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Last Updated on December 23, 2019

4 Simple Steps to Start Living a Positive Life

4 Simple Steps to Start Living a Positive Life

We all know the distinction between positive and negative. It’s like white and black, good and bad, and right and wrong. Therefore, the desire to live a good and positive life comes natural to us.

A positive life is different from a specific goal or want. If you want a specific thing like money, a job or a person – then you might have it, but it’s still something you can’t always control.

But a positive life is something you can always take control of and change from within because you can live a positive life no matter where you are, who you are, or what you do.

This article takes you through 4 simple steps that will help you let go of negativity and start living the positive life you deserve.

1. Take Control of Your Mindset

Did you know that most of our reactions and actions are controlled by our habits?

Let’s use an example:

You might wake up every day with the alarm clock going off and this causes a negative reaction. Why? Well, you have implemented the idea of waking up early as a bad thing. Then your mind has made the alarm clock a trigger. The sound of it now connects it to something negative.

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It’s normal to be tired in the morning, but you don’t have to start out your day by being grumpy. Even though you’ve told yourself that it’s okay and it’s a ‘normal’ reaction; it’s actually something you’ve programmed all by yourself in your mind.

Changing your mindset takes time because it’s about recreating your way of thinking, but it’s still a simple step. The good news is that unlike a vegetable, you actually have thoughts – and not only that – you’re able to change them.

You might have told yourself that you daily negative responses to certain things are normal and they are out of your control at this point because the reaction is unconsciously made. But the unconscious mind is not a second mind playing by its own rules. It’s something you can control and reprogram.

John Bargh explains how our unconscious mind functions. It’s controllable if we want it to be:[1]

”We have a single, unified mind that operates in both conscious and unconscious modes, always using the same set of basic machinery, fine-tuned over the course of evolutionary time.”

This means you can take control of your mindset and you can change your outlook on things.

Remember, the alarm clock is just an example of a daily habit or routine that can control your mind-set with or without your knowledge.

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It’s not about the alarm clock ringing. You can’t turn of the alarm clock without throwing away your responsibilities. The problem isn’t the alarm clock. The problem isn’t even your response. The problem is that you have programmed this reaction without noticing it.

If you create a mindset that reacts to these situations with a positive response, then you’ll reprogram yourself day by day.

Yes, you have to get out of bed early. No, you don’t really want to go to work or wherever you have to go, but what do you want? You still want to get out of bed and do something with your day. You still want to live your life. Instead of letting the sound of the alarm clock reminding you of what you don’t want, then let it be a reminder of a new day arriving – that’s great – because this day is yours.

2. Memorize Positive Words

It sounds too easy to be true, but by memorizing a list of positive words, you can force your brain to use positive words more often and this will help you live a more positive life.[2] The same way you can reprogram your mindset, you can rewrite your vocabulary. The words will start come to you naturally and your outlook will change.

Some psychologists have measured which words count as positive and negative, but if you think about it, then you probably already know the words yourself.[3] It’s not about educating yourself and learning new words. It’s about using what ’s already within you.

Once you start using more positive words, it will not only affect your own way of thinking, but also affect the people around you. Here’re some to light up your day: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

Have you ever noticed how positive and happy people tend to spread their mood to other people around them? Usually a smile is met with another smile. A positive conversation will most likely be met with the same good tone.

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3. Focus on What Matters

Mark Manson wrote a book titled The Subtle Art of not Giving A F*ck, which leads many to believe it’s about not caring about anything. This could not be further from the true.

The one thing you have to realize is that there will always be both negative and positive things in your life, but you can control which ones affect you.

Yes, you have the ability to care about what matters. It’s as simple as it sounds. Take a look at your past, present and future. How many times have you wasted your energy on something that in the end didn’t matter?

The true is that we shouldn’t care about everything. We shouldn’t care about certain things like what our old classmates thinks of us, or what people say about our social media or get annoyed by the co-worker who talks behind your back.

In the end, you’ll never be able to win in all aspects of your life and you can’t focus your energy on everything.[4]

“You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.”

What you can do is prioritize. What really matters to you? What do you care about? Block out everything else and focus on what you should care about. Take a look at this guide and learn more about prioritization: The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

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4. Learn to Say No

For some people, it’s hard to say no because it means you’re either letting someone down or letting an opportunity go. If you look at the words yes and no, then most people would view a no as a negative and not a positive word.

The thing people forget are that you can’t say yes to everything. When you say yes to something, then you’re also saying no something else. Maybe your boss asked you to work late and finish a project, so you say yes because you don’t want to disappoint him or her. At the same time, this may mean you’ll miss out on your kids play, even though you promised him or her that you would be there.

The point is that every time you say yes, you’re also saying no. Every time you choose to do one thing, then you’re taking away time from something else. It would be great if we could do it all, but we can’t.

You need to learn to say no. This step can be very simple as it’s actually just an extension of the step above. You’ll learn to say no by finding out what you really want and what you don’t want. This way you won’t be saying no, when you turn away someone or something, because you’ll know that you have already chosen to say yes to something else.

If you find it difficult to say no, this article by Leo Babauta can help you: The Gentle Art of Saying No

Final Thoughts

A positive life starts from within and even though nothing (rarely) drastically changes from one day to another, a positive life can come to you easily by following these simple steps.

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Featured photo credit: A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Maria Jensen

Specializes in personal and professional development.

Feeling Frustrated in Life? 8 Ways to Get Back on Track 4 Simple Steps to Start Living a Positive Life Common Fears of Every Job Seeker (and How to Deal with Them) Do You Have a Fear of Disappointing Others? How to Conquer It for Good How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others & Celebrate Your Uniqueness

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

Why? It’s simple.

There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

1. Self-Efficacy

The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

    It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

    Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

    You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

    2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

    Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

    And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

    Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

    “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

    Inspirational, isn’t it?

    Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

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    3. Volunteer

    Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

    When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

    4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

    A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

    But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

    Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

    For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

    Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

    5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

    The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

    There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

    If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

    All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

    6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

    Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

    The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

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    A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

    The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

    And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

    Final Thoughts

    Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

    “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

    Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

    Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

    In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

    And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

    Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

    More Tips to Boost Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
    [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
    [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
    [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
    [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
    [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
    [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
    [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
    [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
    [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
    [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
    [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
    [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
    [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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