Have you ever struggled to achieve something that you really wanted? Chosen a goal for your life and then found it really difficult to do what you needed to do to achieve it? If you’ve ever experienced these types of frustration, then you know how difficult it can be to find motivation, even for the goals that are important to you.
Motivation is a hot topic in personal development circles, mostly because it’s so hard to find sometimes. And yet it’s an essential element in goal achievement, in productivity, and in leading a life that’s exciting and fulfilling.
Are there any dreams you have that you try not to think about let alone work towards? Do you find it difficult to achieve what you really want in your life? Do you find yourself making excuses why you can’t do the things that will help you reach your goals? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably need to work on your motivation.
What is Motivation?
Motivation is the drive to do something. It’s the force that pushes you to get up in the morning and go for a run before work. It’s the reason you push away your dessert and it’s why you keep doing something, day after day, so that you eventually achieve something that you really want. Put simply, motivation gives you the ability to turn a desire into results.
Motivation can be internal or external and it gives you the energy to take action. Without motivation you might have dreams, but you will find it extremely difficult to do the hard work that leads to those dreams. Wanting something may be enough to push you to start making changes that will lead to those dreams, but it isn’t enough to keep you working once the initial excitement has worn off.
The Benefits of Motivation
There are a number of benefits to finding and building motivation including the following:
Motivation is one of the keys to achieving your goals thought it isn’t the only factor by any means. There are lots of factors that will determine your ability to reach your goals, some of them within your control and others that aren’t. But focusing on building and maintaining your motivation is a vital step that compels you to actually take action towards your goals, rather than just sitting back and dreaming about them.
How satisfied do you think you would be with your life if you never achieved anything? If you stayed in the same place for your whole life and never had anything different or better? And at the end of your life, how proud do you think you would be if you looked back and saw only dead dreams and wasted opportunities? Everybody wants to achieve things, have things, or be things. And usually they have to work for them and fight for them. This is almost impossible to do if you don’t have any motivation or drive to keep you going when things get tough.
Success in business and in life
Do you think that anyone rises to the top by accident? That one day they were sitting doing nothing and the next they were rich and famous and respected? If there are people like that out there, you can be sure that they didn’t get that way for any reason that most people would want to emulate. So if you want to be great, if you want to achieve great things and be the person that you dream of being, you need to get motivated to put in the work. And when you do, you will enjoy the kind of career and life success that fits with your dreams and goals.
If you can get motivated and achieve those things you always wanted, don’t you think that you would enjoy your life more? Do you think it will bring things into your life that bring you happiness and joy? Happiness can be a complicated thing, but a big part of it is feeling as if you’re making progress in your life. And to do that, you need lots of motivation.
Why Can’t you Stay Motivated?
There are a number of reasons why you might be struggling with your motivation including the following:
Sometimes there are real reasons why people can’t achieve their goals. Perhaps they just don’t have the money, have very little time, or have a physical illness that prevents them from taking action. Being optimistic and being determined can’t overcome everything. And if you’re confronted with a valid obstacle perhaps it’s time you re-thought your goals rather than punishing yourself for something that can’t be changed.
This is a serious problem, and if you suffer from a chronic lack of motivation in every aspect of your life it might be worth making an appointment with your doctor and investigating this possibility.
You’re too focused on long-term goals
It’s good to have long term goals, because then you know where you’re ultimately going. But these types of goals aren’t very motivating because they’re too far in the future. Make sure you balance them with short term goals, things you can achieve fairly soon and be rewarded for. After all, there’s nothing more motivating than success!
You don’t really want it
Sometimes we set goals for the wrong reasons. We set them because we think we should achieve them, because someone else says we should, or because it’s the goal we’ve always said we’d achieve. But lives and people change, and if you’re struggling with your motivation it can help if you look at your goals and ask yourself if you really want them and why. And if you don’t want them, you can just let them go and move on to the next part of your life.
Lack of support
Humans are social creatures who are used to doing things in groups and this applies to achieving your goals as much as it applies to any other part of your life. This doesn’t mean that you have to convince someone else to take on your goals, but telling the people around you about your efforts and asking them to hold you accountable can be one of the best motivation boosters out there. When you know someone is watching, you’re much more likely to behave better and to fulfill your promises.
