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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

What Motivates You in Life? 5 Steps to Find Out

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What Motivates You in Life? 5 Steps to Find Out

You’ve probably heard the old adage “know thyself.” Understanding yourself is a key step in leading a happy, successful life. One way to understand yourself better is to find out what motivates you in life.

Motivation is best defined as what causes you to take action. There may be a change you want to make in your life, but to make it, you have to know what will cause to you take action.This will depend on a variety of factors. It is important to recognize the different causes of motivation so you can utilize the most effective ones in your own life.

Movement Is Not Always Progress

Since most people are busy taking action, determining your motivation is rarely discussed. You simply know you have a goal you are striving to achieve and you are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.

While this approach can work, it is not the most effective. When you don’t know what motivates you in life, you are essentially using your willpower alone to accomplish your goals. [1]

However, willpower is an exhaustible resource, and that is why less than 20% of people accomplish their resolutions each year [2] If you want to be in the 20% who successfully change their lives, you need to utilize more than willpower. You need a plan that is structured in a way to capitalize on your strengths.

What Motivates You in Life Is Key

Someone who is focused on advancing their career is concerned more about the title than they are about the salary. Therefore, offering more money but the same title is not going to motivate this type of individual. If you were to offer the same person a newer title with the same pay, they would be motivated to take the position because advancement matters to them.

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Don’t underestimate the power of knowing what motivates you in life. There is a reason that most prosecutors must provide a motive for a jury to consider a defendant’s guilt. It is because your actions need to be linked with your beliefs.

If someone believes their life is in danger, then there is an expectation of the actions that person will take. There must be a consistency between the action the person took and the motive for why they took the action.

Put simply, you want your actions to match the results you are trying to achieve. For you to discover what motivates you in life, you need to consider the following:

1. You Would Do It for Free

If you are fortunate, you will get paid plenty of money to do what motivates you for a living. However, that is not always the case. There are plenty of people who did not make a living doing what they love. Vincent Van Gogh is known today as one of the greatest artists in history.

Did you know that he only sold one painting in his entire life? Van Gogh created over 900 paintings throughout his life, but he was only able to sell one.[3]

It was not until several years after his death that people started to appreciate his art work. Since Van Gogh loved to paint, he was not concerned about whether people purchased his paintings.

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Van Gogh’s motivation was not tied to whether people respected his work, nor was it contingent on his ability to earn a living. Van Gogh painted because he loved to paint.

2. It Is Always on Your Mind

What do you think about when you go to sleep and wake up? Sometimes you are moving so fast in life that you don’t listen to the message from your inner self. When you wake up, have a notebook next to you so you can capture your first thoughts each day. These are clues into what motivates you in life.

Keep your notebook on you and add any ideas you have throughout the day. As you fill the pages in your notebook, you should be able to recognize some commonalities in your thoughts. The things you think about all the time are things you care about.

In addition to your inner thoughts, what motivates you in life will include activities you are always talking about. When you are around your friends and family, what topics do you always bring up? Have you found yourself in a grocery store talking to the cashier or bag-person about this same topic? If so, it is likely you have found something you are passionate about and motivated to pursue.

3. You Get Lost in Learning

Are there activities you cannot get enough of and lose track of time engaging in? These are signs that you may have found something that motivates you in life. Studies show that if you are reading material that motivates you, you will read more and remember more than you would with materials that did not motivate you.[4]

The key to motivation is that you are pushed to take action. Whenever you feel compelled to take action, you’ll want to pay attention to why you take action.

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4. You Can List It in the Most Fulfilling Times of Your Life

Self reflection is a great way to recognize what motivates you in life. Think about the times in your life when you felt most proud of yourself. It could be when you hit the game-winning home run or when you landed your dream job. Whatever these moments are, write down each of them on a sheet of paper. Review your list and see if you recognize any commonalities.

Were you with family, performing in front of others, or helping those less fortunate? Whatever you were doing, these are clues to what motivates you in life.

Once you recognize the commonalities of what motivates you, take action to confirm. If you enjoy expressing your creativity, find a way to express your creativity. You may realize you have a very specific aspect of creativity you are motivated by.

There are going to be others who are motivated by helping those in need. If you believe you enjoy helping others, volunteer and see how you feel. You may realize you don’t like to help just anyone, but rather a particular cause that you are passionate about.

The point of this activity is not to judge your motivations, but to explore them.

