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  • Writer's pictureAnda Bolojan

How to Find Your Motivation

Motivation plays a role in almost everything we do. From getting out of bed in the morning to tackling a chore to going after a new role at work, it’s ultimately that underlying sense of motivation that drives us from beginning to completion of any task that life throws our way.

And while motivation is what pushes us to make things happen, staying motivated isn’t always easy.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common roadblocks that might interfere with our motivation and will outline actionable ways that we all can find and harness it, even when we’re really struggling to do so.

You can do it

Types of Motivation

Why do we do the things we do? What drives our behavior? Psychologists have proposed different ways of thinking about motivation, including looking at whether motivation arises from outside (extrinsic) or inside (intrinsic) an individual.

Researchers have found that each type has a different effect on a person's behavior and pursuit of goals. Let’s learn how each type works.

1. Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards or consequences. These rewards can be tangible, such as money or grades, or intangible, such as praise or fame.

People who are extrinsically motivated will continue to perform a task even though it might not be in and of itself rewarding. For example, they will do something at their job that they don't find enjoyable in order to earn a wage.

Sometimes, the external reward may be avoiding punishment or a negative outcome. For example, someone may engage in a behavior to avoid being shamed or judged, or to avoid being assessed a fine.

Extrinsic motivation is not a bad thing itself. But it's important to look at the specific situation to determine if extrinsic rewards might help motivate behavior or not.

Below are some example scenarios when extrinsic rewards may be most effective:

  • When people have little interest in the activity

  • When people lack the skills to get started

  • When a short-term motivator for a specific purpose is needed

  • When people are working on a long-term project and need small incentives to keep them going

In these situations, the rewards should be kept small and should be tied directly to performing a specific behavior. Once some intrinsic interest has been generated and some essential skills have been established, the external motivators should be slowly phased out, as offering excessive rewards can actually lead to a decrease in motivation over the long term.

Extrinsic motivation

2. Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within because it is naturally satisfying to you.

Of course, that isn't to say that intrinsically motivated behaviors do not come with their own rewards. Activities can generate such feelings when they give you a sense of meaning, like participating in volunteer events. They may also give you a sense of progress when you see that your work is accomplishing something positive, or competence when you learn something new or become more skilled at a task.

Even if, in work settings, productivity can be increased by using extrinsic rewards such as a bonus, the actual quality of the work performed is influenced by intrinsic factors. And that’s because if you are doing something that you find rewarding, interesting, and challenging, you are more likely to come up with novel ideas and creative solutions. And who wouldn’t want that, right?

So the researchers have come up with a couple of factors that will help you increase your intrinsic motivation:

  • Challenge: People are more motivated when they pursue goals with personal meaning and when attaining the goal is possible but not necessarily certain. These goals may also relate to their self-esteem when performance feedback is available.

  • Control: People want control over themselves and their environments and want to determine what they pursue.

  • Cooperation and competition: Intrinsic motivation can be increased in situations where people gain satisfaction from helping others. It also applies to cases where they can compare their performance favorably to that of others.

  • Curiosity: Internal motivation is increased when something in the physical environment grabs the individual's attention (sensory curiosity). It also occurs when something about the activity stimulates the person to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity).

  • Recognition: People enjoy having their accomplishments recognized by others, which can increase internal motivation.

It’s your turn to realize your own intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and use them to your advantage.

Intrinsic motivation

The Bond Between Action and Motivation

As Mark Manson has put it:

„Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.”

As you already know, most people only commit to action when they feel a certain level of motivation, driven by some kind of emotion, either positive or negative. For example, you feel motivated to study for the exam only when you begin to be afraid of the consequences. Or you pick up and learn that instrument only when you imagine the people that you’ll have the chance to play for and feel inspired by your vision.

And we’ve all done this before, thinking about the motivation process as something that looks something like this:

Inspiration → Motivation → Action

But there’s a problem with operating under this framework. First of all, because there’s a chance we’ll wait for that motivation for the rest of our lives, and second of all, because often the changes we most need in our lives are inspired by negative emotions that simultaneously prevent us from taking action, leading to procrastination.

So how we can escape this cycle?

The “Do Something” Principle to Find Your Motivation

This principle is quite simple to remember and very powerful to apply. The author Mark Manson first wrote about it in 2011 in a blog post, before talking about it in his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”.

It is called the “do something” principle, and it looks something like this:

Action → Inspiration → Motivation

And this is actually not only a three-part chain but more like an endless loop. Your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your future actions.

The conclusion is that if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, all you have to do is do something, anything really, and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.

Because what Mark Manson found was that once people did something, even the smallest of actions, it would soon give them the inspiration and motivation to do something else. They had sent a signal to themselves, “Ok, I did that, I guess I can do more.”

You can’t control when the next hint of inspiration hits you. But you can always control your actions. So just do it. Do one small action. It will activate the loop of inspiration and motivation, setting you in motion to success.

"Do something" principle

Last but not least

At the end of the day, as each of us is different, so is the motivation that we all aspire to in order to stay productive.

But the first step that you can take for igniting a change is to identify your poor habits and patterns and eliminate as much as you can every single thing that you consider to be a distraction from your goals.

Second, as we discussed at the beginning, it’s important to have an introspection and find those intrinsic motivators, so you can start to use them to your advantage. Then, as you begin to know yourself better, you can start to develop rituals that will ease the process and get you started in the right direction.

Lastly, if you find it very difficult to begin this process, try to find the real reasons that live behind your lack of commitment and motivation. To do that, you might have to not only face, but actually embrace some uncomfortable emotions.

“Rather than turning away from discomfort, you turn towards it as a source of motivation itself”.



The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” - Mark Manson

The 5 Second Rule - Mel Robbins

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey



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