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Published on February 11, 2020

What Motivates You in Life? 5 Steps to Find Out

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

Reference

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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