The Power of Motivation: Using Somatic Techniques to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Goals

Jun 02, 2023
sketch of a girl feeling relaxed and motivated

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

-Winston Churchill

Believe you can and you're halfway there.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever faced a challenge that seemed insurmountable, like the task was too daunting for even the years of training and experience in your chosen field?

Traditional psychology is great at helping us identify our emotional barriers— and convince us that we should change -- but knowing that we should change can only take us so far when we’re stuck. Luckily, somatic techniques are here to lend us a hand!

Somatics helps apply physical methods and sensations to psychological problems, providing an attractive alternative to just trying to force our way through issues without present-moment awareness of our body's cues.

This post explores how we can learn to rediscover true "bottom-up" motivation -- motivation that arises from deep-seated somatic processes -- rather than cognition alone.  When we combine our wish to do things with deep alignment in our bodies, this can create long-term success—and foster greater well-being along the way.

Why Is Motivation Not Enough?

Photo credit: Adrian Swancar @Unsplash

Motivation is the driving force that helps us achieve our goals and dreams. It's that spark that ignites a fire within us and gives us the energy to pursue our passions.

However, despite its undeniable importance, motivation that is not grounded in our bodies is not always enough. And it can be because of a myriad of reasons:

  • We may be split within ourselves -- and not feel our full motivation in every fiber of our body.  
  • We may not be aligned within our somatic experience:  one part of ourselves may want to do something but another part might have a different opinion. 
  • Our body may be giving us important signals about the situation that are important to attend to.  
  • Internal and external obstacles might stand in our way.

Motivation sometimes feels like a wave. It can be strong and powerful, but it can also quickly dissipate if we don’t have the right tools in place to sustain it.

And that’s where somatic techniques come in—they provide a means of addressing deep-seated issues that could be blocking our success.

How Can Somatics Help?

Somatics has the potential to revolutionize our approach to self-motivation and goal setting. It helps us use physical sensations, body movements, and mindfulness practices to ground fleeting motivation into more enduring somatic pathways.   

By consciously paying attention to bodily cues like heart rate, breath pattern, posture, and muscle tension, we can access the subconscious patterns that might be blocking us from achieving our goals.

It helps us become intimately aware of what works for us and what does not, allowing us to make adjustments to our behavior accordingly. As a result, this can lead to more lasting change—because it’s based not just on cognitive understanding, but internal, somatic alignment.

Moreover, somatic techniques can provide a soothing and calming effect on the mind and body. It’s been found to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, boost productivity, and even enhance relationships.

Lastly, somatic techniques are incredibly versatile. They can be practiced in a variety of settings, from the comfort of your own home to a professional office—making it much easier for us to incorporate them into our daily lives.

Somatic Tips to Strengthen or Boost Motivation

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Is your motivation waning, or does it need an uplift? These somatic tips can help you cultivate the right mindset and take action toward your desired outcomes.

1. Notice Your Body

How do you feel right now? Are you feeling sluggish and heavy or light and energized? Is there tightness in your chest or a ball of tension in your stomach?

One of the principles of somatics is to pay attention to the body’s physical responses, and this is an excellent place to start when trying to increase motivation. Instead of trying to "push yourself" to be motivated -- try just noticing where and how you are.  Noticing your body’s cues—positive or negative—can lead you in the right direction.  

You can explore many exercises to get in touch with your body and its natural longings and motivation. One option is a thorough body scan. Here is how it works:

  • Lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath.
  • Bring your awareness to the top of your head, noticing any sensations there.
  • Move gradually downward—scanning each body part as you go—until you reach the tips of your toes.
  • As you scan your different body parts, notice any sensations that come up such as tightness, warmth, or tingling.

The point of doing this is not to judge what you find, but instead to become aware of your body and its reactions in the present moment.  When you listen to its reactions, you can reconnect with inner impulse -- the lifeblood of sustainable motivation.

2. Explore Breathwork

Breathwork is another powerful somatic technique that can help you rediscover your inner motivation. By allowing our body to be buoyed by our breath, we can allow our physical sensations to unfurl into their natural "felt shift" -- and be the springboard for our motivational impulse.

Start by simply observing your natural breath pattern for a few moments. Once you’re used to it, start to experiment with different types of breathing, such as:

  • Alternate nostril breathing. Inhale through one nostril, then exhale through the other.
  • Box breathing. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, then exhale for four. Repeat this cycle several times.
  • Focused breathing. Choose an area of your body, such as your chest or abdomen, and focus solely on the breath moving through that area.

Allow your breath to find those areas in your body that call to you. When you find those areas in your body, allow them to ride your breath and lead you forward.

3. Feel the World with Your Senses

Sometimes we are so “in our head” that we can forget to connect with the world around us. We fail to notice the subtle sounds, smells, and sensations that make up our environment.

Just as somatic exercises make us more aware of our inner selves, they also help us pay more attention to our outer world. And by simply savoring our surroundings, we can more easilymanifest our motivational intent into the world.

Take, for example, being around nature.  Nature sharpens our cognition and enhances our physical and mental health. It also increases our concentration and reduces our moments of rumination that may be preventing us from taking action.

Feeling the world does not have to be complicated either. Here are a few ideas you can consider:

  • Notice how a warm cup of tea or coffee feels in your hands.
  • Feel the air on your skin as you take a walk outside.
  • Listen to the rain pattering against your window.
  • Examine the colors and shapes of the clouds in the sky.
  • Engage in a creative activity, such as painting, writing, or playing music, focusing on the process rather than the end result.


Motivation is both an art and a science—it requires us to understand our inner selves, as well as the environment in which we exist. Somatics can help us do both.

By combining somatic exercises with mindfulness and breathwork, you can increase your motivation levels and move closer to achieving your goals. So give these methods a try and see how they work for you.

Photo credit: Brecht Corbeel @Unsplash

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