Motivation sometimes feels fickle. We have a goal, make plans to meet it and somewhere between deciding what we want to do and actually doing it we lose steam. How long does motivation last and is there only one type of motivation?
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.Zig Ziglar
What Motivates People
According to the dictionary, motivation is the general willingness of someone to do something. And there are various reasons why we are motivated to do the things we do. For instance, drive theory suggests that you do things to meet a need such as drinking water to combat thirst.
On the other hand, humanistic theory, like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, suggests people are motivated to feed basic needs first, such as food, and shelter before moving up to other needs like safety and love and then finally to self-actualization or fulfilling self-potential.
Incentive theory suggests people are motivated to do something in order to gain a reward, such as money. It’s why people go to work or why apps to lose weight for money are so popular.
The expectancy theory, in simplest terms, suggests that when we look at a future goal and think that if it has a positive chance of being achieved, we are motivated to choose that goal over others and that our work will then have positive results. When we see the positive results, the benefits, that will continue to motivate us.
There are so many different theories about motivation because not everyone is motivated in the same manner and because motivation is a complicated thing. What worked for someone previously, might not work the next time. So it’s important to find what’s clicking for you right now.
When I was 42, I quit smoking. I tried for years, over 20 actually. I tried for my health, for my son’s health, because it stank.
Nothing clicked for me until I watched my mother do a stress test. She was in her 80s at the time and heaving while trying to keep up with the treadmill’s pace. I looked at her and realized that could be me in my 50s, heaving on a treadmill, if I didn’t quit. One week later, I quit smoking and never looked back.
But quitting smoking also left extra pounds on my frame. No amount of thinking about how bad that was for my health helped. No amount of looking at other overweight people struggle doing things helped either. What motivated me to quit smoking, wasn’t working in the weight loss area.
The next time I saw my doctor, she brought up her concerns about my weight gain and I told her about quitting smoking. She looked at me oddly and then told me it was ok. She said it was more important that I quit smoking and that we could talk about my weight in six months.
For some reason, her being ok with it, made me feel ok and in the next eight months, I lost almost 50 pounds. While everyone else was focused on my weight, she was the first person who said don’t worry about your weight right at this moment, celebrate being smoke-free.
Two different sets of motivation. What worked for one thing, didn’t work for the other.
What Motivates You?
It’s important to know what motivates you and it’s important to know that the same thing won’t motivate you for everything, even if those two things are similar – like quitting smoking and losing weight.
Being creative means that you need to find the motivation to do your art and you need to find a different kind of motivation to sell your art (basically selling who you are because that is what your art represents.)
And it’s important to remember, that sometimes motivation is actually a plan that happens day in, day out, no matter whether you want it or not. Many writers and artists go to their desks or studios each day, even if they aren’t feeling “motivated.” Instead, they sketch or write nonsense until it starts making sense.
Perhaps some meditation will help. How Meditation Increases Focus and Motivation discusses the benefits of mediation and how it helps you manage the hurdles of resistance while keeping you motivated to complete your project.
For suggestions on meditation practices, read Meditation Is So Hard, What Else Can I Try to get some ideas on how to bring meditation into your life.