Motivation (a few definitions):
(1) A psychological concept with no single universally accepted definition, but which organisational sociologists believe concerns the determinants of intent, effort and tenacity, factors that push or pull us as individuals to behave in a particular manner.
(2) Feelings that drive someone toward a particular objective.
(3) The push of the mental forces to accomplish an action. Unsatisfied needs motivate. On the biological level basic human needs of food, shelter and survival are powerful motivators. On the psychological level people need to be understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated. On the business level motivation occurs when people perceive a clear business reason for pursuing a transfer of knowledge or practices.
If you look up the word Motivation you’ll find many contrasting, and almost contradictory definitions of what it is (I found over fifty in five minutes).
It seems that even those who define it aren’t exactly sure what it is.
It is definitely (in my opinion anyway) the most over-used (and mis-understood) word on the personal development landscape.
We all kinda know what it is… but at the same time, we don’t.
It seems that motivation is (represented by) different things for different people.
I just asked someone (a random person in the gym) what their definition of motivation was and they said, “something which makes us do stuff”.
I said “well fear can make us do stuff… so is fear motivation?”
“Er yeh, guess so.”
“Well vanity makes us do stuff… so what about vanity as a motivator?”
“Yeh.. guess so.”
The reality is that we are motivated by many things.
And the same things.
But what we’re talking about in this post is the motivation that helps us create that forever change, that amazing life, that incredible body, that spectacular relationship, that new and improved reality… not the motivation that sees us standing in front of the fridge an hour after our dinner.
For many people, motivation is an emotional state which helps them get certain things done (for a while).
“I felt motivated to go for a run this morning.”
“That experience gave me the motivation (changed my thinking and emotional state) to create new habits.”
“Whenever I read Craig’s amazing, incredible, insightful, clever, witty, life-changing posts (okay, I over did it), I feel inspired and motivated to turn my life around.
The problem with motivation being (essentially) an emotional state (or a place we get to in our head) is that it’s temporary. And when the motivation disappears (which it will because our emotions and mental state fluctuate from day to day and moment to moment), then so do the new-found (desirable) behaviours.
In other words, we lose momentum.
We stop doing what we need to do to create the outcomes (realities) we so desperately desire.
For others, motivation is simply a reason to (have to) do something.
“I’ve gotta work ’cause I have five kids…. I’m not particularly excited about that… don’t love it… just needs to be done.”
“I exercise three times a week because I don’t want to die from a heart attack like my father did.”
The truth is that most of us alternate between can’t-be-bothered, kinda-motivated and totally-in-the-zone… for much of our lives. Many of us step in and out of ‘motivation’ on a daily (if not, hourly) basis.
“I can’t be bothered today” is a line I’ve heard thousands of times in my job.
“Do it anyway” I say.
“But I’m not motivated!”
“So do it… despite your lack of motivation.”
“Perhaps in the doing… you’ll get motivated!”
“It’s not normal… but it is possible.”
And the amazing thing about doing ‘stuff’, the stuff we know we should do (even when we’re not ‘motivated to do it’) is that once it’s done, we’re SO glad we did it (and we usually discover we actually are legitimately motivated after we’ve done it)… and then we also discover we’ve developed some new getting-crap-done-even-when-we-don’t-feel-like-it skills!
Good skills to have.
If we only do the things we need to do (to create our desired outcomes and achieve our goals) when we feel like it… then we’ll never achieve much because we’ll be perpetually starting and stopping.
After all, nobody feels motivated (excited, pumped, positive, focused, in-the-zone) permanently.
People who succeed are usually the ones who continue to do what they need to… even when their feeling of motivation isn’t there.
It is my (not particularly popular) opinion (based on a lifetime of observation) that most people who start most endeavours don’t finish them.
Great at starting; crap at finishing.
We don’t want to think that we’re like that.
We don’t want to acknowledge it.
But we are.
Many of us have a history of starting and stopping all kinds of projects and endeavours… might be academic stuff, might be some short-lived, self-improvement journey, might be a potential business or money-making venture, could be a diet or an exercise program or it could be dealing with (or not dealing with) some undesirable habit.
Or a million other things.
You know what they are (for you personally).
We start reading books, we get to chapter two.
We join a gym, we go four times.
We change our eating habits… for three days.
We plan our ‘new’ business venture…. for ten years!
We get pumped… we lose focus.
And while there are always a range of ‘reasons’ why we never finish what we start (some of them legitimate, some not), the truth is, we spend far too much time rationalising, explaining and justifying to ourselves and others why we never get the job done.
Motivation needs to be a commitment, a philosophy and a choice, not an emotional state.
I consider myself to be a highly-motivated person… but I often don’t ‘feel’ motivated.
I have made the choice to be a motivated individual.
I walk into a room (to do a presentation) and I have already made a commitment and a decision to be (personally) motivated and (publicly) motivating.
This is how it works for me:
(1) I choose to be motivated.
(2) I ‘behave’ motivated… even if I don’t ‘feel’ like it (body language, communication, energy, attitude).
(3) Usually within a short period of time I start to feel genuinely different (excited, positive, happier)
(4) Not only am I ‘behaving’ motivated but now I’m actually feeling motivated.
Tony Robbins calls this ‘changing state’.
It’s called different things by the various ‘experts’, but my experience is that if people genuinely make the effort to do this, it works. what a friend we have in jesus lyrics
Not everyone agrees with my thoughts on this subject.
I know what works for me and many others I’ve worked with, so I teach what I know to be true.
Some people believe I over-simplify complex issues.
I believe some people over-complicate simple issues.
Wanna be motivated?
Then behave like you’re motivated.
Talk like you’re motivated.
And make the decision to be motivated, irrespective of how you’re feeling.
Doesn’t mean you can’t have a bad day or be down… it simply means that most of the time, you’re doing what most people won’t.
Don’t make emotional (or reactive) decisions (when it comes to creating forever results).
Spur of the moment, reactive, emotion-based decisions rarely result in life-long change.
Make sure your motivation, your passion and your emotion are all attached to a sensible and logical plan which factors in the frailties of the human condition (that is, our ability to run hot and cold).
So while some people consider motivation to be something that’s almost beyond our control; we either have it, or we don’t (on a given day)…. I believe it’s something we (can) have complete control over.