What Is Motivation And How To Get Motivated (Your Ultimate Guide)

What Is Motivation And How To Get Motivated (Your Ultimate Guide)

What is Motivation?

Motivation is the force that compels you to stick with your goals and achieve them. It's the desire to run a marathon, excel at your job, and lose weight. Without motivation, you wouldn't have any inclination to pursue greatness. Your basic motivations must first be met before you can start working towards improving the finer aspects of your life.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs explains how you're motivated first to take care of your physiological and safety needs before you can pursue love, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Before you get ahead of yourself and dive into all of the psychological theories of motivation, take care of your most basic needs.

Once you've taken care of the basics, you'll be ready to take on your higher purpose. Some will have a hard time sticking to their goals if they lack the passion behind their motivation. When your thoughts, goals, and actions are all in line, you'll see yourself crossing the finish line before you know it.

The most important step is putting purpose and passion behind your motivation. That's why you need to ask yourself:

"What goal is important enough to me, right now, that I can put my mind, body, and soul behind it?"

The Importance of Motivation

Finding and building motivation is vital as it will allow you to:

  • Change your habits
  • Become the best you
  • Set achievable goals
  • Learn how to manage time
  • Build skills and talents
  • Improve your mental health

Motivation has an exponential effect. In the beginning, it can be difficult to stick with your goals. When you've made it past the initial pain period, you're more likely to keep working towards the finish line. You'll find that in those moments it allows you to:

  • Adapt to a fast-paced, ever-changing environment
  • Function productively
  • Build courage and character
  • Increase your internal drive

Motivation is also linked with our physical and mental health. When we lack motivation, our well-being will diminish. Our basic needs will stop being met and our mind and body will suffer because of it.

You need to have the motivation to go to the gym and work out. You need to have the motivation to be a good parent, partner, and friend. When we start to become less motivated in simple tasks like cleaning our room, this has a butterfly effect that can negatively affect our well-being.

It’s for these reasons why you need to find your motivational drive. It’s a crucial aspect to living a Full Life and achieving happiness, success, and more.

Why Is It Difficult to Stay Motivated?

The tricky part about motivation is not starting, but staying motivated. Every New Year, thousands decide they're going to change their lives. Fewer than 10 percent actually stick with their resolution, and that's being generous. Below you'll find many common reasons why you're losing motivation.

Not Aiming High Enough

While it’s easy to think setting easy goals will keep you motivated, it may harm your long-term motivation. If you make goals that are too achievable, you’ll get bored and lose interest. Ideally, you want to strike a balance between pushing yourself and creating realistic goals.

If you’re used to staying within your comfort zone, you’ll be missing out on the satisfaction of achieving a life-changing goal. When you push yourself, you'll be able to build unshakable confidence as you crush goal after goal. When you look around one day and you're living your dream, it'll all be worth it.

Here are 7 Reasons to Dare to Dream Big.

Suffering From Procrastination

If you find it hard to stay focused and get started, you’ll find yourself falling behind.

Procrastination is a bad habit that you must learn to deal with if you want to achieve your short-term goals. Some simple steps you can take to defeat procrastination are: commit to starting a task for at least 3 minutes, create daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists; and reward yourself when you complete your tasks.

Learn How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators or try out the Pomodoro method.

Unclear Vision

Uncertainty about the future is a fear that many of us deal with. It can be paralyzing, instead of taking action, we start worrying about "What if?”

"What if it doesn’t work out? What if my dream isn't truly my dream? What if I don't succeed?"

If you have trouble creating a vision, then you’re at risk of drifting aimlessly through life. When you find your purpose and passion, you’ll be driven to strive for excellence. You can start the process of discovering your life purpose by asking yourself: “What would my ideal life look like?”

This is how to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Letting Fear Control Your Mind And Actions

Fear can prevent you from achieving your dreams. Instead of taking action and moving forward, you might be finding yourself apprehensive due to the fear of failure.

You mustn’t allow fear to hold you back. You’ll inevitably miss out on career, relationship, and self-improvement opportunities if you don't learn how to manage your fears. Fortunately, fear can be overcome.

