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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

Reference

More by this author

Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is a speaker and the author of two books "Attitude-The Cornerstone of Leadership" and "Team-Building: From the Bench to the Boardroom"

The Psychology of Motivation: Why Is Motivation So Powerful? Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained How To Excel At Work And Achieve Career Success How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough)

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1 20 All-Time Best Motivational Books to Inspire You 2 The Psychology of Motivation: Why Is Motivation So Powerful? 3 What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work? 4 6 Friday Motivation Tips to Help You Stay Motivated 5 How to Improve Employee Motivation in the Workplace

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

20 All-Time Best Motivational Books to Inspire You

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20 All-Time Best Motivational Books to Inspire You

Sometimes going through life can be a little bit of a roller coaster. There are many ups and just as many downs as we journey through the high and low points.

Life becomes a little simpler when you accept that as we pursue our goals, there will inevitably be challenges and barriers along the way. This is why a few extra sources of inspiration, such as motivational books, never hurt anyone.

The following motivational books were selected because they can fulfill this need for you. These books will challenge you to question your current perspectives and grow in unexpected ways.

The following motivational books will provide you with a source of inspiration great enough to light your internal fire!

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Fankl

    Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s discusses in-depth his experience with living in Nazi death camps and describes the lessons it taught him about spiritual survival. Frankl puts forth a convincing argument that avoiding suffering isn’t realistic. However, through choosing how we cope with that suffering and the meaning we ascribe to it, we retain the ability to move forward with renewed purpose.

    This certainly is a book for the generations that anyone can gain value from. Man’s Search for Meaning has been listed as one of the most influential books in America and has currently sold over 10 million copies in twenty-four languages.

    If you’re looking for motivational books that can help you learn about the value of ascribing meaning to suffering, this is one for you!

    Get the book here!

    2. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

      Of all the motivational books out there, this is a must-read for those who are into life design.

      Through this book, Jen provides her readers with simple exercises to help people identify their self-limiting beliefs, attitudes, and habits. She provides some great advice and does so in a humorous way to truly captivate her audience and motivate them to begin achieving the success they want from their lives.

      Jen’s goal is to help her readers truly understand why they have developed certain thought and behavior patterns. She helps us to focus on the things that we can change and accept the things which we cannot.

      Overall, the book offers a new comical approach towards inspiring and motivating its audiences, and can be enjoyed by anyone who decides to pick it up.

      Get the book here!

      3. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven

        If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.

        Make Your Bed is a book which outlines the lessons contained in a speech given by Admiral William H. McRaven. In this speech, he shared the 10 principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome the various challenges he faced throughout his career.

        This speech went viral, gaining over 10 million views as it clearly explained how anyone can use these lessons to better both themselves and the world around them. This book recounts tales from his service and offers simple and practical wisdom and words of advice and encouragement which will inspire readers to achieve more in their daily lives!

        Get the book here!

        4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

          The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a wonderful story about an inspiring journey towards self-discovery. Mysticism and wisdom combine in this classic novel that has sold millions of copies worldwide.

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          This story outlines the journey of a young shepherd boy who desires to travel the world in search of treasure but ends up discovering a vastly different type of riches than he initially imagined.

          Overall, this book encourages each of us to listen to our hearts, recognize our unique opportunities in life, and pursue our passions.

          Get the book here!

          5. Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

            Charles Duhigg’s Smarter, Faster, Better outlines 8 productivity concepts that help certain companies and individuals accomplish so much more than others. This book outlines the differences between the perspectives of some of the worlds top performers and those who are less successful.

            These productivity concepts explain how everyday people can improve their everyday lives. Overall, this book can help anyone learn how to succeed and ensure that their average day is productive and not just busy.

            Get the book here!

            6. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

              Don Miguel Ruiz uses his book The Four Agreements to reveal the limiting beliefs that we commonly hold which rob us of joy and cause us to endure needless suffering. This book provides an insightful code of conduct which imparts its wisdom in an accessible manner to its readers.

