Fortnightly Challenge: Motivation

In this series, I challenge you on a fortnightly basis to look at something in your life from a different perspective.

We all get those days

Motivation can be an empowering idea but like anything can sometimes be easier or harder to achieve. We are all motivated by different things and learning what does for us can be a helpful tool. When you find something you’re passionate about it comes smoothly with minimal effort. On the other hand, if it’s something that you don’t feel excited about it can become almost painful to motivate yourself, and you become trapped in a circle of self-feeding procrastination.

What is Motivation?

The author Steven Pressfield has a great line in his book, The War of Art that highlights the essence of motivation.

“At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”

The idea being that at many moments in our lives it becomes easier to change than to stay as we are. We have all been there at some point. It is easier to do that task at work due to the upcoming deadline because the challenge of getting on with the project is more comfortable than being reprimanded for not completing it in time.

“Making a small start, even if it may seem like a tiny change, is a way of actively inspiring yourself that will produce momentum”

Every time we have to make a choice, it will come with a price, but when we feel motivated for that choice, then we are better able to process the inconvenience of the action than the awkwardness of staying where we were.

Misconceptions About Motivation

A typical line you will hear people say or even in your mind is “If I could get motivated for ……. I will be able to do”. A lot of people will think like this but not enact it. They have already put that block in their mind for inaction. For some people, this can work, building upon that initial push to make a change. Long lasting motivation is the result of the action and not the cause of it. Making a small start, even if it may seem like a tiny change, is a way of actively inspiring yourself that will produce momentum.

Tennis ball and change
That ball isn’t moving on its on

An image I often use for clients is that of a ball sitting on a flat path. On its own, without that small push, it will move nowhere. With the slightest nudge, it will roll but will that be enough to keep it going? With more and more small pushes it will build up that momentum and become self-moving. The most significant effort will be at the beginning, to get the ball rolling, but once it has begun its journey, it will require less time and energy to move

Different types of Motivation

You will often hear people talking about motivation as a catch-all term.

Did you know there are different ways of thinking of motivation that affect us in different ways?

One is the motivation that comes from an external source (Extrinsic) and the other inside the individual (Intrinsic).

“Often enough knowing which drives you can help you make the best of choice about where you put your energy”

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation happens when we are motivated to act in a way or do an action to gain a reward or circumvent some form of punishment.

  • Some good examples being: Finishing a project to gain recognition from work colleagues
  • Taking part in sport to win awards
  • Doing housework, so you don’t get told off by a parent or partner

In every example, the motivations come from that desire to avoid a negative result or receive an incentive. They are not doing these actions because they find enjoyment from it, but merely to prevent an unpleasant effect or something in return.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is when we engage in something that is personally meaningful to us, fundamentally, doing an activity for its own sake rather than an external gain.

Some suitable examples being:

  • Playing a game because you find enjoyment from it.
  • Doing something creative such as Painting or Needlework because you find it relaxing.
  • Engaging in the sport because you enjoy the activity.

In each of these occasions, the behaviour is motivated by an inner desire to take part in an event for its own sake.

In essence, the behaviour itself becomes its reward.

What is best between the two?

There is no simple answer to this question because both forms of motivation have their positives and negatives. It can also depend on the person as some people find that external reward is more engaging than an internal sense of achieving something for one’s self. Often enough knowing which drives you can help you make the best of choice about where you put your energy.

Most people would believe that having intrinsic motivation is better but not in every situation. If used carefully extrinsic rewards can be beneficial.

Some things to consider when looking into your motivations are:

  • Unforeseen external rewards typically do not decrease intrinsic motivation. If a prize is given after the action and without for fought that doing the task will gain a bonus, then it may not affect the internal reason for doing the project. It needs to be done cautiously as it can cause the person to expect a further reward if they continue this task.
Medals are often used to reward hard work
Medals are often used to reward hard work
  • Acclaim can help increase internal motivation. Giving someone praise and positive feedback when the achieve a task better than others can help grow Intrinsic motivation.

My challenge to you for the next two weeks is to consider your motivations.

  1. What motivates you and why?
  2. What motivates you more to complete tasks? Intrinsic or Extrinsic motivations?
  3. Is there a task at the moment that you are finding hard to motivate yourself to do?

Please comment and share your experiences here!

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David Breaker
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