19 Apr The Beginner’s Guide to Motivation
Motivation is a really interesting topic – some have it by the bucket load and others struggle with it. Most of us have the ability to build the initial motivation needed to begin working towards something, but sustaining it is another story. We all hit the wall at some point when that initial buzz wears off and if we’re not prepared mentally to fight through it, more often than not we fall back into bad habits.
Sustained motivation can be a difficult task, but once you understand how it works, it’s fairly simple. I wrote this piece to give people a practical guide of how motivation works and how to fight through the inevitable wall we each face to create sustained motivation.
The guide is based entirely off what works for me personally and is a big part of what I help people with. Learning how to sustain motivation took me years to figure out, but once I finally got there, my life has never been the same.
Like with everything I write, pick this apart, try different things and find what works for you.
PART ONE – THE BASICS OF MOTIVATION
What is Motivation?
Motivation derives from the word “motive” and is defined as “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way”. It’s the reason why you grab a glass of water – because you’re thirsty. When motivation is at a high level, we have really clear motives and reasons as to why we want to do something. When motivation is low, our reasons simply aren’t strong enough for us to take action.
The Difference Between Inspiration and Motivation
Inspiration by definition is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something” and is commonly confused with motivation.
At some point, we’ve all listened to that riveting talk, watched that inspiring movie or read that powerful book and have been left with the feeling where you don’t quite know what it is, but you just want to do something awesome – that my friend is inspiration, not motivation.
What we have just read, watched or listened to didn’t give us reasons to do something, it just stimulated us and created a desire to do something (I explain how you can use these to your benefit in part 2 below). Think of inspiration as the driving force and motivation as the pulling force.
“Inspiration gets you started, motivation keeps you going”
Different Types of Motivation
There are 3 basic types of motivation: Biological, Extrinsic (Social) and Intrinsic (Personal).
Biological Motivation – Our natural human drive to eat, drink, sleep, protect, reproduce etc. These are all about survival, if we don’t have these things we won’t survive – fairly self-explanatory.
Extrinsic Motivation – This is our drive for rewards, material items, status, recognition, reputation, fear of failure etc. They’re all related to how we are perceived externally. These aren’t necessarily bad and are good motivators used in the right context (who doesn’t like nice things), but when they are our primary motives, we are often left unsatisfied and wanting more.
Intrinsic Motivation – This is our drive for self-satisfaction and growth as human beings. Think passion, autonomy, mastery, purpose. These all have more meaning to us as individuals and help to sustain motivation when they are our primary motives.
Motivation in Business
Companies that still use extrinsic motivators e.g. fear tactics and $$ incentives (aka stick/carrot motivation) find it hard to retain employees because they are undesirable places to work. Especially when $ takes priority over the workplace culture and nobody wants to work in an environment they don’t feel comfortable in. People want more meaning from what they do and want to feel valued – it’s becoming less about the money.
Companies who pride themselves on having a culture that promotes intrinsic motivation are the most appealing workplaces and have no trouble retaining employees. Google, Patagonia and Zappos are all great examples of this and people fight to get a job there (Zappos actually pays their employees to quit – not joking).
The reason I’ve included business examples is because it’s the same concept with individuals: when intrinsic motives are at the forefront of why we do something, it means more to us and is naturally easier to commit to. It also helps us make lasting change because there is a bigger purpose than material rewards and how we are perceived externally.
PART TWO – CREATING MOTIVATION
I personally have a fairly simple method that I use to create my goals. I get a piece of paper and a pen, I remove all distractions and brainstorm until I figure it out – that’s it. I repeat this process and continue scheduling time to do this until I get there.
You’ll never figure out what you want to do until you invest the time to work it out. It’s going to be hard work, you’ve got to accept that. Even if it takes 40 cumulative hours of brainstorming (I guarantee it will be less), it’s worth it – just look at the alternative.
If you’re not a naturally driven person, I recommend starting small. Create a goal to build some new habits. If you’re already a somewhat motivated person, you’ll probably have some things you want to work towards.
Do what you have to set your goal(s), use the SMART goalsetting framework, use whatever you can find to get there. Most people have things they want to do. It doesn’t matter what it is, pick something. If you’re still struggling to come up with something, e-mail me and I am happy to help you personally.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”
– Helen Keller
What’s better than a goal? A clear one.
Athletes constantly talk about visualising their desired outcome before games and events – there’s a reason for this. Michael Jordan always took the last shot in his mind before he ever did it on the court. Think about it, if you can’t see yourself achieving your goal in your own mind, how do you think it will happen in real life?
Visualisation conditions your subconscious mind to believe that what you want to happen, will happen. You don’t have to spend hours visualising, just make a habit of envisioning yourself already achieving your goal no matter how big or small it may be. It’s going to be hard to see what the end result ever looks like if you never spend time clarifying your vision. The clearer the vision, the more it will pull you – especially when things get tough and you need to fight through the mundane tasks.
The cool thing about visualising yourself achieving your goal, is that your mind tries to simulate exactly what it will feel like when you get there – it actually produces the chemicals to replicate that future feeling just like a placebo effect.
