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Published on April 8, 2020

How to Use the Theories of Motivation to Keep Yourself Uplifted

How to Use the Theories of Motivation to Keep Yourself Uplifted

Have you ever wondered why you are motivated in some instances and not in others? More importantly, have you considered what effect this has on your life in general?

Research has revealed numerous theories of motivation. They all have their merits and can work especially well as a mix. But what is motivation really, and what effect does this have on the reality we create for ourselves?

What is Motivation?

Motivation generally includes an experience of desire or aversion. This means we either desire something we want, or we have the desire to avoid something.

This explains why we might find it easy to take action on some things and procrastinate on others. As you likely know, procrastination can really cause us to get in our own way.

Furthermore, we are all motivated in different ways, which makes this even more complex. We are led to believe that it’s just about setting a goal, and that that will be enough to motivate us. However, it’s not always that simple because setting a goal without other important elements can decrease motivation.

The good news is that with more knowledge, we can gain insights on what motivates us personally. It’s just a matter of understanding the theories that relate to us and then consciously utilizing them.

3 Theories of Motivation

Through experience and research, I have identified what I consider to be the three most useful theories of motivation.

1. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

In 1968 Edward E. Locke published his groundbreaking Goal Setting Theory.

This has claimed to be unique and has withstood the test of time. It has been some 50 years since the first goal-setting experiments were conducted and 28 years since the first statement of the theory.

Certainly, in my own personal experience and working with clients, goal setting has been a powerful motivator. When we have a goal that we desire, it motivates us to move towards it. This makes us more focused and less inclined to procrastinate.

Here’s the thing though: goal setting only works effectively when certain criteria are met, so it’s essential to know what those criteria are.

Here are the important elements of Locke’s theory:[1]

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Goals Must Be Challenging and Attainable

If a goal is too easy or perceived as too difficult then we will lack motivation. This means goals must be both realistic and stretch us a little.

Goals Must Be Specific and Measurable

This gives us a much clearer direction and helps us measure progress as we reach milestones.

Commitment to the Goal

A firm decision must be made to commit to the goal. If there is no commitment, it will be easy to not put in the effort.

Strategies

His suggested strategies to achieve this could include participation in the goal-setting process, the use of extrinsic rewards (bonuses), and encouraging intrinsic motivation through providing feedback about goal attainment.

Support Elements

Support elements need to be provided. For example, encouragement, needed materials and resources, and moral support can be included.

Quantifiability

Goals need to be quantifiable, and there needs to be feedback.

These criteria are mainly designed for the workplace and are effective as a member of a team. But what about working alone?

Using Locke’s Theory When You Work Alone

The SMART model contains important criteria, which I believe relate to Locke’s theory. This model will help you write a good goal statement.

SMART is an acronym and means making goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed.

Commitment can also be a challenge when working on goals alone. Because of this, it’s important to find some way to hold yourself accountable.

A good way to do this is to confide your goal in a trusted friend and ask for accountability. If you are feeling very brave, you could even announce it on social media.

Setting up your own reward system can act as an external motivator. However, a reward you will receive in 12 months time may not be enough to drive you.

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A reward system works best when your goals are broken down into shorter-term goals. Giving yourself a reward at each milestone will give you a sense of achievement earlier, and this creates more desire.

If you need help coming up with some useful rewards and punishments to achieve your goals, this article may be able to help.

Essential Resources

One of the elements of a well-formed goal is that you must have the required resources or a way of obtaining them. If you set a goal without these essential elements, you can often find motivation is lacking.

Resources can include physical materials, information, and people.

If you have confided your goal with a trusted friend, also ask that friend for support and encouragement. Identify where you may need training and seek out a course or the support of a mentor or coach. Do your own research to make sure these vital resources are available to you before setting your goal.

Feedback is another essential element that could be a problem when working alone because feedback is often received from others. In this instance, it’s important to acknowledge that everything we do each day gives us feedback in itself. This is delivered in the results we get.

