Chapter 1: Introduction to Motivation: How Controlling Your Motivation can improve Your Life
What exactly is motivation? It is a rather slippery term that seems to have a different definition depending upon who you ask, but if you look at psychology, it is pared down to the simple definition of: the force that drives us to act; that means any type of action, including getting a glass of water or eating food. If we had no motivation whatsoever, we would simply die of thirst or malnutrition because we had no driving force to get food and water. Of course, in those cases, the body has certain defenses against starving or dying of dehydration, but the point is that motivation drives everything.
Psychology describes it as the biological, social, cognitive or emotional force that makes us do something. Commonly, people talk about motivation as a compeller to make changes, and that’s basically the definition that we’re going to use in this book. The force that drives us to make changes and do big things is motivation and if you can control your motivation, you can control your destiny.
What is Motivation Made of?
Understanding motivation is the best way to conquer it and that’s why we’re going to break motivation down further into three parts. If you want to achieve a goal, you know that simply having the desire isn’t enough. In fact, achieving your goals require that you maintain your motivation throughout the obstacles that you will undoubtedly encounter. Here are the three separate components of motivation:
The Activation of Motivation
The activation of motivation is when you have the desire to achieve something and you take action. For example, if you wanted to lose twenty pounds, you might create a diet or exercise plan over the next few weeks. You are motivated because you have the desire to achieve your goal, and you actually take a step in that direction. This could be anything. In the case of our example, your activation doesn’t have to be making a diet or exercise plan. It could be throwing all of the junk food in your cupboards away, or it could be as simple as stepping on a scale and finding out what you weigh so that you can know when you’ve reached that 20-pound goal. Any step you take in the direction of your goal once you have made it is the activation of motivation.
Motivation Requires Persistence
This is the part where people usually fail at achieving whatever it is that they set out to do. When you first get motivated, you are excited and can’t wait to start on the steps required. Then, you start doing those steps and you either get distracted by other things in life, or you find that they are too hard, that there are too many obstacles in the way. These obstacles will exist no matter what goal you are trying to achieve, and it is the point when motivation needs to be strengthened by some of the techniques that we’ll cover in this book.
Intensity of Motivation
The third component is intensity and it is best described as the amount of effort that you put into achieving your goal. Although two people can have the exact same motivation to achieve a goal and even have the persistence to make it through obstacles, the intensity is what determines how quickly they will be able to achieve the goal.
Some people are plodders, strong and steady, working towards a goal a little bit each day. Some are sprinters, moving through the steps of achieving a goal as fast as the goal will allow. Neither one of these is wrong, nor is the middle point, which I like to call the jogger. The jogger is what you should strive for. Neither is he racing through the goal so fast he is in danger of burning out or moving so slowly that it could take months or years to achieve a goal that could be achieved within weeks.
The Source of Motivation
There are a couple more things that you should know about motivation. The first is that it can be intrinsic or extrinsic. In other words, it can come from inside of us or it can come from outside desires. Intrinsic motivation means that you do it simply for the personal pleasure. An example might be cooking with a difficult recipe just for the challenge or completing a crossword. The main factor here is that you do it not for outside recognition, but internal pleasure. Extrinsic is just the opposite. Extrinsic motivation comes from the outside rewards that you’ll get: recognition, fame, money or respect just to name a few.
The second thing that you should know about motivation is that there are three sources where your motivations come from. Psychologists have debated this issue for quite a while, but over the years, these have become the accepted standard sources of motivation.
Needs: Motivation coming from your needs or drives is one of the theories of motivational sources. Some of these are quite obviously true: eating, drinking and sleeping for example.
Instincts: Instincts are another source of motivation according to psychologists like William James and Sigmund Freud. Our brains come with prewired behavior patterns already included that activate when certain external stimuli happens.
Arousal: This is an explanation of the type of motivation that people experience. A person with low levels of arousal might not be found skydiving or parachuting out of airplanes, but a person with high arousal levels might do exactly this.
Now that you know more about motivation and some of the factors driving it, we can move onto some of the techniques to help you control it better.
Chapter 2: What Causes Low Levels of Motivation?
Some people just aren’t motivated or just aren’t motivated enough. This is difficult to understand for people that always have motivation and they slap labels on these people like “lazy,” “stupid” or “uncaring.” But there are things that can cause low levels of motivation that have nothing to do with the person’s intelligence or laziness. Most of the time, low levels of motivation can be cured if the right techniques are applied. We know that practice makes perfect, or at least in this case, practicing being motivated will help you be more motivated in the future.
The factors that cause low levels of motivation can be divided up into four categories: habitual beliefs, habitual behaviors, personality quirks and health problems. We’ll discuss each of them in detail, but don’t be alarmed if you feel as if you fall into more than one. Most people do and those people still become motivated and achieve their goals. Let’s get started.
Habitual Beliefs That Affect Motivation Levels
A habitual belief is something that you have believed for so long that it seems inconceivable that it could be false. You might have heard that people say something for so long that they start believing it themselves. That’s how strong these habitual beliefs can be, and they can be a major pain to change. But if you want to increase your motivation levels, you are going to have to carefully examine some beliefs and see if they are causing your lack of motivation. If that is the case, then carefully evaluate them so that you can know whether they are actually true, or whether you have just held them for so long that you believe they are.
Let’s take an example belief so that you can see how the process works. Suppose that an overweight person has these two beliefs: “I am ugly” and “I’ll always be ugly no matter how much weight I lose.” How motivated is that person going to be to lose weight? Why would they give up food – which at times seems like the only friend in the world that they have – for something that that they believe isn’t going to change how they look anyway.
That’s why habitual beliefs can be such driving forces in stopping motivation. But they aren’t always true. In fact, they aren’t even logical in many cases. In the case of the example above, it is quite obvious that losing weight would make nearly every overweight person look better and be healthier, but the belief doesn’t take into consideration those factors. It just stops the motivation in its tracks and turns you towards that piece of German chocolate cake in the refrigerator.
Breaking the Chains of Habitual Behaviors
Habitual behaviors are different than habitual beliefs in that they are not based on any particular belief and don’t really have a foundation, but you have been doing them for so long that it can be almost impossible to break the habit.
I knew a middle-aged man who began to have serious teeth problems when he turned forty. In fact, growing up, his mother and father not only failed to stress how important brushing and flossing was, they actually didn’t believe in modern dentistry. Once he became an adult and realized how important brushing was, he was motivated to brush his teeth and floss every day. However, even though he had strong motivation he found himself hardly ever brushing. He had been not brushing his teeth for so many years that he had to take special care and actually set an alarm twice a day for brushing, for an entire month, before he finally was able to make it a habit.
Habitual behaviors make us a slave to them just as much as habitual beliefs and sometimes we have to take drastic steps to break the habit and form a new one that will help us achieve a goal. For example, if your goal is weight loss, but you have never developed the habit of exercise (or to put it more accurately you are a slave to the habit of not exercising) you will find it extremely difficult to do the first few times you do it and you might have to force yourself to exercise for quite a long time before the habit of non-exercise is broken.