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5 Ways To Think Differently About Motivation When Setting 2016 Goals

5 Ways To Think Differently About Motivation When Setting 2016 Goals

When we are hungry, cold, or feel in danger, we have no trouble finding the “motivation” to eat, stay warm, or get somewhere safe. But when we’re faced with choosing the kale salad over the cheeseburger or waking up 30 minutes earlier to hit the gym, we suddenly find ourselves searching for the “motivation” to make it happen.

According to Abraham Maslow, once basic needs such as food, water, and safety are satisfied, humans are naturally motivated to embark on an ongoing quest to reach our full potential.

So is it really the problem of lack of motivation? Or are we just having trouble following through?

Often the problem is our misguided concept of motivation itself.

Here are five ways to think about motivation differently.

You’re motivated but resources are limited

If you’re thinking seriously about making a behavioral change, lack of motivation isn’t the reason you’re stuck in “trying to get traction” mode. According to social scientist BJ Fogg, the problem is more likely related to a lack of “ability.”

No, Fogg is not suggesting you’re incapable of change. His theory is that we all experience, to varying degrees, scarcity in resources such as time, money, and skills, and that scarcity can interfere with our ability to accomplish even what we are plenty motivated to achieve.

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According to Fogg’s behavior model, you have two options: You can try to get more of the resource you’re lacking (easier said than done) or you can scale down the behavior to match the resource you do have (more practical). Want to start meditating but can’t find the 30 minutes to spare? Start with 5 minutes. Want to get fit but have no idea where to start? Hire a coach to set you up with a 10-minute workout plan.

Motivation isn’t constant

Motivation waxes and wanes. Be ready with options.

In the throes of inspiration, we often set ambitious schedules that seem entirely doable to our highly motivated selves. I’m going to take four yoga classes a week! Starting today, I’m going to take three deep breaths every time I get mad at my kids!

But the minute we fail to meet these high expectations, we throw in the towel. Eh, I don’t feel like yoga today, so forget yoga.

What we forget is that motivation isn’t constant. Sometime you’re just not feeling it, so it’s important to build in daily options to harness your “motivation wave,” the daily or even hourly fluctuations in motivation that Dr. Fogg describes.

MotivationChart

    BJ Fogg’s Motivation Wave

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    The idea is to take a more challenging path when you are feeling inspired and an easier route when motivation is waning.

    Let’s say your goal is to write a page in your journal every night before bed. You get home late from an event one night and just want to roll into bed — your motivation wave is hitting bottom. Instead of blowing off your new habit completely, make it easier for yourself and just write down one sentence or one thing you’re grateful for.

    External rewards and fear can motivate. But only temporarily

    Have you ever had a flash of motivation upon learning a sobering new fact? Maybe you read that excessive sitting can lead to diabetes, so you suddenly bolt out of your chair every hour. Or your company launches a “biggest loser” competition with cool prizes, so you start skipping meals in an attempt to drop 10 pounds fast.

    Your mission succeeds — for a few days.

    Fact is, change inspired by fear or external rewards never lasts. Of course it’s inspiring to learn new facts or be tempted with a prize. But rather than dwell on the risks of doing the wrong thing, relish the positive experience of doing something new and positive. If you don’t have an intrinsically motivating reason for taking on a new habit you won’t keep it a part of your daily routine for long.

    Identifying your “why” is motivating

    When the going gets rough — when your good intentions go up against your ingrained behavioral patterns — knowing and remembering what’s really driving you (your “why”) may be all that keeps you on course.

    The technique therapists and coaches use to to get at this is called “motivational interviewing,” and it’s something you can borrow and use on yourself. Essentially, you keep asking “why” until the answer gets real.

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    Here’s a conversation you might have with yourself:

    “Why do I want to start exercising?”

    “Because I want more energy”

    “OK, why do I want more energy?”

    “Because I feel tired all the time.”

    “Why don’t I want to feel tired?”

    “Because when my kids ask me to play tag, I want to feel like doing it.”

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    “Why does that matter to me so much?”

    “Because I don’t want to let my kids down and limit the activities we can do together. I’m want to be a good role model for them.”

    The fourth or fifth reason you articulate for wanting to change will be far less superficial than the first. Once you’ve nailed down the real reason, write it down and put it somewhere handy — you’ll need it, and it might also help you identify more ways to fulfil your deepest desire.

    A growth mindset will keep you trying when you hit obstacles.

    We’re all capable of improving, regardless of what natural abilities we were born with or without. It’s important then to acknowledge our successes or failures and remind ourselves that they are a direct result of our own effort or lack thereof, not of factors outside our control.

    It’s the difference between having a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset”. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our abilities can’t be changed in any meaningful way, and success or failure is the reinforcement of the traits we were “born” with. When we have a “growth mindset,” on the other hand, we see obstacles and challenges as opportunities for growth beyond our existing abilities.

    These two mindsets spur a great deal of our behavior so it’s essential to recognize if you tend toward a fixed mindset and try to shift your thinking toward a growth mindset.

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    Sharen Ross

    Marketing Strategy Consultant

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2020

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

    In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

    How to Listen to Your Gut

    The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

    Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

    1. Tune Into Your Body

    Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

    However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

    Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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    Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

    In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

    2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

    Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

    There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

    3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

    Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

    As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

    This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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    4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

    As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

    Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

    5. Challenge Your Assumptions

    When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

    In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

    A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

    6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

    Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

    There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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    Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

    Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

    Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

    We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

    The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

    We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

    7. Trust Yourself

    It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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    Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

    If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

    The Bottom Line

    The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

    Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

    More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

    Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
    [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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