Stress & Wellbeing: Putting a Spring in your step

By Emily Harrison  As the daffodils start to bloom and snippets of sunshine begin to peak through there’s a chirp in the air that can only mean springtime is around the corner.

While winter is traditionally the time to conserve energy (think hibernation), springtime symbolises new beginnings, renewal and rejuvenation.

But what if we don’t feel like busting forward out of the cocoon?  Maybe we’d rather pull the doona up some more…or sometimes  we can feel downright stuck – in the middle of a motivational muddle that is in danger becoming a puddle.

We all know the feeling of a slump, feeling stuck, overwhelmed or we start a project with such gusto but then hope if we close our eyes it might just go away…

So to help put a spring in your step and harness the energies of the season, I had a chat with CWC member Alex Kingsmill from Upstairs Coaching to look at ways to keep us all winning gold and maintain the momentum long in to the next round of Olympics.

Hello Alex, tell me a little about yourself… you run Upstairs Coaching – what’s that all about? Upstairs is a little business I established a few years ago, to help women design and build lives that are rich and fulfilling and that make them happy.

I originally trained as a lawyer and then I worked in a whole heap of policy jobs in the city that made me miserable. Slowly, slowly I worked out that I was better suited to people than computers and I started to re-design my own life: I went back to uni; I quit those soul-destroying jobs; and I established my own business.

Tell us about the work you do? I work with women who are ridiculously lovely and inspiring and thoughtful. Curiously, most of the women I work with are in a creative field or are trying to introduce more creativity into their lives.

The coaching I do is informed by Positive Psychology so it’s strengths-based and goal-oriented.

This means that instead of focusing on what’s wrong and trying to fix it, we focus on what you do have and try to build more of it. I love this way of working because it is hopeful and motivating and sustainable.

Most of the people I work with have great lives but there is something that’s not quite right, something they want to change to improve their day-to-day and longer-term experience. The questions they bring to coaching vary but they often involve issues relating to balance, motivation, fear, courage, connection and happiness.

People often talk about a ‘drive to succeed’… but what is motivation exactly? Clients often say to me that they feel like there is something wrong with them because they can’t get motivated. I take a completely different approach! In my view, a lack of motivation is much more likely to be about the goal than it is to be about the person pursuing it.

I find that the easiest way to understand motivation is as an equation: 

Motivation = Interest in the Goal  x  Faith in Your Ability to Achieve

This means that motivation requires a focus on two important factors:

  1. The Goal must be important to you. The goal you’re working towards needs to mean something to you; it needs to connect with your values. There is no way you’re going to be able to sustain motivation over something you think you should be doing but aren’t really that committed to.
  2. You must believe that you can achieve it. That doesn’t mean the goal can’t be challenging, it should be. But if you think you can’t get there, your motivation will diminish.


We all know about the motivation slump …why is it that this happens? A motivation slump is often related to that tricky question of self belief.

We often start to slump in the middle of a project because we lose confidence in our own ability to finish. It is especially likely to happen when we’ve been working on something for ages and we’ve started to feel like we’re not making that much progress. 

Can you share some ways to get the momentum started, or back on track? A great way to reignite motivation is to make a few small gains that will re-fire your confidence and recover your faith in success.  Chunk down your goal and accomplish one small thing in relation to it: contact three galleries that might feature your work, for example.

The gains don’t even need to be related to the project you’re stuck on: you might choose to commit to swimming 20 laps non-stop at the pool. Any sort of achievement will help to reignite your self-belief, which will in turn help to refuel your motivation.

And how do you stay motivated yourself? I try to make sure that the things I’m working on are things that I really love doing (although that’s not always possible, especially around tax time..)

When I find myself feeling unmotivated I look at what I’m doing and more often than not the activity I’m stuck on is something I think I should be doing rather than something that really connects. If that’s the case, I either drop the goal or tweak it, to make it more intrinsically motivating.

A great example is Twitter. I found myself dreading it; I was feeling so unmotivated to Tweet. I realised that I was doing it because other business do and so I thought I should. I was also comparing myself to others and thinking that I should tweet the way they do. What a mess! When I reconnected with what I liked about Twitter (hearing from interesting thinkers and doers, sharing great ideas) and when I found my own voice, I was much more motivated.

And if all that theory fails...I take a break and restore my energy, because a lack of motivation can simply be a symptom of tiredness. I go for a walk or drink coffee!

Thank you for your time Alex, it’s been a motivating interview! You can find out more about Alex and Upstairs Coaching at or connect on twitter or facebook.

Emily Harrison is a writer and yoga teacher with an interest in what makes us healthy, thriving creative beings. She also knows that one's motivation can flow (or topple) like an olympic hurdler.  Emily is excited about stepping in to spring. You can read more at