Motivation. It’s the word that we proudly parade around when things are great, but curse when things aren’t great. No one is in the mood to do all the things that need to get done all the time. So how do we determine what things get done? Do we just go off of what we ‘feel’ like doing? Do we go off of consequences? Things that involve other people? Do we do what’s quickest first? What gives us the most joy? Or do we do the hardest and most time-consuming things first?
What motivates us to make our decisions?
Deep, I know, but understanding this will help you determine what you value- which will in turn help you discover what motivates you.
What is motivation?
Think of it as the catalyst that inspires you to move, to act, to do. It varies in different situations and isn’t that hard to find once you realize what’s important to you.
Motivation is what gets you moving. So, let’s think for a moment. Name 5 things you did recently that you didn’t want to do. Why did you do them? Out of obligation? The desire for positive feedback? Because you are a martyr? Because you didn’t want to be considered a bad person? What was the reason?
Have you heard of ‘negative motivation’ and ‘positive motivation’? Someone who is negatively motivated may do things to prevent a negative response or get motivation from a negative response.
Here’s what that looks like: “I don’t want to be taken to jail so I am going to feed my kids and change their diapers frequently” or “My teachers told me that I would never amount to anything, so I’m going to be successful and prove everyone wrong”. Make sense?
Someone who is positively motivated may do things to ensure a positive result or get their dose of motivation from receiving a positive response.
Here’s what that looks like: “I don’t really want to pay bills right now but I enjoy having a warm place to live, so I guess I’ll pay them” or “I don’t feel like doing laundry, but I love how it feels to have fresh clean clothes to wear.
Starting to make sense?
What gets you going? What makes you feel alive? What makes you feel active and wanting to produce and make things happen?
How to Increase Motivation
Alright, so, from your ‘5 Things’ exercise from the last section, you should have an idea of what kinds of things motivate you to act. You may have discovered what you value and learned whether you are primarily negatively or positively motivated- that’s a great start. So how do we increase motivation, you ask? That’s a tricky question. What we do know about motivation is that there is positive and negative motivation as well as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but all of it starts with a desire. A desire to move towards something or away from something.
Some people need to be ‘in flow’ or in a particular state of emotion that is conducive to them being able to do what needs to be done, and others can simply look at their to-do list and get things done because they know they need to be done.
So for you, look at your ‘5 Things’ list and think about what usually drives you to do the things you need to do. Then look and see how many of those things correlate with your values. After that, you should have a good understanding on whether or not you are someone that is negatively motivated or positively motivated.
You’ve got all that, now how do you increase motivation? Amp up the stakes! Take what you usually do to feel good, productive, or whatever you need to feel and double it! Do you need to listen to your music first, go for a run, take a salt bath, have an hour of uninterrupted “you” time? What do you need? Because if your needs aren’t met, it’s going to be hard to meet anyone or anything else.
Here are some examples of motivation:
I really want them to like me, so I am going to put my best foot forward
I want to continue having a home, so I am going to continue paying my mortgage
I like feeling sexy, so I’m going to continue working out
I want to stay married, so I am going to listen to my partner’s needs
I need this job, so I am going to get out of bed.
Motivation examples and examples of motivation look different for everybody. If you’re someone that values community, things that give you a sense of community will motivate you. If you value partnership, things that give you a sense of partnership will motivate you. If you value freedom and autonomy, doing things that will give you a sense of freedom and autonomy will motivate you- and sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war.
What does that mean? It means that sometimes we may do something we don’t want to do- that ultimately gets us what we want in the end. So no, going to your job may not feel like it’s contributing to your sense of freedom and autonomy, but it is funding your small business which could give you that sense of freedom and autonomy if you keep working at it.
What is Intrinsic Motivation?
Intrinsic motivation. We’ve all heard of this at some point, right? But what is it?
Intrinsic motivation is when you are internally motivated rather than externally motivated. It is the act of doing something without any obvious external rewards. That looks like “I’m waking up at 6am to work out because I said I would do it and it needs to be done” or reading a book because you enjoy reading, rather than doing it because you have to write a report.
Richard Ryan, a then clinical graduate student, and Edward Deci PhD can be seen as the founders of intrinsic motivation through their Self-Determination Theory of motivation that demonstrates that there are two forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. According to them, extrinsic motivation is motivation stemming from external forces and results in external rewards. For this, think about your external motivation- admiration, accolades, etc.
As far as intrinsic motivation is concerned, Ryan and Deci state that intrinsic motivation comes from within. This kind of internal motivation can come from our core values, interests, and sense of morality.
How to Get Motivation
This is the best question to ask because let’s face it, no one is in the mood all the time. So how do you get yourself in the mood to do what needs to be done?
First things first - do something to shift your energy. Why? Because you can’t make something different happen by using the same thinking used to create the dilemma. So, if you know you need to get up for work and you’re thinking, “but I’m sooooo tired…… I don’t even..”, then the first thing you need to do is find something that energizes you. Coffee, jumping-jacks, whatever. Why? Because we need to get you feeling un-tired so that you can get motivated and inspired to get up and go do what needs to be done.
“But I’m sooooo tired…… I don’t even LIKE this job..”, but it pays your bills and supports your small business that you do like.
Do you see how I’m finding ways that prove that ‘doing the thing’ will be beneficial in the long-run (which is what we want) and also detailing what will happen if we don’t do the thing (which would be something we don’t want)?
What typically stops you from performing? Are you not motivated to do certain things out of fear that it won’t be perfect, because you are too bored to act, afraid to make mistakes, or because you feel out of touch - like you’ve lost yourself?