One way to manage fear is to look for the root cause of your fear. With deep introspection, you can uncover the exact moment that triggered the fear that has been hindering your growth. This will give you a window of opportunity to communicate with your inner being and find release.

Facing your fear is the only way you'll be able to become the best version of yourself. You don't need to fix your problem overnight, but taking slow, thoughtful actions can have massive impacts on how you deal with your inside and outside world.

Try these 14 Ways to Live Life Free of Fear and Full of Hope.

Feeling Overwhelmed With Work and Responsibilities

Otherwise known as burnout, it places you into a state of depression from overexertion and you struggle to achieve your goals. Burning out occurs when we put our well-being on the back burner to further ourselves in our careers or hobbies.

When we feel overwhelmed and forget about ourselves, it becomes a challenge to unwind and find balance in life. Burning out is a sign that you're motivated, but you need to learn how to separate work and home life. Without this separation, the lines begin to blur and you may find it increasingly difficult to find motivation for yourself when you're constantly wiped out from work.

Deal with burnout by improving your time management, and learn how to take regular ‘you’ time. Find out more in How to Spot a Burnout And Overcome It Fast.

The Force Behind Your Desires

Chances are, if you were to look back at your journey towards that achievement, you would realize that at the heart of your motivation was having a specific Purpose. This is the most important driving factor allowing you to be motivated to work hard, or to find for solutions and ways to achieving your ultimate desire.

It’s important to have a purpose or objective, because once you have that meaningful objective, it creates a force that either pushes you forward or pulls you towards it. This push and pull is the basic driving force behind every type of motivation. Motivation can be broken down into two types: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Understanding these two types of motivation will give you greater control over your self-motivation.

Types of Motivation

Understanding and knowing how to use the different types of motivation can help you reach your goals.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation

stems from finding satisfaction from within and doesn't rely on potential external gain. It involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding. So in this case, you’re now doing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward or factor.

This could be wanting to play your favorite songs on the guitar, or watching a comedy at the cinema. These behaviors are motivated by internal desire. In other words, the behavior itself is the reward, and doesn’t have to be supplied by an external source. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.

If you play a sport but only for enjoyment, you're doing it out of intrinsic motivation. The same could be said for drawing, meditating, learning, and reading. Anything that you pursue for enjoyment rather than for potential personal benefit is intrinsic motivation.

You'll find that it's easier to stick with an intrinsic motivation because you're enjoying the process rather than depending on an external factor to bring you happiness.

Attitude Motivation

Imagine trying to tackle a big goal such as learning a new language by starting with a negative mindset. Your defeatist attitude is likely to lead to just that — defeat.

But now picture the same scenario with your mindset switched to positive. With this hopeful, go-getting attitude you'll have the motivation to start learning and speaking the language of your choice.

Competence Motivation

If you're always trying to learn new things and become an expert, you're being driven by competence motivation.

Competence motivation is incredibly powerful when you're trying to build a business and start facing obstacles. Instead of giving up, you'll continue learning and keep pushing forward.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is working towards a tangible goal that has a specific outcome. This occurs when we’re motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Examples of this sort of motivation include working overtime on a project because you want some form of approval from your boss, or arriving to work on time to avoid being reprimanded by your boss. An extrinsic motivator could also be competing in a contest to win a cash prize or award. In each of these examples, the behavior is motivated by a desire to gain a reward or avoid an adverse outcome. It’s common for individuals to engage in a behavior not because they enjoy it or find it satisfying, but to get something in return or avoid something unpleasant. This type of motivation is due to an external factor.

Extrinsic motivation doesn't necessarily mean "bad", but you may find that extrinsic motivations bring you less fulfillment than intrinsic motivations.

Reward-Based/Incentive Motivation

Similar to extrinsic motivation, you can think of it like a carrot-on-a-stick. A reward is waiting for you after you complete a task.

For example, your partner tells you that if you clean the house, they'll cook a delicious dinner for you. If you don't like cleaning, getting you to clean can be an insurmountable task. With the incentive of a reward for a tasty meal, you'll easily find the motivation to get the job done.