If our results disappoint us, then we receive essential feedback that we need to change something.

Regular reflection is an effective way to receive feedback and look at what needs to change. When this process is utilized in a positive way, it has the potential to positively impact the first of these three theories of motivation.

2. McClelland’s Achievement and Required Needs Theory

David McClelland wrote about his theory of motivation in his book “The Achieving Society” in 1961. It explains why certain individuals are more motivated to achieve than others.

This theory is based on two psychological principles: the motive of an individual to achieve success and the motive of an individual to avoid failure.[2]

Some people have an intense desire to succeed and are more motivated to move towards what they want. This means they will take action even if they are attempting something challenging.

Others are afraid of failure and so are more motivated to move away from what they don’t want. This means they will procrastinate on doing challenging things where there is a risk of failure. They are less inclined to set goals for the same reason.

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This also fits with Anthony Robbins insights that we will do more to avoid pain than we will to feel pleasure. If we believe we might fail and perceive failure as painful, we will do nothing because it feels better.

How to Change Your Perception of Pain

When you know that you avoid pain, it gives you the power to work with it. You can do this quite simply by turning your perception of pain around.

If you are resisting a step that will help you achieve something, explore why you are procrastinating. Ask yourself what you are afraid of.

Place yourself in the future and imagine what will happen if you don’t take the step. Notice how it will impact your goal negatively. Imagine how you will feel when you don’t achieve it and notice how painful that will be.

Now create pleasure around the thing you have been avoiding. Imagine how much closer that will bring you to achieving your goal, and notice how you will feel as you celebrate the achievement.

This change tool has been extremely effective with a number of my clients. As you use it, you will notice your procrastination morphing into motivation.

3. Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory

This theory was first proposed by American Psychologist Clark Hull in 1943. It centres round the premise that humans are motivated to take action where there are disturbances to homeostasis.[3]

Homeostasis means to maintain stability and stay the same, referring to our overall health.

Many things in our external environment can affect our overall health. This includes our ability to put food on our table, a roof over our head, and money that enables us to provide those things. If our stability is threatened in any way, we are more inclined to take action.

This also means that if we feel our stability is threatened by taking action, we will do nothing.

I see this theory play out a lot with business owners. They avoid things they feel uncomfortable doing, like networking or follow-up calls — at least until their income levels drop. When this happens, they find the motivation they had been lacking and pull out all stops.

This motivational theory also resonates with the physiological level of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs. [4]

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The base level is also referred to as the need for certainty in Tony Robbins six core needs. Robbins describes them as fundamental needs, which we fulfil unconsciously.

Here’s the thing: if we are motivated by this need alone, then we tend to do nothing new, and when faced with a situation that is uncertain, we can freeze.

Therefore, it’s important to find the motivation to move past this base need, even in the space of uncertainty and challenge.

Components to Handle Uncertainty

Dr. John Demartini, an international educator in human behavior specializing in the area of values, says that motivation is not external. True motivation is inspiration and found when we experience our values.[5]

This means if we set goals that are aligned with our values and focus on that, we can feel internally motivated. As we feel this, we are more inclined to take action on those goals, even when faced with something challenging.

Values are unconscious beliefs, which means many of us aren’t aware of what they are. When you bring your values into conscious awareness, it gives you the ability to use them as motivational tools.

Your values can easily be elicited by working with a coach, but you can also inquire into it alone. Explore which aspects of life are important to you and what you put the most time, energy, or money into. These are aspects that you value.

When you set goals around your values, you will notice your motivation levels become much more consistent.

The Bottom Line

There are a multitude of different theories of motivation. Understanding what your motivators are is helpful, but the real power comes from working with them.

Finding strategies to work with and then implement them can morph procrastination into motivation or even help you avoid procrastination for good. This will create a positive impact on your life in general.