              The Four Agreements encourages self-reflection and encourages us to do better within our everyday lives. This is why the book has sold over 6 million copies in the U.S. alone and has been a New York Times bestseller for over 8 years.

              Get the book here!

              7. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

                In this book, psychologist Angela Duckworth, takes her readers on a journey to argue that the secret to being a success relies largely on an individual’s grit, a unique blend of passion and persistence.

                The insights offered by Duckworth in this book encourage us to never underestimate the power of consistent, long-term action towards a goal, especially when you’re passionate about it.

                Duckworth addresses the thoughts which commonly intrude into our heads when we fail and gives us methods to combat them.

                If the idea that success is about your perseverance and your ability to persist even when times get tough resonates with you, this is one of the motivational books for you.

                Get the book here!

                8. Mindset: the New Psychology for Success by Carol S. Dweck

                  Psychologist Carol Dweck outlines years of research in her book Mindset. She argues that the mindset we adopt is a huge predictor of our success and achievement. She believes that nearly every area of human endeavor can be influenced by the mindset we adopt and how we select to approach our goals.

                  She discusses the downsides of adopting a fixed mindset as well as the benefits commonly associated with adopting a growth-oriented mindset. Whereas one mindset believes our abilities are fixed, the other believes our skills and abilities can be developed assuming we are willing to put in the effort.

                  This is a highly motivating paradigm shift which can encourage amazing accomplishments.

                  Get the book here!

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                  9. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

                    Choose Yourself by James Altucher is one of the best motivational books around. James argues that the most valuable asset we have and the one which we should be investing the most time, effort, and resources into is — ourselves. This whole book is about how we can achieve success simply by choosing to invest in ourselves and our growth.

                    This book is sure to inspire and motivate you to invest in developing your talents further and would be an excellent resource for anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will by Mark Rampolla

                      High-hanging Fruit by Mark Rampolla encourages us to reach higher in our life endeavors, especially business if we want to achieve more success and leave our mark on the world.

                      In this novel, the reader is encouraged to find ways to align their passion, purpose, and integrity to achieve success. These lessons can benefit anyone in any field of work and encourage us to stand up for our beliefs and what’s important to us.

                      Overall, Rampolla wants each of us to remain true to our ore values so that we can each reach our personal definitions of success and promote significant changes in areas of life we are passionate about.

                      Get the book here!

                      11. The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

                        This international bestseller has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and has helped many people live more fulfilling lives through adopting Dr. Peale’s message of faith and inspiration.

                        Not only does this book help people to achieve happiness and higher levels of life-satisfaction, but it also teaches us that each life is worthwhile.

                        This book instills a belief in one’s self and a feeling of determination and motivation to pursue our goals with power, control, and persistence.

                        Overall, it’s a great motivational book for those individuals seeking a boost of motivation in their daily lives.

                        Get the book here!

                        12. Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

                          When it comes to motivational books, Rachel Hollis nails it!

                          Girl, Stop Apologizing was written primarily for a female audience she was trying to inspire. She wrote this book because all too often, she was seeing women failing to live up to their full potential due to the fear of falling short of perfection and not being enough.

                          In this New York Times #1 bestselling author, Rachel seeks to send a wake-up call to the women currently defining themselves through the lens established by other individuals, instead of how they wish to define themselves.

                          She encourages women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams and to begin fully pursuing them. To help her audience she provides a lot of great information regarding which excuses we should say goodbye to, which habits to adopt, and the skills that will provide you with the confidence to live your best life!

                          Get the book here!

                          13. Now, Discover Your Strengths By Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton

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                            This book takes a unique approach, claiming that not anyone can become anything they want, despite what we were told as children. However, when discussed in-depth, the opinion is quite freeing.

                            This book’s main purpose is to encourage us to ignore those routes which are likely to lead us to dead ends, in favor of pursuing those which we are passionate about and that are more likely to bring us greater success and happiness.

                            Why waste so much time trying to fix our weaknesses when we can double-down on our strengths and allow them to flourish and grow?

                            Definitely think about adding this one to your collection of motivational books.

                            Get the book here!