5. You Would Do It If No One Was Watching

There are things you do in life because society tells you they are good ideas. Society tells you which school you should go to, which major and career you should choose, and even which city you should live in. There are certain choices that are considered prestigious and will be well-received by most people. Then, there is a less-celebrated path that is rarely traveled.

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Only you can answer the question, “Why am I on this path?” Are you on the path that will get you a pat on the back from your parents or your friends? Or are you on a path that few people understand and appreciate?

There is a saying that what you do when no one is looking defines you. If you take action to receive recognition from other people in your life, then you already have your reward. However, if you are provoked to take action according to your inner purpose, then you are doing what motivates you in life.

Final Thoughts

What motivates you in life is going to change over time. When you were young, life may have been simpler. Perhaps you were going to build a multi-billion dollar company because you were motivated by success and significance. However, when you were a bit older, you were motivated by freedom and the idea of traveling around the world. Then you had kids, and they became the driving force for everything you did in life.

As you experience different life events, you will realize your motivations will adjust accordingly. That is why it is a good idea to review what motivates you in life periodically. This will give you the opportunity to adjust your goals as your motivations change.

Featured photo credit: Jasmine B via unsplash.com

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Published on October 27, 2021

The Psychology of Motivation: Why Is Motivation So Powerful?

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The Psychology of Motivation: Why Is Motivation So Powerful?

Motivation is an important driving force in people’s lives. It can affect both minor and major aspects of your life. Oftentimes, one’s level of motivation—or lack thereof—can determine their level of success.

In this article, I will discuss the concepts of motivation and psychology and present six psychological motives that drive people. Moreover, I will present some tips on how you can get motivated and discuss reasons why motivation is so powerful. I will also add my thoughts from my world where motivation plays an important role: the world of athletics.

What Is Motivation?

Research indicates that motivation has many definitions. The Oxford Dictionary defines it in several ways:[1]

  • “The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a certain way.”
  • “The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.”
  • “Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behavior.”

We can conclude from these definitions that motivation is the driving force behind what we do and the key ingredient to accomplishing goals.

There are two primary types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is doing an activity to attain an outcome, usually a reward of some kind. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is “an internal drive for success or sense of purpose.” Research states that the more effective of the two—the motivation that leads to the best results—is intrinsic.[2]

Kevin Kruse validated the value of intrinsic motivation when he wrote,

“Life is about making an impact, not an income.”

Stephen Covey said it a different way,

“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone tries to light that fire, chances are it will burn very briefly.”

What Is Psychology?

American Psychology defines psychology as “the scientific study of the mind and behavior.”[3] There are six insights that psychology has brought to us regarding the forces behind motivation.

  1. Money and rewards – Some people are driven to make as much money as they can so they can flaunt their wealth in their community. Others see money as a necessity to take care of their families.
  2. Desire to be the best – I believe that the key factor to be the best stems from a willingness to prepare. Michael Jordan and Tom Brady are prime examples of the 5P’s—”Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
  3. Helping others –  Albert Einstein said it best when he wrote, “I can think of no reason why we are here but to help others.”
  4. Power and fame – I think a great number of people who attain fame do not pursue it. They simply go to work, roll up their sleeves, attain fame, and remain humble.
  5. Recognition – Take it with a grain of salt. It can vanish quickly and permanently!
  6. Passion – I am from the same town as Rudy Ruettiger from the movie, “Rudy.” I do know Rudy well and I can say without hesitation that it was his passion that got him admitted into Notre Dame, to play football there, and to get his outstanding movie to the public.

Why is Motivation So Powerful?

I believe that the goal of extrinsic motivation is to get people to reach intrinsic motivation, which is a very powerful driving force. Below are the five main reasons why intrinsic motivation is so powerful.[4]

1. It Leads to Better Persistence

I can think of no worthwhile endeavor that I was involved with that was easy. Most accomplishments face obstacles and failure along the way. Persistent people beat them.

Persistent people develop a strong Failure Quotient (FQ). Losing is a part—and often a big part—of an athletic season. According to Stan Kellner in his book, Taking it to the limit with basketball-cybernetics: A revolutionary mind-training program for winning performance, those who do succeed in developing a strong FQ approach losing in two ways: learn from it or move on. Moving on may be the tougher of the two to accomplish, but it is essential for future success. An oft-used refrain in athletics is that you need to have a short memory—forget the failure and move on now.

