Motivation: Fact or Fiction?



Motivation. It’s the word that we proudly parade around when things are great, but curse when things aren’t going so well. The truth is, no one is in the mood to do everything that needs to get done all the time...


Motivation is often elusive.


So with that in mind, how do we determine what needs to be done, and when? Do we just go off of what we ‘feel’ like doing when we ‘feel’ like doing it? Do we determine the priority list based on which tasks have the greatest consequences if left undone? What about if they involve other people, such as your clients, your family, or your team? Is it based on what is the quickest to check off our list? What we just “like” doing? Or do we dive headfirst into doing the most time-consuming head-ache inducing task first?


I threw a lot at you right there, but these questions lead to the root of whether motivation is fact or fiction: what really motivates us to make a decision?


First, let’s clarify what exactly motivation is.


Think of motivation as the charge that inspires you to move, to act, to do. As with every charge, it varies depending on the situation. So let’s find out what gets you moving!


Finding Motivation

Take a time out right now and list 5 things you did recently that you didn’t want to do. Why did you do them? Was it out of obligation? The desire for positive feedback? Do you have a martyr complex? Or possibly was it because you worried about what others’ would think of you? What was the reason?


Have you heard of ‘negative motivation’ and ‘positive motivation’? Someone who is negatively motivated tends to do things to prevent, or in reaction to, a negative response - they are primarily motivated to do things to avoid pain.


Here’s what that looks like: “I don’t want to be taken to jail so I’m not going to drink and drive” or “My teachers told me that I would never amount to anything, so I’m going to be successful and prove everyone wrong”.


On the other hand, someone who is positively motivated may do things to ensure a positive result and/or receive a positive response. They are primarily motivated to gain pleasure.


Here’s what that looks like: “I’m going to pay my heating bill because I want a warm house to live in during the winter” or “I’m going to exercise because I feel better when I do”.


Starting to make sense?


Human beings are wired with two primary motivations: avoid pain or gain pleasure. Which one do you resonate the most with?


How to Increase Motivation


Now that we have that deep dive out of the way, circle back to the “5 Things” exercise from the last section. Looking at this list, what motivates you to act? What values do you see? Are you primarily negatively or positively motivated? Now that you have an idea of where you are starting from - how do we increase motivation in order to increase desirable results?


Some people need to be ‘in flow’ or in a particular state of emotion that is conducive to them being able to do what needs to be done, while others can simply look at their to-do list and are motivated by checking things off.


Once you figure out what works for you - it’s time to amp up the stakes!! Take what you usually do to feel good, productive, or whatever you need to feel and double it! Do you need to listen to your music first, go for a run, take a salt bath, have an hour of uninterrupted “you” time? Do you need to time block for the task that needs to be done, and allow yourself 30 minutes to get into the flow? When it comes to increasing motivation, it’s imperative that you know what YOU need and amplify it!


Motivation Examples

Here are some examples of motivation:

  • I really need to answer these emails, so I am going to put on my favorite playlist, dance around for 3 minutes, then use those endorphins to dive in.

  • I don’t want this to pile up tomorrow, so I and holding myself accountable to completing these 3 tasks today before noon.

  • I love the way I feel after I work out, so I commit to moving my body for 30 minutes even if I don’t want to.

  • My relationships are important to me, so even though I’m not feeling it, I will be intentional about carving out one on one time with my spouse.

  • I hate my current 9-5, but since I want to start my own business, I will use this income as a way to fund it.



Motivation examples and examples of motivation look different for everybody based on their values. If you’re someone that values community, things that give you a sense of community will motivate you. If you value partnership, things that give you a sense of partnership will motivate you. If you value freedom and autonomy, doing things that will give you a sense of freedom and autonomy will motivate you.


And while finding out what motivates you is essential to increasing motivation - most days you just have to fight the battle to win the war.


What does that mean? Basically, oftentimes we just need to do something we don’t want to do because ultimately, it gets us what we want in the end. So no, going to your 9-5 job may not feel like it’s contributing to your sense of freedom and autonomy, but if it is funding your small business or paying your mortgage - it will eventually get you the freedom and autonomy you want.


Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation


Now that we have negative vs positive motivation lined out, what is the difference between Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?


Richard Ryan, a clinical graduate student, and Edward Deci PhD are often called the founders of intrinsic motivation through their Self-Determination Theory. This theory states that there are two forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. According to them, extrinsic motivation is motivation stemming from external forces, resulting in external rewards. This is admiration, accolades, degrees, a raise, etc.


Intrinsic motivation results in the act of doing something without any obvious external rewards. This looks like waking up early to work out, taking time to read a book just to read it, or tackling a project because you know it will make YOU feel better in the end. This kind of internal motivation can come from our core values, interests, and sense of morality.


How to Get Motivation


Finally, how can you get motivated when you just aren’t in the mood? What is the best way to get motivated to do what really needs to be done?


This is where your energy is key. To get motivation, focus on shifting your energy. Why? Because you can’t make something different happen by using the same energy you used to create the problem. For example, if you want to wake up earlier, instead of using the “but I’m sooooo tired…… I can’t even..”,energy then the first thing you need to do is shift your energy. Get out of bed, do 10 jumping jacks, jump right into a cold shower. Commit to un-feeling tired so you can tackle the day with inspiration knowing that you have everything you need to get done.


Motivation shifts from legend to FACT when you start to find ways to prove to yourself that doing what needs to be done will be beneficial to you in the long run - ultimately getting you what you want.


A child does what feels good, adults make a plan and stick with it!


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