                            14. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                              This book, originally published in 1937, was written during the Great Depression and addresses the highly effective and important steps to take if we wish to encourage ourselves to become wealthy. Equally important, Hill outlines the steps we should avoid in this process as well.

                              Readers have continually enjoyed some of the timeless information, words of wisdom, and excellent advice that is presented by Hill in this book. This book is about so much more than getting rich; it’s about figuring out how to get what you want from life!

                              Get the book here!

                              15. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

                                In this self-help guide, Mark Manson tells us to cut it out and to stop trying to be positive all the time so that we can figure out what we need to do to truly become better and happier people.

                                This book offers a refreshing take which counters the motivational books currently out there. Mark refuses to sugarcoat his lessons and tells it how it is through his brutally honest approach. Mark encourages us to accept our faults and limitations, the fact that life is not always fair, and that despite our best efforts, not everybody is going to win.

                                Overall, this book presents some great philosophical wisdom for our modern generation and has empowered many individuals to gain control over their actions and their life as a whole.

                                Get the book here!

                                16. Everything Is F*cked by Mark Manson

                                  Mark Manson follows his previous #1 international bestseller with this guide discussing the problems we currently have surrounding hope.

                                  Despite believing that we live in the best time in human history, Mark outlines that everything seems to be pretty messed up. There is global warming, corrupt governments, collapsing economies, and everyone is getting offended far too easily. Mark examines our relationships with money, entertainment, and the internet, and discusses that too much of these good things can destroy us.

                                  In this book, Mark challenges us to be more open and honest with ourselves and to connect more with the world around us.

                                  Get the book here!

                                  17. Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum by Neil Patel

                                    Hustle offers a game-changing guide to finding success by encouraging us to outsmart the system. Too many of us feel like we’re fighting a system that’s stacked against us and forcing us to live unfulfilling lives. This book will encourage you to break free from the rat-race and begin achieving more success on your terms through projects you actually enjoy!

                                    This book will help you redefine what hustling means and will help you realize your best path to success is through taking charge of your dreams, creating your own luck, and staying true to yourself.

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                                    If you’re looking for actionable and practical advice that goes beyond simply motivating you, this is a book you will certainly enjoy reading.

                                    Get the book here!

                                    18. Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop

                                      This book presents a refreshing take on self-empowerment and provides an honest, no-nonsense, tough-love guide which aims to help you challenge and get over your self-limiting beliefs

                                      In this book, Bishop gives you the tools and advice required to overcome your self-imposed limitations and to begin creating your unrestrained best-self. He argues that commonly, it isn’t other people standing in our way nor is it our circumstances. Commonly, it’s our negative mindsets and beliefs which are holding us back.

                                      So if you’re looking for motivational books to help you get over these limiting beliefs, you will not regret investing in this novel.

                                      Get the book here!

                                      19. The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins

                                        In The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins reminds us of the vast amount of support we have received from individuals throughout our lives; and that this should push and motivate us to overcome the excuses we have created to impede our progress and achievement.

                                        Through discussing a variety of different habits and entertaining stories, Mel Robbins argues that it only takes us about 5 seconds to become confident, stop procrastination, overcome fear, and live overall happier lifestyles. Just like we can all hold ourselves back, we can also push ourselves forward.

                                        This is a motivational book that is great for anyone looking to quickly add a positive push to their daily life.

                                        Get the book here!

                                        20. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

                                          This novel which shared the wisdom Mitch Albom received from his college professor Morrie Schwartz, has sold over 12 million copies around the world.

                                          In this book, Mitch joins Morrie through the final months of his dying professor’s life every Tuesday to discuss the important messages of life in a truly beautiful and heartwarming fashion.

                                          In the end, the two come together to create one final class: lessons on how to live a good life.

                                          This book is going to inevitably touch your heart and inspire you in ways many other motivational books could never even dream of doing.

                                          Get this book here!

                                          Final Thoughts

                                          If you are able to pick up even just 2 or 3 of these motivational books, you will be well on your way to living a more inspired life.

                                          Happy reading and stay motivated!

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                                          Featured photo credit: Florencia Viadana via unsplash.com

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