2. It Enhances Engagement

In their research, Kuvaas and Dysvik found that “intrinsically motivated employees were more likely to be highly engaged and more involved in their work, as well as display a greater readiness to step up and take responsibility.”[5] People who step up to the plate get things done!

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All great athletes are motivated to work on their own. Very few people realize all the time they invest on their own. When Michael Jordan came back to the Chicago Bulls after his stint in baseball, he and the Bulls lost in the playoffs. He knew he had to get his basketball legs back, but he had signed to make the movie, Space Jam. So, he had an outdoor basketball court built on the movie property so he could practice between and after sets. Even the greatest basketball player ever still needed to practice on his own.

3. Intrinsically Motivated Learning Is More Effective

Hinton Zigler presented the power of learning succinctly when he wrote,

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”

I have always believed great teachers do four things: they know their subject matter, they are organized, they teach with enthusiasm, and they care about their students in and out of the classroom. However, no matter how outstanding that teacher may be, if the student is not motivated to learn, he will not learn. In the last analysis, only one person is responsible for your body of work—you!

4. We Perform Better When Intrinsically Motivated

When we are intrinsically motivated, we strive for perfection in any task we take on. Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, stressed the efficacy of perfection when he wrote,[6]

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

Motivated people do find excellence and find it often.

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5. Intrinsically Motivated People Are More Likely to Stay

Motivated people stay with you through the tough times, but non-motivated people leave when times get tough.

When a new coach is hired to take over a program, they are often hired because the program has fallen on bad times—they are losing. There is a real possibility that it will take three to five years to turn the program around, and that is why new coaches are often given five-year contracts. Given this reality, the coach must recruit or draft talented players. However, that is not enough. They will also want to bring in players of character because they stick with you through the tough times.

5 Ways to Get Motivated

According to Kendra Cherry, there are certain psychological factors regarding motivation that you can use to your advantage. She claims that these psychological techniques can help you feel more motivated in life.[7] Below are five ways to get motivated.

1. Use Incentives Carefully

Be cautious with rewards. She emphasized that we should not compliment someone for being smart or athletic—instead, compliment them for the effort they make to be smart or athletic.

In addition to complimenting someone for their effort, we took it one step further. We found that a good number of people could give great effort on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday but could not reach down and find that same effort on Thursday and Friday. So, we told our athletes that effort is not enough and that the difference between good and great is the consistency of effort. The great ones can find the best they have to give daily. None of us have our “A Game” every day, but the great ones consistently find their best.

2. Introduce Challenges

It often seems to me that the challenges I have been most apprehensive about have been the best things I have ever done. I have traveled overseas to present basketball camps and speak at clinics. I certainly found this work challenging. I wanted to give presentations that would be valuable to the players and coaches, and I was nervous. The one thing I found that helped me get through nervousness was preparation. I spent a great deal of time preparing for these challenges.

3. Don’t Visualize Success

This goes against the modern theory of visualization. The usual concept is to see yourself doing the activity successfully. Instead, Cherry believes that you should visualize the steps it will take to achieve success.

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I do not necessarily agree with her on this premise for motivation. I believe in visualization—you should see the goal, the end result. Shooting free throws in basketball is a great time to visualize. I believe seeing the ball going through the net is more important than trying to break down all the steps to get to that objective. Visualize the success.

4. Take Control

Cherry does not promote trying to dominate a project. She does, however, promote ascertaining how you can contribute to the success of the project.

Most projects you undertake necessitate teamwork, and it is important to understand that you are part of a team and that your main goal is to contribute to the team’s success. In athletics, we look at this concept a little differently. We want the team to develop the “Disposition to Dominate.” It is still about the team, but we want the team to dominate.

5. Focus on the Journey, Not the Outcome

In athletic competition, you want the outcome to be victory, but your focus cannot be on the victory. Your focus must be on the process it will take to get the victorious outcome. If you fail to concentrate on the things you must do to achieve success, you will never arrive at a successful conclusion.

Final Thoughts

The psychology of motivation gives us insights into the kind of mindset we need for us to excel in life. Those who pursue perfection leading to excellence are the most powerful and productive people in any organization. They don’t need extrinsic motivation because they are driven internally—it’s in their DNA.

More Tips on Gaining Motivation

Featured photo credit: Quino Al via unsplash.com

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