Almost daily, clients report their struggles with
motivation. Some of the main culprits are the ones who have developed big,
long-term goals. These individuals are perplexed by their inability to follow
through on their daily tasks despite being highly driven to achieve their
They have read the books, watched the videos, and attended
the seminars. Many of them possess so much knowledge they could put on their
own event or start coaching others. Despite self-critically defining themselves
as lazy, the majority of them are very ambitious and extremely determined
I inform each of them I don’t believe in laziness. Either you lack sufficient motivation, or something is blocking you emotionally causing fear and avoidance. I have spoken in previous articles about emotional blocks. If you would like to learn more about this topic, go to MasterTheKey.com and read some of the articles I have written pertaining to this issue.
In this article, I want to address the topic of lack of
sufficient motivation. I have found there are several contributors to this
phenomenon. The first of these stem from one’s chief goal not being linked to
what is most intrinsically rewarding. An activity that is intrinsically
rewarding is pleasurable in its own right; you enjoy doing it for the sake of
it, not just for the external reward it provides.
Many people have bought into the trap of using external
rewards (money, status, and material goods) as their main source of motivation.
Every bit of research shows external rewards are not as motivating as
intrinsic, or inner, rewards. Moreover, they actually impede performance and
inhibit motivation over the long-term.
If your goals are structured around external rewards, you
will not be as motivated in the daily grind as those whose goals are linked to
intrinsic rewards. Furthermore, motivation will decrease over time as it takes
time to obtain the external reward, as is always the case. I find breaking away
from this pattern can be extremely difficult for most of us.
Almost everyone acknowledges the wisdom in pursuing
intrinsic rewards over external ones. However, we are bombarded daily with
messages from marketing and pop culture that material goods and status will
bring us happiness and fulfillment. There is no doubt this is influential to
all of us. It can be a like a salmon swimming upstream to break away from the
lure of the Siren’s Song of materialism.
Another factor decreasing motivation is when we are not
pursuing something that is authentic to us. I have worked with numerous
individuals who came to the awareness their goals have been centered around
making their parents or family proud or what is culturally acceptable and
validated. Some of my clients are just coming to realize this in their last few
decades of life.
To avoid the despair this causes, take the time now to really dig into your deepest motivation for why you are pursuing your current goals. Now if you have what I refer to as a “Clean WHY” and your goals are authentic and intrinsically rewarding yet you still struggle with consistent motivation, your problem most likely lies in developing multiple motivators or how your goals are structured.
One of the things that has been most helpful in
understanding how to harness numerous motivators is the study of what are some
of the biggest intrinsic motivators to all human beings. Some of the principal
intrinsic motivators are autonomy, mastery, purpose, and connection. If you are
trying to increase motivation, look for ways to develop more of these into your
daily tasks and overall goals.
For example, studies show we are much more enthused and engaged when we have a voice in the development of our goals. Moreover, peak performance research reveals having a mastery-orientation is a sustaining source of motivation. This entails identifying something that provides a pleasurable state in doing it and pursuing mastery of the skill or overall craft.
This is why you lose motivation when you can develop
proficiency in something and there are no additional challenges to accomplish.
We get dopamine for the hunt, chase, and pursuit. When there is nothing left to
pursue, the activity no longer stimulates us or provides pleasure in performing
it due to lack of dopamine being released any longer.
The next two main motivators for all human beings are each
associated with connection. Being part of a team or a collective that is
pursuing something bigger than just individual goals is highly motivating.
Throughout most of human history, survival depended on being part of a group.
But our desire for connection goes beyond our survival instinct.
It also feels good to be connected to others; we not only
receive dopamine but the body’s natural opiates, endorphins and enkephalins,
are released as well. Furthermore, oxytocin is often triggered, which is a
hormone associated with bonding, connection, and security.
The last of the four intrinsic motivators I mentioned is
purpose. From my perspective, purpose is passion plus impact. It is engaging in
activities and pursuits that are intrinsically rewarding but also affects
others in a positive way. With purpose, you are harnessing multiple inner
motivators simultaneously: passion, connection, and meaning.
An effective way to employ these drives is to develop activities
and goals that provide inner reward, make sure you have a sufficient level of
autonomy in how they are structured, focus them in a way that impacts others
positively, and perform them as part of a team or group. When you learn how to
stack motivators, you will not be left being dependent on only your WHY, or
primary goal, as your sole source of motivation.
Research also uncovers that having a big, audacious goal can
actually demotivate you if you do not have it broken down into smaller goals
that can be achieved along the way. You need wins to stay motivated. Earlier in
my life I fell into this trap for a period of time. I had developed clear goals
that were authentic and purposeful. However, I was pursuing them with the hope
I would be happy and at peace once I attained them. Meanwhile, I was
unfulfilled and stressed out the whole way there. This can be a common snare
What I recommend doing is taking your ultimate goal and
reverse-engineering it into small, specific and attainable tasks. This will
keep you motivated and fulfilled along the way. Learning how to structure
things in this manner will keep you inspired and enthusiastic in achieving the
day-to-day tasks related to your primary WHY.
I heard a quote this year from an author referencing a
well-known artist. He stated, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” What he meant by
this was you have to get up and do the work consistently whether your inspired
or not. If you wait for a feeling to hit you, it will be almost impossible for
you to succeed.
Now this begs the question, “How do I keep myself motivated
on a daily basis if I can’t depend on relying on inspiration and enthusiasm?” The
key is learning how to create and harness your core emotions. Emotions are
chemical, electrical reactions in your brain and nervous system that give you
rapid information and energy to respond behaviorally to what is occurring
around you. They are the prime drivers of human behavior.
Understanding how to utilize the information I provided in this article will allow you to have multiple ways to continue to trigger powerful chemical reactions (emotions) and harness your innate capacity to drive motivation. Whether it be integrating the four primary intrinsic motivators that drive all human beings or structuring specific, short-term goals, applying this knowledge will allow you to develop consistent, daily drive and focus in the pursuit of achieving your long-term goals.