Positive and Negative Motivation
At the most basic level, motivation is always be positive or negative. Positive motivation is when your behavior is driven by the idea of getting a reward at the end of the process. When you’re driven by the desire to avoid a bad result it’s an example of negative motivation. Both of these obviously occur naturally. If you achieve a business goal you might get a raise, your boss might throw a party in your honor or give you a promotion. The idea of these kinds of rewards is very motivating when you’re working towards your business goals. On the opposite side, if you’re worried about losing your business, that fear and uncertainty can be very motivating as well.
Positive Motivation vs Negative Motivation
There is some debate about which type of motivation is most effective. Positive motivation can be very effective because it satisfies the pleasure seeking part of the human brain. The reward system in the human brain is linked to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is strongly linked to motivation. When your brain releases dopamine in response to a pleasurable situation, you experience strong feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. It’s an internal, chemical reward for your efforts and achievements.
However, there’s also a problem with this system when it comes to motivation. Over time, it takes more and bigger rewards to get that same level of pleasure. Your brain basically becomes desensitized to the release of dopamine, and so you need more and more to feel good. This can present a major problem if you’re always using positive rewards to motivate you, because eventually the achievements just won’t feel as good.
In contrast, negative motivation can be highly effective and doesn’t carry this problem. No matter how many times you’ve experienced pain, you will always try to avoid it in the future. That’s why this is a type of motivation that works most of the time. Studies have also shown that it can be highly effective at motivating good work behaviors. However, it’s also markedly unpleasant. If you want to enjoy your life and your achievements, does it help if you’re constantly dwelling on all the bad things that could happen?
This debate is ongoing and the only thing that seems certain is that both negative and positive motivation are powerful motivators. That’s why you should learn how to use them, singularly and in concert, to push you towards the things you want.
Theories of Motivation
There are two different types of motivation that you need to be aware of. The first is extrinsic motivation. This is external motivation, such as the promise of a cash bonus or a work promotion. It’s an external reward for good behavior. This type of motivation may feel good at the time, but it’s not very good for motivating long term behavioral change because your actions are motivated by the reward rather than the internal desire for change. As a result, people who use extrinsic motivation techniques often find themselves slipping back into old habits once they’ve achieved the desired reward. This type of motivation should be used sparingly in your life and only for short term goals that don’t require long term changes.
If you’re intrinsically motivated it means that you do things because an internal urge drives you to do them. You do them because they’re satisfying to you in some way, make you feel good, or satisfy a deep need. This type of motivation is a little more difficult to find and to cultivate. After all, it can be difficult to find satisfaction in paying your bills or running when it’s cold and wet outside. This type of motivation is highly individualized as well. There’s no point in you trying to copy someone else’s intrinsic motivation, it has to come from your values and your internal needs and wants.
Some examples of intrinsic motivations include:
- The desire to be competent
- A sense of progress in your life or work
- Basic needs such as food, shelter and love
- The sense of choice
- A sense of meaning in your life
Motivation vs Self-Control
You will never be motivated all the time. Motivation flows and ebbs and usually vanishes just when you need it. This is normal, but it can play havoc with your goals and with your life. Which is why you need to rely on other factors such as self-control and self-discipline to ensure that you control your bad behaviors and continue the positive ones over the long term.
Self-control is very simple in theory, but more difficult in practice. At its most basic, it’s the ability to say no to yourself. No to behaviors you want to leave behind, no to the bad ideas and paths that you feel compelled to follow. If you can’t say no to yourself, or if you say no and soon find yourself doing it anyway, you will never have the kind of success that you want.
Learning this skill meant setting habits that lead to the goals and achievements you want and doing them no matter what. It means building your discipline so that you don’t even consider skipping or dropping a habit. And it means practicing self-control every day until you don’t even have to think about whether you’ll work towards your goals or not, you just do it.
In Favor Of Self-Control
When you look at people who are motivated and have a lot of self-control, those who manage to run every day or eat spinach regularly, you might think that they’re unhappy people. It can look that way, as if a lot of motivation and self-control equals boredom and unhappiness. But that just isn’t true.
In fact, studies show that people who have a lot of self-control tend to be happier in their lives overall because they have fewer questions and dilemmas in their lives. The practices that are linked with self-control also eliminate many of the choices and options that most people struggle with, making their lives simpler and easier. And as an added bonus, people with more self-control are more likely to achieve their goals and dreams as well, which just adds to their overall happiness.
