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Last Updated on November 27, 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? The theories of motivation can help explain all of this.

Research has revealed numerous theories of motivation and motivating factors. 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 motivates people in certain directions.

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.

Take a look at this TED Talk, where Dan Pink explains how motivation affects us all.

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

Here are three of the most useful theories of motivation to help you stay motivated with anything you set your mind to.

1. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

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

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, 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 avoid putting 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 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-bound.

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 when using the theories of motivation.

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 or to coworkers in your work environment.

If you have a high need for achievement, 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 and you need extrinsic motivation. 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.

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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How to Change Your Perception of Pain

When you know that you avoid pain, it gives you the power to work with it by using the theories of motivation. 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 centers 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. This is a natural tendency, but we can use the theories of motivation to overcome the resistance it generates.

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 Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[4].

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Hierarchy of Needs is related to theories of motivation

    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 that 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.

    If you’re not sure what your values are, you can learn how to identify them here.

    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.

    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 implementing 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 Using the Theories of 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.

    How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide) How to Learn Patience to Get Your Thoughts and Feelings Under Control 9 Self Limiting Beliefs That Are Holding You Back from Success How to Make a Plan And Reach Your Goals in Life How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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