More Tips on Finding Motivation

Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a professional mindset speaker and a transformational life, business and career coach. Specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Whenever you hit a rough patch in life, it can seem like the problems you’re confronting are unique to you and that the whole world is closing in. It might be that you are struggling to find a way out and just can’t see the light of hope anywhere when the going gets tough.

Thankfully, although you might not see it, there is always hope. Nothing lasts forever—not even bad times—and doing things like remembering why you started in the first place and practicing using your courage muscle are just a couple of things that can shorten the difficult times.

If you could find a way to not only survive but thrive when the going gets tough, how would your life change for the better?

Here are ten ways you can do to make that happen today.

1. Realize How Far You Have Come

Whenever you get discouraged on the path to wherever you want to go, it is usually because you are only looking forward, not around you or behind you. Your journey through life will last until your final day, so it is no wonder that you still see a long and sometimes daunting path ahead.

To keep going despite this, it’s important to take a moment or two to look around. Look at where you are standing now compared to when you first started. Look at how far you have come since you first began. Look at how many obstacles and challenges are behind you that you managed to overcome successfully.

The benefits of reflective practice are also extensive, and it is little wonder why.[1]

Looking back at how far you have come is usually the fire you need to keep on burning brightly into the future.

2. Remember Why You Started

When the going gets tough, you need something to cling to in order to keep your grit and remind yourself why you started doing something in the first place. Without this all-important “why, you will be quick to wander from your path.

Whenever things are at their worst, your number one reason for doing the thing is going to be what pulls you through.

As ex-Navy Seal and motivation master David Goggins puts it:

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“‘Why am I here?’ If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split-second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!”

Sometimes, life can be a bit of a fight, especially within yourself. So, having your reasons for continuing will always help pull you out when times are tough. Try writing these down and posting them in places you look at every day to help them have even more impact.

3. Make It a Habit to Move Forward

Habits are some of the strongest behavioral predictors that we have. Most of our habits happen in our subconscious and are triggered by external or internal cues.

The great thing about habits is that they can be formed through conscious, repeated behaviors, and when practiced enough, they can eventually take their place in the subconscious and guide your life.

Of course, you want good habits to be guiding your life in the background, not bad ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit to always move forward.

Contrary to what most people say, moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be better every single day for the rest of your life. There are going to be slip-ups, bad days, and circumstances that blow you off course.

Moving forward is all about getting back on track as fast as possible. If you can make that a habit, you can always get closer to where you want to go.

4. Use ‘If-Then’ Planning

When the going gets tough in your life, one of the most effective frameworks that you can put into place is called the ‘if-then’ planning.

This is the simplified version of something called Implementation Intention, a concept created by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in the mid-’90s.[2] It helps you to make sense of confusing situations and to be able to take action when you are really struggling.

The simplified process is as follows:

“If x happens, I will do y.”

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For example:

“If I start to have negative thoughts, I will take ten seconds to just breathe.”

“If I feel extremely stressed for three days in a row, I will take the fourth day off to recover and reset.”

If-then planning puts a strategy in place for when times are tough. It takes away the element of thinking, planning, and worrying as you already know exactly what you need to do in each situation.

The beauty of using if-then is that you can change the if and then for different situations based on whatever works best for you at any given moment.

5. Find Some Mentors

With the internet becoming more expansive and accessible as it has ever been, there are so many ways to get a peek into the world’s top minds and see what they do in their own lives when the going gets tough.

Most successful people have had to overcome some serious struggles to get to where they are. Do a simple search online, and you will no doubt find out about all of the challenges that your favorite people have had to overcome.

Because of this, you should try to take inspiration from these people and find your own mentors. It’s worth recognizing that nobody trying to live their best life can ever get through it without their fair share of challenges to overcome. That’s just part of the hero’s journey.

6. Get out of Your Head

Sometimes, all of the reasoning, thinking, planning, and ruminating in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, for the serial thinkers and problem-solvers out there, it is oftentimes that too much time in your head results in even more struggle rather than a release of it.