If you take anything from this article, please let it be this section – I honestly believe it’s the key to achieving any difficult goal. It’s commonly referred to as having a clear why, I’ve begun to call it having clear reasons.
Having clear reasons is simply making ourselves aware of all of the benefits that will stem from achieving our goals before they actually happen. When things get tough, adversity strikes and temptations present themselves – if we don’t have clear reasons to help pull us through, we don’t have anything to fall back on. It all falls onto willpower which only lasts for so long.
It’s vital to have clear reasons for when the initial motivation and excitement of working towards a new goal wears off, tasks become mundane and you can’t see any immediate results. If all you have is the goal to pull you, you’re not even giving yourself a chance.
Here’s a simple example of the difference between having weak reasons and strong reasons for the same goal of clean eating when temptations present themselves.
If the only reason you’re doing it is to look good, how hard is that going to be to maintain when you’re faced with an opportunity to eat something you shouldn’t? One bad meal won’t do much damage?
Now imagine the same scenario but instead your reasons for eating clean are that it allows you to think clearer, you have more energy throughout the day, it helps to increase productivity and efficiency, you’ll live a longer, healthier life which is going to benefit all of your friends and family.
Which scenario is going to help you stay strong when you’re faced with inevitable temptations? This is a really simple example and might seem like common sense, but so many people neglect to do it. The more reasons you create and focus on, the more leverage you have. If the reasons you create are all intrinsic motivators, they’re only going to increase your chances of building sustained motivation.
This might seem too simple, but I promise you it works. If you want to increase your motivation? Get stronger reasons. This is honestly the best thing I have learnt in all my time studying personal development and once I began applying it to the goals that I had set for myself, it changed my life.
PART THREE – SUSTAINING MOTIVATION
Hitting The Wall
Only 8% of people who set a new year’s resolution actually achieve it. A primary reason for this is because they don’t mentally prepare themselves for the challenges they will face – I like to call this, hitting the wall. When trying to sustain motivation, it’s not always going to be easy. There are going to be times when you’ll want to give in. The best thing you can do is have a plan to handle these situations before they arise.
“Where the focus goes, energy flows”
– Wayne Dyer
When hitting the wall, if all you focus on is what you’re not allowed to have or do because of your goal, all your energy will be spent focusing on exactly that and trying to resist the urges and temptations to give in.
The key to sustaining motivation and fighting through this wall is being able to switch your focus when the tough times come and turning that process into a habit. When I hit the wall and negative thoughts creep into my mind, I immediately switch my focus to any of the following:
The reasons why I’m working towards my goal.
How I’ve already been successful in what I’m trying to achieve.
What I’m currently grateful for.
I actually say these things out loud, which can feel a bit strange at first, but I’ve found it to be hugely effective. If you can build this habit of switching your focus to positive thoughts as soon as tough times come and temptations present themselves, you’re going to make it a thousand times easier to stay strong.
Surround Yourself with Motivation
You are what you eat, drink, breathe and think. If you want to stay motivated, give yourself leverage and make it as easy as possible by surrounding yourself with it.
This is where the inspirational quotes, audio and video comes into play. Exposing yourself to inspirational and positive messages can really help you get into a state where you want to attack your goals. If your energy is low and you just need that extra boost, this works wonders. To make what may seem like insignificant and dull tasks easier to complete, I always listen to audio on my phone that instantly gets me in the zone.
Having quotes in places where you can see them is also beneficial, the more you see it, the more your mind will take the message in. Work out all the quotes, music, passages from books, speeches, videos that inspire you and find ways to consistently expose yourself to them.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
– Jim Rohn
Just like the messages you expose yourself to, the people you associate with are just as important. If you want to be fit and healthy, hang around people who are fit and healthy. If you want to be a successful at a particular profession, hang around people who are already a success in that profession. It’s relatively simple, if you don’t have anyone around you pushing you to become more, it’s only going to be harder to do it yourself. Associating with people who are motivated will make your life a thousand times easier.
Tell people what you intend on doing, you don’t have to announce it on Facebook, but tell people close to you so they will check up with you to see how you’re going. Find people who can help you out directly or people who have already achieved your goal before. You’ll be surprised at the amount of people who are willing to help if you just ask. Get an accountability partner or see if anyone else wants to do the same thing as you’re doing.
The best way to create personal accountability is to track your own progress. When we feel like we’re making progress, we’re happy and it encourages us to keep going. So finding a way to consistently expose yourself to this progress is really important. There are a tonne of different ways you can do this, from apps, notebooks, spreadsheets, wall charts – the key is to find something that works for you and is easy to maintain.
I love the feeling I get when I look at how many days I have done a habit in a row. Any progress is good progress, it doesn’t matter how small it might be, if you are moving towards your goal view that as success!
To create sustained motivation, you’ve got to put in the work. You can’t just expect to be motivated without putting in any effort, you need something to work towards. You don’t have to figure out your life purpose straight away, just get started – create some momentum and build upon that. The clearer you make your goals and reasons, the more motivated you will become.