How to Build Self Control
Building self-control is fairly simple but it isn’t easy. It means doing what you say you’re doing to do. It means setting goals and working towards them no matter what. And most of all it means learning to overcome the obstacles that life puts in your path and repeating good behaviors until they become a solid part of your life.
If you want more self-control, then you need to work on it. The following tips will allow you to build your self-control, and it will benefit your life overall as well.
- Accept that you will struggle, because denying it only uses more energy.
- Distract yourself from whatever it is that you’re trying not to do, this is far more efficient than gritting your teeth and trying to wait out the feeling.
- Set concrete goals that define what you’re trying to control. So if you want to control your laziness, set a concrete exercise goal.
- Don’t blame other people or the world for your failures. In the end, the only one who can control your behavior is you.
- Control your environment to help you achieve your goal. So if you want to control yourself around food, remove the food that you like to binge on. And no late night runs to the store either.
- Make the new behavior fun when you can. If you hate to exercise, download a favorite podcast and listen to it only when you exercise. This will give you a concrete and immediate reward for the behavior you want.
- Evaluate your efforts regularly. This will help you identify the strategies that work as well as the ones that you should stop using.
Motivation for starting out
Often, starting a new project or a new goal can be the most difficult part of the process. You may write down your goal and then close the book and ‘forget’ about it for the new month or so. This doesn’t help your business or life success and it doesn’t help your sense of self-mastery or motivation for the future. That’s why you need to build your motivation from the very start of your project. This will help you take that first step towards the changes you want to make.
If you’re looking for motivation at the start of a project, the following ideas will help: Visualize the outcome you want. If you know where you’re headed, it can be easier to take that first step.
You won’t always feel motivated. That’s a fact of life. You will have days when it’s too difficult to get out of bed let alone to motivate yourself to achieve a goal that doesn’t seem as important as the idea of taking a nap. These are the days when you will fight for every moment of work that you do on your goals, if you do any work at all. When you find yourself at this stage, there are a number of things that can help.
Promise yourself a reward.
This strategy won’t always work, and it can reduce your long term motivation. But sometimes the only thing that gets you moving is knowing there’s something nice at the end of it.
Think about the end result
Sometimes, when we don’t feel motivated, it’s because we’re thinking about how hard the work is or will be. Try to shift your focus and spend a few minutes thinking about the end result. This can give your mood and your motivation a boost.
Control your emotions
Just because your emotions are telling you negative things, it doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Emotions can and will change, and learning to change them consciously will improve your overall mood and help you feel better about the work that you have to do.
Evaluate your progress.
Sometimes when you feel unmotivated it’s because you feel as if you aren’t making progress. This is particularly true when you have a project that’s really long term. To overcome this feeling, do a quick progress report. If your goal is physical, look at how much weight you’ve lost, how far you can run now compared to when you started, or how much better you feel. Getting feedback like this can really motivate you to keep going on your journey.
Moving From Motivation to Habit
There’s a lot of talk about the problems with motivation and they’re mostly correct. Motivation comes and goes, and usually it goes just when you need it the most. This is why, if you really want to succeed, you need to build good habits around your goals so you don’t actually need motivation to take action towards them. But this doesn’t mean that you don’t need motivation at all.
Like anything else, motivation is a tool that you can use at different times. Even when you have good habits and perform them automatically most days, you will probably still have days when you procrastinate and resist. On these days, you will need a different tool than the tools associated with creating habits, you will need motivation. And when you have a new goal in mind, and have to set up your habits, you will need motivation again. Which is why, even if you already have great habits, you still need to sharpen your motivation tool because you will definitely need it at some point in the future.
If you want to build a happy and fulfilling life, achieving your goals and dreams is the best way to start. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment, of control, and it will ensure that you always have something to strive for, something to dream about. There are countless ways to motivate yourself to achieve your goals, and the truth is that all of them work sometimes. Every individual and every situation is different, and what works for one goal might not work for another. That’s why you need to look for techniques that work for you and for your life situation. If you treat motivation as an ongoing journey, and continually work on it, you’ll be sure to achieve more than you ever dreamed of when you started out.
Have you ever struggled with motivation? Share with us what helped you motivate yourself in the comments below.