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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 January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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