Give Yourself a Gold Star: Visual Motivation Techniques

How do you self-motivate? Perhaps you talk yourself into the right mood. Or maybe you talk yourself out of the wrong mood. Maybe you’re the type who uses schedules to try and persuade yourself to get going.

These are all good ways to motivate yourself, but the human mind is fantastic at talking itself in and out of things at a moment’s notice in order to suit our mood or circumstance. This is why setting up visual cues for motivation can work even better. Once you put a cue in place, you cannot argue with it or talk yourself out of it, you have to make a concrete choice; do I follow through or not?

So, that being said, what do we mean by visual cues? Below are some good examples of effective tools you can use to motivate yourself:


This one can feel a little silly when you first begin, but it may appeal to the child in you and work a dream! The idea is to use star stickers to track your progress on a calendar or chart. For example, if you have a goal to get fit or lose weight, you can use different coloured stars to log different accomplishments (eg green star = healthy eating, gold star = trip to the gym, blue star = walked to work etc). This works best if you can share a calendar with someone else who is also working towards a goal – the competitive edge when you see your partner’s stars racking up is a fantastic motivator!


Susan Jeffers in her book Feel the Fear and do it Anyway, talks of the tension between fear and power. She theorises that we have a choice between the two, and that when we choose the path of power we enable ourselves to move forward and achieve our potential. She suggests putting up a sign on your wall, showing a scale with fear on one end and power on the other. The idea is to use a pin or some form of moveable marker to track where on the chart you feel at any one time. As soon as you feel you are slipping in to fear – take that power back!

Vision Boards

These come highly recommended by many coaches and self-help gurus. The aim is to produce a board of pictures that show what you want to get out of life. They should cover all areas and be ridiculously optimistic! Have fun with this; go through magazines and cut out anything that really speak to you, from an image of friends having a good time to a £1million house for sale in the Algarve. If you’re a dab hand with computers, use the internet to find your images and produce an e-vision board to use as your desktop. Remember when you do this – nothing is off limits.


Hunt for quotations that really inspire you. Include song lyrics or dialogue from that powerful monologue at the climax of your favourite film. Write them up separately and pin them in places you often look at; just in front of the toilet or your desk are great places for this!


A client of mine was determined to get fit by going swimming in the local pool but somehow couldn’t find the get-up-and-go to achieve it. By simply hanging his swimming costume in plain sight, he managed to create a visual cue that made him accountable for his actions. He could either follow through or look at the costume and actively say no. Guess what he chose?

Give them a try or come up with your own ideas!


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