Fear-Based Motivation

Fear-based motivation is an example of negative reinforcement.

You may be fearful that if you don't stick to your goals, you'll never fit into the size clothes you want or get the job you've been dreaming about.

Fear-based motivation can be extremely powerful when used towards achieving the right goals.

Achievement-Based Motivation

People who are striving to achieve higher roles, better positions and better titles are all working through achievement-based motivation.

Those who are utilizing achievement-based motivations are working towards a goal they have in mind, they aren't necessarily working solely for personal gain. If you're a professional that's looking to expand your horizon, using achievement-based motivation can help you get there while keeping the ego at bay.

Power-Based Motivation

If you want to change the world (or at least some part of it), then you'll be able to call upon power-based motivation. Essentially, if you want to be a leader and a visionary, you'll only be able to succeed with a thirst for power. This could be a negative (think of dictators), but it could also be very positive (think of Martin Luther King, Jr.).

Affiliation Motivation

If you've ever been part of a sports team, you have seen affiliation in action. It's that special team spirit that motivates each player to perform their very best.

Work can be the same too. You just need to make sure you're part of a harmonious and supportive team.

Want to find the motivation styles that work best for you for how to get motivated?

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

The key difference between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation is that Extrinsic Motivation relies on an external reward or penalty, whereas Intrinsic Motivation rewards the behavior itself. If you now go back to think about the desires or achievements that you had in the past, were they extrinsically or intrinsically motivated? The reason why many fail to find sustained drive is because they rely a lot on External Motivation. If you want to have long term and sustainable motivation, you really need more of it to be driven by Intrinsic Motivation. Why is that? The answer is simple. Extrinsic Motivation relies on external rewards or penalties. Once that reward or penalty is gone, this source of motivation will disappear. Also, external rewards or penalties are always finite, and you’re usually not in control of them.On the other hand, with Intrinsic Motivation --- the activity itself is already the reward. So its supply of “motivation fuel” can virtually be unlimited if nurtured properly.

When To Use Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation should be used wisely as only focusing on fame and fortune can lead to a feeling of unfulfillment. Some situations to use extrinsic motivation are:

  • Offering it to those who don’t want to do a particular task. Getting someone to do a task can be rewarding if they have something to look forward to at the end of it.
  • Making and saving money for retirement
  • Wanting to run for public office only for publicity

When To Use Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is doing something for personal enjoyment rather than a reward.

Without having anything to look forward to at the end, you're more likely to enjoy the task you're doing. When you're only worrying about your enjoyment, you don't have to worry about achieving any goal.

Having only intrinsic motivations can lead you to do tasks without purpose. A mixture of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations is needed to have a balanced life. You want to enjoy what you're doing but at the same time find fulfillment along the way as well.

Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a consequence that when applied will strengthen the chances of you performing the same habit again. Think of reinforcements as another layer to motivation and that it influences specific actions that we do.

Reinforcements come in two ways: positive and negative.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is presenting a motivating stimulus to someone after a certain action or behavior is done. An example of this is receiving a bonus for performing better than your co-workers.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is all about removing a certain stimulus after a certain action or behavior is done. For example, you’ll clean the dishes if it saves you from your partner telling you to do them. Another is waking up and turning off your phone’s alarm.

The Motivation Flow

If you’re looking for proper motivation, you need to understand that motivation is a flow.

For you to feel motivated, you need to dive beyond the surface of your source of motivation. You’ll need to find something deeper.

One way to think about motivation is that it’s like the Sun. The Sun is a self-sustaining and long-lasting ball of energy that continuously supplies energy to all life on Earth. Like the Sun, your motivation engine has several layers to it as well, starting from the core and spreading out to the surface.

The surface is what we all see. From a motivation perspective, those are the speeches, quotes, videos, and more. But if you rely on that, you have no core - no real process or drive to achieve your long-lasting goals. It’s a crucial part of any motivation engine.

If you’re able to create a motivation engine that’s self-sustaining, not only will you find meaning and purpose, but you can enjoy every minute of what you’re doing. It’ll shift your roles and responsibilities from chores to things that drive you.

