren’t all that appealing to you.  And this critical executive function depends on the other executive functions including working memory, emotional regulation, planning, self-awareness, and inhibition.

Emotions and Self-motivation

The primary fuel for motivation actually comes from your emotions. When the emotion you experience for a task is enthusiasm or happiness, the motivation seems easy and enjoyable. Straight away the opposite is clear – if your emotion towards a task is dread, boredom, or another challenging emotion, the natural motive (movement) is to avoid or ignore the task. So managing your emotions is extremely important if you are trying to consciously and deliberately cultivate self-motivation to apply to the less appealing tasks you need to get done. This is where the wins are though!
If you are ready to address self-motivation challenges you can build this skill by practicing emotion management.  You can try:
  • Consciously creating or shifting emotions to generate motivation 
  • Visualisation (using pictures in your mind, or pictures on paper of how you want to feel when the task is started or finished)
  • Verbalisation (talking yourself through an emotion and the actions to take)
  • Catch-and-redirect techniques (interrupting negative spirals)
  • Creating rituals to prompt self-motivation (like bringing your coffee to your desk because coffee = good and desk = work)
Tackling these kinds of strategies will be life-changing. Doing it alone is possible, but probably not as fun as doing it with others in the same boat. Having a supportive team on your side will make the trip a whole lot smoother.
In my ADHD Sweet Spot membership we meet three-times-a-week for live small group coaching sessions.  We learn together, implement together, struggle together.  It’s a space where you can feel safe, seen, and supported.  Want to check it out? 

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More To Explore

Planning & Problem Solving

Planning and problem-solving is the final category of executive function we explored in the ADHD Sweet Spot membership.  Conceptually, planning and problem-solving equate to mental play.  It’s about juggling the

Self Awareness

Self awareness is the ability to understand your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.  It is a key executive functioning skill. In fact, some would argue it is foundational to all the others. When we are aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and motivations, we are better able to control our impulses and make choices that are in our best interests.

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