What drives us to do — or try? When the project matters, or the task is challenging, our motivation can be the difference between success and failure. So what is motivation, where does it come from, how do we lose it, and how can we get it back?
Motivation – What It Is, Why It Matters
Motivation is the “why” for everything we do. Without motivation, we won't start, pursue, or finish anything. How do we stay motivated to do the things we need or want to do?
1. What is motivation?
Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It is what drives our behavior and explains what we do and why. Psychologists tell us that motivation has three components: “activation” (the decision to initiate a behavior), persistence (the continued effort toward an objective despite obstacles), and intensity (the focus and energy put into pursuing an objective. (Learn more about this in “What Is Motivation?”)
2. Why does it matter?
Motivation matters only if you want to do anything. As women, we want to accomplish a lot of things. In previous episodes we've talked about setting goals, and that's important, but without motivation, we won't achieve our goals. Motivation gets us started, and motivation keeps us going when we face challenges and obstacles. What we're motivated by can determine our level of success. For example, studies show that high achieving individuals are motivated by a strong desire to accomplish something important, which less accomplished people are motivated more by the desire to avoid failure. The former will attempt challenging and achievement-oriented goals, while the latter will avoid them. (Learn more in “How Do High Achievers Really Think?”)
3. Where does motivation come from?
There are psychological explanations for the roots of our motivations–instincts, biological needs, etc. Scientists categorize motivations as either extrinsic (coming from an outside source) or intrinsic (coming from within). Extrinsic motivators are things like trophies, money, praise, and social recognition, while intrinsic motivation is, for example, a sense of personal gratification, or a sense of purpose and meaning. Studies show that intrinsic motivation is more powerful and effective than extrinsic motivation. A fascinating TED Talk looks at some of these studies.
4. What kinds of things motivate you?
Psychologists identify and categorize motivations in lots of different ways, but I liked the categories outlined by the author of “Six Types of Motivation Explained“:
* Incentive – rewards like bonuses, promotions, and prizes
* Fear – of undesired consequences
* Achievement – a “drive for competency”
* Growth – the internal need for self-improvement
* Power – either control of our own destiny or control over other people
* Social – the need for connection, etc.
5. How do we lose our motivation?
When we lose our motivation to do the things we need or want to do, that lack of motivation might be caused by our goal seeming too out of reach, or because we're doing something we think should be worthwhile but don't feel good about, or because we don't see a clear connection between the effort we're putting forth and the results we want. We might be discouraged because it's so hard, and the obstacles seem too many. Sometimes we lack motivation because the task at hand isn't consistent with our core values.
6. How do we get it back?
It depends on why and how we lost it. The first step when we lack motivation to keep pursuing our goal? Revisit the why? Make sure our objectives are aligned with our most important values. Make a list of the benefits we can gain by persevering at the task.
A lot if it is about managing our mindset–looking at things from a positive perspective instead of focusing on the challenge or the downside. Create smaller mini-goals that lead in the direction of the big goal.
And we need to take care of ourselves physically. It's pretty difficult to strength to persevere if we're sick or exhausted.
Find more suggestions in “How to Effectively Overcome a Lack of Motivation.”
What do you think?
How do you motivate yourself to start–and continue–pursuing an important but challenging goal or task? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
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