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. 
However, willpower is an exhaustible resource, and that is why less than 20% of people accomplish their resolutions each year  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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