Yes, some things can be solved by thinking. But when the going gets really tough, it is usually just pure heart, emotion, and grit that are going to carry you through. Your mind can become a tyrant, and it is worth being aware of this.

When you feel your own thoughts weighing you down and can’t stop the incessant thinking and worrying about the past, present, and/or future, it is time to step out of your mind for a little while and get into your body. Lift some weights, go for a run, or take a pleasant walk.

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The mind and body are much more connected than most people think—especially when it comes to emotions and fears and doing something beneficial for the body often benefits the unsettled mind as well.[3]

7. Ruthlessly Forgive Yourself

One of the worst things you can do when the going gets tough is to come down hard on yourself. Everyone has these external and internal struggles, and the harder you are on yourself for having them, the more difficult and traumatic the episodes will be when you inevitably slip up.

A lot of people are far harder on themselves than they are on other people, and to keep going in tough times, you need to be just as empathetic with yourself as you would be with your best friend.

Made a mistake? Forgive. Are you still giving yourself a hard time? Forgive. Are you still getting angry over small things “even though we talked about this”? Forgive.

The hard times are much easier to get through when you are at peace with yourself. You will be astonished by how much less pressure you feel when this happens.

8. Take Smaller Steps

It is common for people to stumble in life because they are simply taking on too much at once. Whether it be too much ambition, unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, or some extra curveballs, big steps can sometimes be too much to take.

The truth about big steps is that they are rare, disruptive, and difficult to keep up without crumbling. The big steps—the real life-changing goals and dreams that you have—can often be broken into much smaller steps that are more manageable and that will get you to the same place.

If the going is getting particularly tough, it might be the case that you are simply trying to do too much at once. Try taking smaller, more manageable steps, and see if obstacles and difficulties become easier to navigate.

9. Use Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage

Everyone will agree that the courage we have stored within ourselves is often finite and difficult to sustain for long periods. We tend to think that making a big change in our life and getting out of a rut requires courage for long periods that we simply cannot manage.

The good news is that this isn’t true. Most of the pivotal moments of change in your life—including pulling yourself out of a hole when the going gets tough—come from small, courageous decisions in short, precise moments.

Quite often, using twenty seconds of insane courage when it is needed is enough to completely change the trajectory of our lives. Whether it be asking for that promotion, deciding to go to the gym for the first time in months, or having the courage to break through your insecurities and ask someone out, most of these only require a few seconds of insane courage.

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Standing up and walking into your boss’s office, getting the gym kit on, picking up the phone or sending the text—you only have to be courageous in these few moments, and then you can relax and let life unfold.

Twenty seconds? You can do that, easily.

10. Accept That Your Motivation Will Wane

One of the main reasons that people get discouraged and struggle to keep going in hard times is that they never expected their motivation to dip.

When we start a project or enter a relationship or take something new and exciting on in our lives, our motivation is high, and we are in a mindset of excitement. We start thinking about all of the positives that could come from these things.

However, as time wears on, motivation levels inevitably drop, and you start to focus on the negatives of what’s happening or the added responsibility that you forgot to consider.

When this happens, you have two choices:

  1. You can put on your rose-colored glasses of the past and falsely remember how perfect everything was;
  2. Or you can put on your realistic glasses, face the difficulties, and keep moving forward into something better.

The true test of character comes when you hit a dip, motivation wanes, and you just don’t feel like doing stuff anymore. The secret is to realize that all of this is temporary and that you don’t need motivation to act.

It’s nice to have motivation, but the true test of character comes when motivation inevitably wanes. In those moments, will you keep going?

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Each of these ten ideas for how to keep going when the going gets tough is versatile enough to be applied to almost any difficult situation that you find yourself in.

Life is going to present many difficulties. This isn’t something to fear but something to embrace. With these steps, you can navigate these stormy waters a little easier.

More Inspirations to Help You Stay Strong

Featured photo credit: Gaelle Marcel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness
[2] American Psychologist: Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans
[3] The International Journal of Psychoanalysis: Emotional Processing: The Mind-Body Connection

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