To help you understand the motivation flow better, it’s best to break the motivation engine down into 3 parts or layers:

  • Layer 1: Core - Your ultimate purpose that drives everything you do.
  • Layer 2: Support - The enablers that support your work.
  • Layer 3: Surface - Your acknowledgments

You’re likely more familiar with the second and third layer as we all come into contact with this daily, however here is a breakdown of all three.


This layer encompasses any type of external recognition or acknowledgment that could give you motivation. Maybe it’s respect from a manager, other co-workers, or compliments and praise.

It can also be emotional support like encouragement, feedback, and constructive criticism. It could even be from affiliation like having a friend who has the same goal as you.


The second layer is the enablers that support the goals that you have. They ultimately ensure that things go smoothly to achieve your goals. How they do this is by magnifying your motivation core or speed up your momentum that you’re building up.

Some examples of these are your friends and networks who can provide advice, encouragement and keep you focused on your task.


The first layer is the core and is most important. It is the driving force behind your motivation flow - your purpose. Think of it as a why, but much deeper. Your purpose is what differentiates those who are motivated and those who are demotivated, the achievers to the underachievers, and the happy from the unhappy.

Your core is your purpose and it’s sustained by two things: Having meaning and forward movement. With these two as foundational pieces, you’ll have a power source that can give you motivation forever.

So how do you get to your core? Here's how:

1. Having Meaning

It’s as simple as asking yourself a question: Why?

Why are you pursuing this goal over anything else? If it’s vague or unclear, the energy will be the same. If it’s precise and clear, the energy will be the same too. Without meaning, there is no direction.

That said, having meaning doesn’t mean it has to be grandiose like changing the world. Finding meaning boils down to contributing value to something or someone that matters to you.

2. Forward Movement

The short version of this is to keep moving. Motivation stems from making progress and building that momentum. As soon as you stop, everything else will. The other thing to keep in mind is that progress doesn’t have to be massive leaps and bounds. Even if one thing changed for the better, that’s still progress.

A good strategy to ensure forward movement is to be setting milestones and having checklists. These are good ways to visualize big and small wins. Video games do this all the time and while those achievements are virtual, they still trigger the same motivation centers that you would have in any other instance.

How to Maximize Your Intrinsic Motivation

Now that you know the importance of Intrinsic Motivation, the next step would be to maximize it and make it sustainable. As I mentioned earlier, Intrinsic Motivation is the key to long term, sustainable objectives. But, just having a meaningful objective is not enough. To make the most out of it, you have to nurtureyour Intrinsic Motivation.

It’s important to do so because Intrinsic Motivation can have diminishing returns. For example, you’re feeling thirsty, the weather is warm and you really just want to drink a can of Coke. It’d be great if you could have a coke in hand. Once you have it, it’s so satisfying drinking it. But, imagine I give you a second can, then a third can, and how about a fourth one? Your satisfaction will eventually diminish and you might even get sick of it. So this law of diminishing return occurs everywhere, even for our Intrinsic Motivation.

Increasing Intrinsic Motivation

Before you can begin nurturing your Intrinsic Motivation, it’s good to know the factors that make up Intrinsic Motivation. This will equip you to level up on your Intrinsic Motivation better.

1. Challenge

The first factor is Challenge. It’s important to set a challenge in your objectives. Then the process of attaining that goal is seen as possible, but not necessarily certain. This way when you eventually overcome every obstacle to achieve that goal, that directly increases your self -esteem.

2. Curiosity

The second factor to maximizing Intrinsic Motivation, is having Curiosity. This is when something in the physical environment grabs your attention (sensory curiosity) or when the activity stimulates you to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity).

3. Control

The third factor is Control. This is the ability to have greater control over yourself and/or your environment so that you can determine what you pursue.

4. Cooperation and Competition

Lastly, we have Cooperation and Competition. This is the satisfaction that you gain from helping others, or pursuing a shared goal through mutual support and camaraderie. It could also be the excitement and satisfaction from putting your skills and performance against others, and using it as a yardstick to push your own progress.

