One subject that has been on my mind lately is motivation.
Motivation is something that may often be taken for granted. When we have it, we barely notice it; but when it is not there, its absence leaves a noticeable hole. Important questions remain: What exactly is motivation? How do we find it? And how does it create value in our lives?
I like to think of motivation as a type of fuel that drives our lives. Motivation seems applicable to nearly all our endeavors. . . we need motivation to stay in romantic relationships or to advance them; we need motivation to pursue a career; we need motivation to get through school . . . and on and on.
Motivation is certainly synonymous with the concept of wanting. It is, however, more than that. I think of motivation as a form of wanting but combined with a plan. It is one thing to see an object, say, a new car, and think, “I wish I had that.” But it is another thing entirely to say to oneself, “I want that,” but to then create and execute a plan to achieve that end. In short, wanting is simply desire without a plan, while motivation is desire with the aim of achieving specific outcomes.
I think it is, however, a mistake to only think of motivation in the context of big things, big achievements. When someone reaches the height of their profession, wins an award, or does something great, we may think, “That person must be really motivated.” But it might be more helpful to reframe who we perceive as motivated and instead apply the concept of motivation to the little, everyday things in life.
For some, it may take a tremendous amount of motivation to just get out of bed in the morning and confront what challenges and joys the day may bring. It takes motivation to not give in, even if the situation appears hopeless.
This is motivation.
Other concepts that have emerged in the psychological literature in recent years that are related to motivation in this sense may be “grit” or “resilience.” To motivate oneself to remain successful in the long run is to truly tap into the essence of deep motivation.
I do this by playing tricks on myself.
Without sounding too trite, when I’m in the midst of a long, arduous project, or if I am just beginning a commitment that I know may take years to come to fruition, I break that large, overwhelmingly gargantuan task down into small, manageable pieces. This is the conventional wisdom, and it usually works. What this teaches me is that motivation exists to achieve the big things as well as the everyday things.
So, if you happen to find yourself in at the beginning of a long project, or when you wake up five minutes before your alarm goes off and think, “How am I going to get through this day?” Just remember: motivation to get out of bed in the morning is the same motivation that may drive you to win a Nobel Prize.
It all depends on you…