How to Get and Stay Motivated
You’ve been struggling with this project for a while now and have suffered some challenges and setbacks but this latest difficulty is almost not worth overcoming. You’re at the end of your rope and all you’d really like to do is cope with a cheesy pizza, a drink, and a cigarette.
You’d like to open the windows of your office wide and let the blustery winds carry away all the paper work and stuff that you’ve been slaving over because you just can take it anymore! Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Tapping into a better understanding of motivation can help you stay the course.
We all have a different and vague definition of motivation, and many don’t really know what it means.
When you mention the word motivation some people might think of a person such as Tony Robbins or Abe Lincoln. Some people might think of a proverb or quote. Yet others might immediately think of song lyrics or a piece of poetry. Maybe you think of a hodge-podge of things that include all of the above and more. But do we really know and understand what motivation is, how to get it when we need it, and how to make sure it sticks around for a strong finish?
Not clearly understanding motivation means we have a hard time capturing it and applying it in our own lives.
When times get tough, as they inevitably will, well meaning friends and loved ones might try and offer you motivational advice or quotes to get you back on track. Sometimes when things are exceptionally challenging these may come across as shallow words and don’t offer much in the way of concrete motivational spark! This is unfortunate because these are the times that we really need that “pick me up” the most.
Better understanding of how motivation works and what specifically motivates you can give you more leverage during those challenging times when it is really tempting to throw your hands up in the air and cry, “I quit!”
Clearly understand what motivation is and isn’t. Then, take it a step further and ask yourself, how can I apply that to me so that I can harness the power of motivation when I need it?
The definitions of motivation and to motivate might be more simple than you imagined.
Motivate: To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.
Motivation: The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way or the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
As you can see, they are literal and dry. Much to my dismay, they don’t have the Rocky Soundtrack on a loop in the background, and they certainly don’t stir up much of an emotional response. However we know from personal experience that motivation feels much differently when it is in fact experienced in the real world than these two definitions convey.
“For example, it is common knowledge that if a person is engaged in an activity that is interesting, engrossing, and involving, and the person is oblivious to all else, then motivation is high. Intensity, persistence, and other indicators of motivation will thereby be augmented.” — Sandra Graham & Bernard Weiner
Psychologists, scientists, educators, and many other industries have spent years studying motivation — what it is and how it works. Many different theories of motivation have come as a result.
One popular theory is that behavior is a function of drive multiplied by habit. Another theory suggests that behavior is a function of both the person and the environment that is specifically influenced by 3 factors:
- The tension or magnitude of need (hunger for example),
- The properties of the goal (Which will satisfy my hunger? A steak or a salad?),
- The psychological distance one is from the goal (There is a salad in my fridge but I need to go to the grocery store if I want steak).
“Both theories agree that what determines motivated behavior are: needs of the person (drive or tension), properties of the goal object (incentives), and a directional variable (habit or psychological distance).” — Sandra Graham & Bernard Weiner
The four laws of motivation.
Better understanding how to get and stay motivated also lies in knowing the 4 laws of motivation.
Law #1 Everyone is motivated differently.
Law #2 Each individual has a unique and distinct motivational “type”.
Law #3 What motivates one person can de-motivate another.
Law #4 No one motivational type is better than another.
Better understanding your motivation “type” lies in uncovering your preferences in the following categories.
Drives are the internal forces that mobilize a person to act. People are usually driven to act because they desire connection or because they desire production. If you would define yourself as a competitive person you are likely most motivated by production. If you prefer cooperation to competition, conversely, you are motivated by connection.
Needs are the core requirements that a person must have in order to feel fulfilled. Some people are more strongly motivated by stability and yet others variety. Constancy vs change.
Awards are the preferred remunerations that a person desires for achievement; the material, spiritual, and psychological currency that they want to be paid for performance. These are usually categorized as either internal awards or external awards. Do you prefer a monetary bonus for an outstanding job or would you prefer private recognition?
It is important to note that almost everyone is some blend of all of the above categories, but the key to making sense of it all lies in specific situations. For example, when we are at home with our family we might see that our behavior tends to be motivated by connection, stability, and private recognition; at work we might be more motivated by production, change, and monetary bonuses.
How to get motivated and stay motivated.
Here are a few questions and resources that you can turn to so that you can better understand your motivational type and what to do the next time your big goal or project is threatened by a lack of motivation.
- Take an online quiz to better understand your own motivation: a. How Self Motivated Are You? b. What is You Motivational Profile?
- Think about what has helped you and/or motivated you in past challenges? Was it a phone call to a friend or a loved one? An exercise routine? A YouTube video?
- Create a motivational resources folder that includes things that specifically motivate you such as songs, poetry, photos, client testimonials. Refer to this when you need an extra push to stay the course!
- Create a motivational plan that you can refer to when things are lagging. This plan can include benchmarks to help you recognize that your motivation has fallen below its standard level as well as specific action steps that you will take when threatened with the alternative of giving up.
How do you apply motivation in your life that helps to keep you “on fire”?