Nurturing Your Intrinsic Motivation

Now that you know the main factors contributing to Intrinsic Motivation, you can focus on nurturing each factor to level up your Intrinsic Motivation. How can you maximize on each factor to increase your Intrinsic motivation when pursuing after something? Once you’ve nurtured your Intrinsic Motivation, you’ll start to rely less on Extrinsic Motivations and you’ll find that your perseverance and drive to achieve something becomes much more enhanced. You will find greater autonomy and independence too, knowing that you need not rely on external sources for acknowledgement, recognition or rewards. This in itself will already be very satisfying.

Motivation For Specific Purposes

In addition to all the motivation tips above, we understand that you may be looking for motivation for a specific purpose. This section can help you find ways to achieve your goals.

Life Motivation

Life motivation is what gets you out of bed in the morning. If you have no life motivation, then chances are low that you’re open to doing anything at all.

While the only person who knows how your life is going is you, some possible reasons for why feel stuck can be things like:

  • You’re not sure what you want.
  • You’ve made “lack of motivation” part of your identity.
  • You’re not aiming high enough.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Procrastinating too much.
  • You’re too busy looking for motivation rather than doing.
  • You're going through a difficult period in your life.
  • You've fallen behind on daily habits.

Finding your inner motivation and building yourself a sustainable motivation engine will help you regain life motivation. You can also check out these 21 Powerful Words That Will Give You Life Motivation or 50+ Best Motivation Quotes to get you through your day.

Work Motivation

Another area where people lose motivation is through their work. Where most people get stuck usually stems from one of these four traps:

  • Your values are mismatched. A task doesn’t connect with or contribute to your core values. You see no reason to do it so you don’t do it.
  • You lack confidence. Deep down you think you aren't capable.
  • You’re experiencing disruptive emotions. You’re consumed by various negative emotions whether that’s fear, anxiety, anger, or depression. These emotions sap away your motivation so you don’t do the task.
  • Victim Complex. You attribute your lack of performance to something that’s outside of your control.

To overcome these lack of motivation scenarios, check out How to Get Motivated to Work and Start Your Day With Positivity.

Weight Loss Motivation

There are times when you feel like giving up on your fitness goals, especially when sticking to a workout routine and healthy diet is so challenging. Here're some reasons why you lose your weight loss motivation:

  • You’re doing the same thing every day. Not necessarily the same workout but if you’re doing 3 sets of 10 reps every week, you’re eventually going to get bored of doing it.
  • You've plateaued. If your goal is to lose weight, it can be demoralizing to see the same number on the scale every morning even if you’re working out hard.
  • You are working out alone. While being on your own is fine, it can get lonely, and bringing a friend can help you in showing up.
  • You’re not recovering properly. You’re going to lose motivation if you’re working out and then immediately going down to a fast-food joint.
  • The environment has changed. Visiting the same gym all the time can get old as well.

To keep your weight loss motivation high, try these 17 Ideas to Get Motivated to Lose Weight Now and check out our guide on How to Stay Fit.

Aligning Your Thoughts, Goals, and Actions

Have you ever hyped yourself up with motivation only to later question why you started in the first place?

This is a common reason why people have difficulty sticking to their goals. Without inspiration and positive thinking to go along with your motivation, you'll be left with only a piece of the puzzle. When your passion and motivation are in line together, the amount of energy you have available can feel limitless.

You don't need to worry about motivating yourself right away. Take your time deciding where your passion lies. Envision yourself where you want to be and write it down. Your positive thoughts will affect your actions which will, in turn, get you to your goals quicker.

Sharing your vision with your closest family and friends will help you stay accountable. You'll influence the way you think by telling others that you're going to accomplish a certain goal. Aligning yourself is going to be the most powerful tool you have when it comes to being and staying motivated.

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.” — Norman Ralph Augustine

Getting and staying motivated will make an immense difference in your life. You’ll be able to tackle those goals and dreams that you’ve put aside for years. You’ll also be able to set yourself new and exciting goals that you would never have considered before.

Stay motivated always!