It’s Monday morning! How are you feeling? Are you motivated after a restful and relaxing weekend, or exhausted and demotivated?
This is important as it is likely that the person with high levels of motivation will have a more productive and successful week compared to the person searching for motivation.
My next few blogs will explore the issues of motivation, distraction and procrastination. These are key issues not only in the workplace but in life generally, and finding responses to these can help us lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning, and what gets you doing things?
And what exactly IS motivation, and where does it come from?
What is motivation?
A tremendous amount has been written about motivation and countless theories are out there such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation.
When we are motivated, everything feels easier and we tackle our tasks and responsibilities with energy and zeal. In short, it’s the rocket fuel to our life!
If we are feeling demotivated, things feel a lot more difficult. Everything is a struggle.
Motivation for me is quite simply having a reason for doing something. It is something that drives your behaviour and gets you to focus on a task or action. Motivation arises when the benefit of doing something outweighs the cost or drawback.
Motivation generally comes in two forms – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is behaviour driven by internal rewards – it is naturally satisfying to you. I’m motivated to write this blog, do videos, and coach people as I feel I have things I can offer and help people with. It’s intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivation is behaviour to earn external rewards or to avoid punishment. We can be motivated by both, although the so called ‘gold standard’ of motivation is the first one, intrinsic.
Why is motivation important?
Motivation is important because it affects everything we do (or don’t do), and it can drive us to achieve fantastic things.
We all know that feeling when we are really motivated about something. We come alive, we are determined, productive, creative and don’t give up despite challenges. We have an inner drive that keeps us moving forward. You may be that person, or may know people who seem constantly motivated. When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s there was a slot on breakfast TV featuring ‘Mr Motivator’ who was all high energy and bright lycra, encouraging us to get our bodies moving. It was pretty infectious!
But if we are honest, we have all been faced with demotivation at some point in our lives, and at those times even Mr Motivator would find it hard to help. At those times, motivation is elusive and we can’t get started, and before long we are distracted, or worse, procrastinating.
I’ve been fortunate in that I have generally always loved the work I am doing and therefore motivation has been easier to come by, I’ve never really had an issue with getting out of bed in the mornings. However, we are only human and despite my love of work even I have struggled with finding motivation at times. For example, certain ‘life admin’ tasks completely turn me off. I’d much rather be doing something more fun such as getting outside for a walk or run, writing a blog, seeing friends, spending time with my children, or coaching a client.
If a lack of motivation continues for a long period, it can be very damaging to ourselves and those around us and an indication that the way we are living our life needs to change.
What happens when you don’t have motivation? How do you know?
You may be suffering from a lack of motivation if:
- You don’t want to do the task in front of you
- Everything has become an effort and things feel difficult
- You procrastinate and make excuses for not doing something
- The same barriers and blockers remain for what feels like an eternity
- You have the same cycle of thinking over and over and can’t seem to break it
- You feel too tired
- You have a busy mind, and too many distractions
If you are demotivated for too long, it could be a sign that you need to change things. Working with a coach could help you to talk this through and plot a new direction that will motivate you.
How to keep motivated
The first thing to recognise is that everyone has a lack of motivation sometimes – it is a very normal part of being human!
The good news is, a lack of motivation is often temporary. Things in our lives have a habit of shifting, whether we shift them or things shift by themselves. Our moods are a little like the weather, they come and go, influenced by our thoughts at a given moment which can impact upon those moods and by association our motivation.
But, if the feeling continues for a longer period, how do we get our motivation back if it has gone?
It is worth identifying what may have caused the loss in motivation. As I often ask my children, ‘when did you last have it?’
Consider what you are motivated by. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What excites you, gets you going? How can you get more of that in your life?
Think of a time when you have been extremely motivated. What are the conditions that were in place? How can you replicate those again?
Some key things in getting back motivation are:
- Knowing what your purpose is. What do you want to achieve, and what are you here to do? If you know your purpose and you have direction, you are much more likely to get back on course quickly, as that becomes the ‘guiding light’
- Looking to the future and setting goals
- Understanding that where you are is only temporary
- Self-care – getting enough sleep, exercise and looking after yourself
- Speaking to friends and family, counsellor or coach. This can help to get things into perspective and generate new ideas
- Doing things, organising things, having events or activities to look forward to
- Act first and worry about motivation later! The mind sometimes makes us feel that an issue or task is bigger or more difficult than it really is. Once we start work on it, it suddenly becomes much more manageable and easier to tackle
- Take a break or a holiday to recharge
- Remember who you are and how far you have come…
A very simple exercise you could try is to list all the things that excite you and get you motivated. Then write another list of all the things you veer away from or try to avoid. Just by writing these two lists can be useful, but the next step is to consider how you can do more from the first list and less of (or delegate/outsource) those things on the second list.
Another exercise is to think about all the things you did today, and ask yourself what motivated you to do them? This will start to build a picture of whether the balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is right for you and what you may need to change.
Parents amongst you will know how difficult it is to get children to do things, particularly in the morning before school. Last week, I decided to change my approach, and instead of issuing my usual instructions challenged my 7 year old son to a race to see who could get dressed first.
Guess what – it worked! It became a game, he was engaged, there was a fun element introduced and suddenly he was dressed.
For Ted, the motivation for getting dressed had changed. It now wasn’t because I had asked him to, it was because it was more fun. And kids like fun. Don’t we all!
Tips for Motivation
Recognising that we always have choices, I’ve broken down the things we do into 3 broad areas, and some suggested approaches to keep our motivation high:
- Things we have to do (non negotiables). Try to find the pleasure or enjoyment in the task or action, and identify a way to make it more appealing.
- Things we think we should do – these are perhaps the things we struggle with the most, as motivation can waver for the simple reason that it is not intrinsic. The motivation isn’t coming from within us, it’s coming from a feeling that we ‘should’ do something – likely to be meeting the expectations of someone or some other external factor. A way to counteract this is to focus on the benefits, rewards and outcomes you will get, or consider whether you have to do it at all?
- Things we like/love doing – see how you can do more of these things more often and/or change and adapt to keep them fresh and enjoyable.
In my view it’s really all about knowing what conditions need to be in place for you to feel motivated, and then to do everything you can to make sure those conditions are in place.
I hope that has been a useful and interesting read and do let me know your thoughts about what motivates you!
References and links
Click below for a good article on the ‘Monday morning blues’
A recent link from the BBC podcast ‘All in the Mind’ about the psychology of motivation
Theories on motivation
Mr Motivator (he’s still going strong!)
Darren Lawrence is a Personal Performance Coach working with individuals and organisations to help them move forward, particularly in the areas of productivity, wellness and transition.
Check out his forthcoming Lifecoach introduction courses being held in Ely and Littleport by clicking here
If you would like a conversation about how coaching may help you, please get in touch on 07703 359673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org