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What if you had the motivation?

Are you putting things off, waiting for motivation to strike? Where does motivation come from and why does it wear off?

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I was once told that motivation is a door that is locked from the inside. In other words, only you can unlock it. No-one else can motivate you. All that other people can do is help create an environment where you can motivate yourself. So how can you find the key?

Motivation comes in two types.

Intrinsic motivation

This is when we are motivated to something because we want to. It’s all the things we love to do and give us a sense of achievement. whether you love going to the gym, fishing, or painting, if you do whatever you can to make time for it and feel frustrated when you can’t do it, then you are intrinsically motivated. The drive comes from the inside.

Some people are lucky enough to feel this way about their job. It’s said that if you love your job, you’ll never work another day. That’s because it doesn’t feel like work if you love what you do. You would even carry on doing it even if you won the lottery.

Extrinsic motivation

The other type of motivation is when you do something because you have to. It might be to get paid, or to hit a target or to avoid the consequences of not doing it. If you hate going to the gym but do it because you know think you should, or if you play an instrument because your parents are making you do it. This is called extrinsic motivation. The drive comes from external factors.

If someone asked you why you go to work it may well be an automatic response to say ‘to get paid’ and it may well be that you don’t do the sort of job that you would do for nothing if you had a choice. But, if at least some of your motivation to do your job is because you enjoy it, you are far more likely to have job satisfaction than if you are only doing it for the money.

This is why we can find more motivation for a huge goal that we have set for ourselves than when we are given a goal or a target at work.

How would you feel if your boss told you that you had to take part in the office 5 k run? Horrified? And yet thousands of totally unfit people sign up for marathons and put in all the training because they have decided to do it for themselves.

In a study “The surprising truth about motivation” by Dan Pink.  He identifies the three biggest drivers for motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose.

Autonomy – Being able to make decisions for yourself.  How much autonomy do you have at work? How could you get more?

Mastery – Our desire to get better and to learn. When we enjoy doing something, we want to get better at it. This is why we are happy dedicate time and to practice our hobbies and interests, whether it is going for a run at five in the morning or working on a crafting project late into the night.

Purpose – Everything we do we do for a reason. When we have a sense of our purpose, it is easier to find the motivation as it is working towards a goal. For example, your purpose might be about providing for your family, so even though you may not like your job, you are still highly motivated to do it because it is achieving your purpose.

What’s next?

If you set a goal but are not feeling motivated think about why you want to achieve it.

Is it a goal that you have set for yourself because you want to do it or are you doing it because you feel you have to?

Are you doing it for a greater purpose?

Here is an example. Take the target of running a marathon. Which of these types of motivation might make you put your trainers on?

  Intrinsic Extrinsic 
Autonomy I have always wanted to do this, so I am going to make the time to do this for me. My friend signed me up to do it and now I feel I can’t say no. 
Mastery I’m excited to improve my nutrition, endurance, and speed. I have to be able to complete it in under 5 hours to feel it is an achievement. 
Purpose I will feel proud of my achievement and it will help me to be healthy and fit. I’m doing it to raise money for a charity. It will feel worth it when I see what I have achieved. 

All of them can work, it is just a bit easier when your source of motivation is one of the intrinsic ones. No matter which one is driving you there will still be days when it is cold and wet, and you would rather stay in bed. The clearer you can be about why are doing it the easier it will be to access your motivation.

Think about your goal and see how many types of motivation you can identify. The more you have the more chance you will be able to find it when you need it.

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