When we think of motivation, we often think of buzzwords such as productivity, achievement, and efficiency, especially within the context of the workplace or school environment.
If we apply pressure on ourselves to perform at an unrealistic standard, it can quickly turn into stress and anxiety. When we do not accomplish a task to completion or perfection as a result, we may feel disappointed, hopeless, or embarrassed.
When we speak about motivation, we do not mean finishing a task. Rather, what gives us the energy to begin something.
In basic terms, motivation refers to what causes us to act on behaviour; it can be as simple as why we get out of bed in the morning. Motivation is unique to each individual, as it is the fuel that drives us towards our personal goals. It is normal to feel unmotivated at times, especially now, and it is understandable if this slump has lasted longer than usual; we are living through a global pandemic after all.
Chances are, being told to “Just get started!” does not suddenly resolve your discouragement. Therefore, it may be helpful to first understand where our drive comes from. Whether you have decided 2020 is a write-off or you are burnt out, we have gathered some information below to help get your motivation flowing again.
There are 2 types of motivation:
Intrinsic motivation refers to doing something for the sake of satisfying a personal reward. This comes from within and generates positive emotions.
- Travelling to explore other cultures
- Spending time with someone to enjoy their company
- Eating balanced to live healthily
- Playing with your children because it makes you happy
- Taking on a new project at work because you appreciate the challenge
- Getting an education in a subject you are passionate about
- Meditating to feel calm and relaxed
- Making your partner smile because you enjoy seeing them happy
- Keeping your home tidy because you like having the responsibility of taking care of something
- Participating in a cooking class for personal development
When to use this type of motivation:
- to learn (enjoying the process rather than the end goal: taking a course to gain skills, building knowledge on a topic of interest)
- to create (internal demand for creative expression: writing a blog, acting in a play, starting a business)
- to control (making decisions that will fulfill your psychological needs: seeking your purpose in life, managing your feelings, maintaining your independence)
Extrinsic motivation refers to doing something to receive an external reward, or to prevent a negative situation from occurring. This comes from outside sources and provides you with incentives (money, grades, power, attention, evading consequences etc.) in exchange for a particular behaviour.
- Changing careers to earn more money
- Exercising to lose weight
- Studying to get a good grade
- Playing a sports game to win
- Volunteering because it looks good on a resume
- Posting a photo on social media to receive likes/comments
- Cleaning your apartment so your partner doesn’t get mad at you
- Paying taxes to avoid a fine
- Completing an assignment because your boss tells you to
- Helping others to receive praise from friends and family
When to use this type of motivation:
- to persuade (receiving a benefit for doing something: finishing a class to get your diploma, getting a job for the high salary, going to the same gas station for the customer loyalty program)
- to avoid (engaging in an activity to stop an undesirable reaction from happening: arriving at work each day to keep your job, saying yes to an outing so your friend doesn’t get upset)
- to connect (contributing to a social group to feel accepted: joining a committee for the social standing, wearing brand-name clothing to fit in)
Human needs can be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, and you likely use both in your life depending on the circumstance. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs presents a helpful visual of what this combination can look like.
Sometimes it is easier to do the work than it is to get it started…
Write Down Your Fears
What is holding you back?
Is there something you are worried about?
Identifying your obstacles is the first step in overcoming them. Often, they are not as scary as you initially thought. If they are still challenging, focus on what you will get out of it:
How good you will feel.
The freedom you will have.
Identify How You Are Wasting Time
Social media, television, and mindless chatter are all a part of regular life for most of us, but sometimes have a habit of taking up more space than they should.
Practice blocking out these distractions times by assigning time for them in your schedule, managing your social media, or experimenting with tools such as headphones.
Inspiration is a great way to spark stimulation! While this cannot be forced, spending time outdoors, researching people/businesses that resonate with you, and adopting a new hobby can help set up an environment to invite the process.
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Set a Timer
Give yourself 5 minutes to work on something.
Imposing a time limit can make the activity seem more manageable and according to the Zeigarnik Effect, unfinished tasks are more likely to stand out in our memory, which can explain why our racing thoughts often revolve around an ongoing ‘to-do list’.
Therefore, research shows once we start something, we are more likely to finish it. Whether it takes 5 minutes, or gets us into the groove to keep going, action has been made!
Having something to look forward to can help motivate us to act. Allowing yourself to take part in large scale rewards (a big purchase, extended time off) is unsustainable, so keep it limited to reasonable pleasures- eating a dessert, watching your favourite show, have a bubble bath, etc.