Personal motivation archives


“He who has a why can overcome any how”—Friedrich Nietsche

Do you sometimes feel full of motivation, able to eat the world, while at other times you find yourself without energy to start anything? Have you ever faced your New Year’s resolutions full of strength and excitement, only to abandon them a couple of months later?

Don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us.

Personal motivation is a powerful, but elusive animal. Sometimes you feel it with enormous power and you see yourself able to achieve everything. And soon after it disappears without further ado, leaving you without strength and with a strange feeling of emptiness.

In these pages we will review the most useful ideas and the latest research on personal motivation, to help you generate it, maintain it over time and inspire it in others.

Personal Motivation Resources and Techniques

What is personal motivation?

In a very simplified way, we can say that personal motivation is the set of psychological forces that lead us to take action.

More concretely, we can define it as the set of internal processes that give behavior its energy, its direction and its persistence over time (Reeve 2015).

Energy refers to the force, to the intensity of the behavior we perform. Direction refers to its purpose, to the result to which the action is directed. And persistence is about maintaining behavior through different situations over time.

Don’t worry if it sounds a bit theoretical now: you’ll better understand how motivation works, and what its types and different components are, throughout these pages.

Importance of personal motivation

“If you’re working on something you really care about, no one has to push you: your vision pushes you.” —Steve Jobs

In an increasingly confusing world, where we are constantly subjected to all kinds of stimuli, it is often difficult to know why we do what we do, what our true personal motivation is.

We start tasks or set goals without knowing very well where our desire to achieve them comes from.

However, the type of motivation that drives us to start a project is a very reliable indicator of the possibilities we have to bring it to fruition.

Do I have to write this report because my client has set me a deadline, and if I don’t give it to them there will be consequences?

Or do I want to do it, because in it I am going to reflect the excellent work we have done for the client in recent months, and that gives me deep satisfaction?

In these two cases the task is the same. But the personal motivation that drives it is not.

And the results probably won’t be the same either.

The latter is an example taken from daily work. But imagine the consequences in projects of much more importance to you, such as choosing a career, or leaving your job to start a business of your own.

In those cases, do you think the motive that drives you to do one thing or another doesn’t matter?

The behavioral sciences have generated a large number of theories about personal motivation: Maslow’s pyramid of needs, the theory of self-determination, the theory of incentives, that of flow, and many more.

For the purposes of this practical guide, we can distinguish three basic types of personal motivation:Physiological needs.Extrinsic motivation.Intrinsic motivation.

At the most basic level of personal motivation we are driven by physiological needs: we need to satisfy, for example, our hunger and thirst, and if this does not happen our attention is focused almost exclusively on meeting these needs.

At the next level is extrinsic motivation: we often do something or don’t do it for the consequences it can have for us, or for the reward it can bring us.

Extrinsic motivation is very present in our daily lives. When we drive above the speed limit, and there we find a traffic sign and perhaps a kind policeman to remind us. When we do a job well and someone praises us. When we met our goals and received the bonus we had been promised.

Extrinsic motivation has traditionally been the most used in companies: bonus or stock options against disciplinary measures, penalty versus reward.

This type of motivation tries to guide behaviors by assigning positive and negative consequences to each of them.

And make no mistake, it is true that the game of penalty and reward is often effective in determining the behavior of others.

Extrinsic motivation: the problem of long-term motivation

However, what we also know recently is that extrinsic motivation is only truly effective in the short term.

The problem with extrinsic motivation is that it has “very short legs”: when the incentive disappears—the external reward or sanction we expect—we tend to quickly become demotivated.

In the long run, this type of personal motivation is not enough to keep the focus of an organization or a team, nor the illusion in an entrepreneurial project that may require years of sustained effort.

For example, money and recognition, once reached a certain level, quickly lose their motivating effect.

If these are your engine in your job or in your business, one day you may find yourself in the middle of the road wondering what you do there, and if what you do makes any sense to you.

Intrinsic motivation: definition

However, when motivation comes from within, when it is born of an intimate and personal interest in what we do, then we are able to maintain concentration and effort in the medium and long term.

The latter type of motivation is called intrinsic motivation. It’s what we feel when we’re truly connected to what we do.

It’s what sustains us when, in life and at work, we tackle goals that really matter to us intimately.

“The real motivation comes from working on things that matter to us.” —Sheryl Sandberg

And it’s an enormously powerful motivation, because it’s born from the depths of us.

Intrinsic motivation is a catalyst. A liberator of power.

According to Professor Richard M. Ryan, from the University of Sydney, we can define intrinsic motivation as “a natural inclination to exploration, spontaneous interest and mastery of the environment that are born from our innate tendency to improve, and from the experience of meeting our psychological needs. It is the main source of enjoyment and vitality throughout life.”

Intrinsic motivational factors

In recent years, the theory of self-determination, developed by the aforementioned Professor Ryan and Edward L. Deci, has identified three basic psychological needs:Autonomy: the desire to be the actor of your own life and act in harmony with yourself.Competition: The feeling of being able to control your environment, your relationships, and, to some extent, your results.Relationship: the desire to interact and be connected with others.

Well, intrinsic motivation is born when these three psychological needs are met. It’s feeling that you make your own decisions, that you’re up to the challenges you set for yourself, and that you stay connected to others.

Intrinsic motivation has an intimate relationship with the concept of meaning that Victor Frankl spoke of: it refers to our ability to discover a deep truth that gives purpose to our life, even in the most adverse circumstances.

When what you do makes real sense to you (when you know why), you learn with passion, develop and take controlled risks.

It seems that everything costs less effort. You are looking for new challenges, because you want to grow.

And, therefore, your chances of success multiply.

Intrinsic motivation activities

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