Motivation can be a fickle thing. It can come and go at a moments notice. It’s easy to do the things we need to when feeling motivated. But when we’re not. It can feel almost impossible. And that’s when you need it most.
But what is motivation? When you know what it is. When you know where it comes from. When you know what it requires. It is easier to find and sustain.
The hardest part about motivation are the times when you are just not feeling it. Those are the times that you really need it, and, more importantly, those are the times when you really must do what it is you are trying to do. The successful and accomplished among us are that way precisely because they continue to take the steps they need to take regardless of whether they are feeling motivated, unmotivated, or even downright depressed.
In a small study done on mindset by a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Carol S Dweck, it was found that people with a certain mindset actually performed just as well whether they were depressed or not. Their motivational secret? There’s more on that later.
What Is Motivation?
The Cambridge dictionary will tell you that motivation is ‘enthusiasm for doing something’ or ‘the need or reason for doing something’ or a ‘willingness to do something, or something that causes such willingness’.
When you break the word down further you see that its Latin origins are in the root word ‘mot’ and also ‘motivus’, which means ‘move’ and ‘moving’.
The ‘ation’ suffix relates to an ‘action or process’.
So at its heart the word ‘motivation’ is a movement into action. A compelling reason to do something.
How To Find Motivation
So we know what it is. We know what it means. But where do we find motivation?
There are two basic motivators for everyone:
1 – Avoiding a loss
2 – Acquiring a gain
It is worth noting that we will actually work harder towards avoiding a loss than acquiring a gain.
Personally, I am motivated by both really. I am seeking to acquire a gain to provide a better life for my son and I. But, paradoxically, this has only happened after suffering a great loss in the form of his mother, my soon-to-be ex-wife, moving out. I guess, for me, I also don’t want to suffer any more losses.
Emotion, Logic, And Motivation
Every decision we make is based on emotion, or logic, or a combination of both. Emotional reactions to things sometimes don’t play out in our favour. The logical reaction to something is usually the most balanced with the most reasonable solution.
Thing is, for most of us, the emotional reaction or decision is usually what comes first.
I find that if you can tame your emotional decision and use it to fuel yourself it can become a real powerful motivator. I’ve written before about how there is something more powerful than motivation. That something is your reason why? Your reason why you are doing something can push you on to do the things you need to do when motivation is in short supply.
As mentioned, my reason why is to provide a better life for my son. It drives me to keep going, to keep exercising, to keep writing, to keep learning new skills, even when I’m tired or feeling low. My reason why is more emotional than logical. I might be making logical decisions in what I have to do but it is the emotion that drives me. Your reason why can be the most powerful reason of all.
Belief And Imagination
A lot of times the personal development gurus will emphasise the importance of belief. How you have to believe in yourself. Believe that what you want to achieve is possible. And never give up on that belief. That is true. But you have to add something else into the mix. Imagination.
You have to be able to imagine yourself doing that thing you want to achieve. Or being in that place you want to be in. Quite simply, if you cannot see yourself doing something. You won’t. Our minds work on imagery. Everything is seen as an image first. Even when you think of a word it is the image of the word you see first. You have to imagine your decision, your process, your ultimate aim, first, before you can make it real.
When you lose your motivation
As stated at the start. Motivation can be fickle. It can come and go. Along with your reason why there is something else that you need to have to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. It’s the thing Professor Dweck found in her small study. The thing that enabled students to succeed even when they were feeling depressed.
That thing is determination. Dweck found that certain students, those that have what she calls a ‘growth mindset’, the mindset that looks for solutions not problems, when faced with depression actually took more action to confront their problems, keep up with their schoolwork, and maintain their lives. As she says: ‘The worse they felt, the more determined they became!’.
Determination and persistence are what will keep you going when all else fails. When motivation leaves you. When things get on top of you. It is your determination that will keep you going. Find that within you and you will eventually succeed.