Your Motivation

Motivation is the energy and drive to do things. It's the difference between waking up early and going to the gym or turning over and having a duvet day. It is the inner energy, thought or vision that makes you act. You do things for a purpose and when this purpose leads us to put energy and determination into our actions it is our motivation at work.

People don’t think about their motivation much unless when there is something to change or a goal which they want to achieve. Motivation is different from wanting something because people can want different things but motivation is their drive to put energy into achieving what they want. For example, I might want the physique and fitness of an athlete but my motivation to achieve that may be very low- in which case I am very unlikely to achieve it. Wanting something helps but it is not enough to make it happen; your chances of achieving what you want is not measured by how much you want it but by how motivated you are to achieve it.

This energy and drive to achieve something which we call motivation has got separate elements which make it up:
  • What is the goal or the aim?
  • What are the steps which are needed to achieve this goal?
  • What amount of time is necessary to do the things which will take me in the direction of the goal?
  • What amount of effort is required in order to achieve your goal?
  • Are you willing to be persistent with the time and effort required?

These ingredients make up my motivation to get to where I want to get to:

1. Do I know why I want this outcome?
Take time to be clear to yourself why you want to achieve this outcome:
a very simple way to think about it is: Either I want to move away from something I no longer want or Where I am is fine but I really want to have this outcome. Write it down in order to clarify your own thinking and to give you more clarity

2. Do I know what the goal or the outcome I want is?
Try to be as specific as you can in terms of the thing you are aiming for: the more precise you can be the more likely you are to hit the target. If you are vague about the achievement it is very hard to become inspired. Having a clear vision of the end result is a big plus.

3. Do you know what steps to take to begin?
Now if you know why you want to change and you know what the ultimate goal is it is time to work out if you have all the knowledge, wisdom and guidance that is available. If you are trying to prepare for a marathon or become qualified in a new career or even get out of an unhealthy relationship, people have been down a similar path and there is a lot which you can learn about all the steps and pitfalls.

4. Do you have the time that it will take?
If you are even thinking about “motivation” then the outcome you are aiming for will be a bit of a stretch for you and it will take time to achieve. Can you find that time?

Can you protect that time and ring-fence it? It is important to be realistic about this and do not simply think “I will somehow find the time”. You need to be willing to prioritise this so that you don’t end up giving away the time to others

5. Do you have the energy it will take?
If your aim was easy to achieve it would not need planning and thinking about; so it is going to require some effort to make it happen. If you are planning on doing a course or getting fit or making a change in your lifestyle then you will need to work at it. As we all know, many people who join a gym start off with good intentions but then other things happen and bit-by-bit other things get in the way and so they no longer sustain the effort. It is a challenge for everybody to sustain effort so build in some support for yourself to help you when you are tempted to let things slip. Enlist a friend to support you, tell others what you are doing so that when you are tempted to “have a rest” they can encourage you.

6. Are you determined to make this happen?
Believe in yourself! Visualise what things will be like when you reach this goal!

Think about it in detail; what will you be like, what will you feel, what will be different?
Visualise yourself waking up the day after you have achieved your aim and as you lie in bed what will it be like?It is your life and you have the power to achieve, you have the ability to be the person you want to become.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory says that needs drive motivation. When we have a basic survival need, we eat and take steps to protect ourselves. Most people in the western world don’t need to do that much though, so Maslow also says that there are “higher needs” like education and self-fulfilment that drive us. And sometimes when we have met these needs, we lack the motivation to do more. So, if you have already achieved many of your goals, have a good life and feel pretty fulfilled, you may lack well lack the motivation to achieve other things. Some of the things on your list may not be achievable right now and putting them all together on one list, usually with challenging timescales, might just be adding to the problem, de-motivating and causing you to give up. So this leads us to the first key strategy for getting motivated and sustaining your motivation.

Ruthless List Management
However you do your life lists, be ruthless about what is on them. Take a long hard look at the things you want to do or things that need doing. Ask yourself if every point is absolutely necessary and within your control. Categorise your list into "must do", "might do" and "maybe if I have time".

Then look at your list again. In the “must do” category, consider how balanced it is with mundane items and good things. If your list is over-balanced with mundane things, and just by looking at it, it makes you miserable, no wonder you are having problems. This is because humans are programmed towards good feelings. Things on your list that you believe should be done, or ought to be done, could well be creating negative feelings, so you back away from it. So the list becomes a burden that makes you feel bad because it’s there, and because you can’t get enough positive motivation to do it.

Take Control of your "to do" list
We all know that there are some things we need to do that are mundane. However when your life list is full of these items, reconsider if they are really necessary. With each item, ask yourself if you want to do it, or if you believe you should or ought, to do it. If the latter words or something similar crops up, then ask yourself who says that you need to do these things. An easy example of the type of things that can crop up are tidying a messy cupboard, or calling a long-forgotten friend.

These types of things can be on your list because you believe you’d be a better person in some way if you did them, but by loading yourself with things you believe you ought to do, you can forget the things, and the people, that really matter. Some items on your list might be things you imagine others would encourage you to do, like being tidy.

So if you have things on your list that you believe you should do, give them the ‘should’ or ‘ought’ test, and if inside yourself you have a sense you don’t really want to do them, let them go. Take control of what you believe is important to you. With a bit of practice, this can be very liberating. Then you end up with a list of key things that you want to do or really believed need doing, because they are important to the maintenance of your life.

Bring the future to now
Make some quiet time. Close your eyes, and have a sense of you doing the things you have decided it important. Imagine you being motivated. Notice in the future one thing about yourself that is making you motivated: a feeling, a thought, whatever it is for you. Really focus on this. Everyone is different, so it could be a way of doing things, setting realistic timescales, or just a feeling of being in control. See it, think it or feel it.