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“You’re so motivated!”
“I wish I was as motivated as you.”
I get these comments sometimes, and here’s the truth. I’m actually pretty unmotivated most of the time. Motivation can fade. Motivation is a feeling, and there’s going to be many times where you’re “just not feelin’ it”. You’ve heard people say, “I was going to [insert goal/task], but I ran out of motivation…” Motivation might get you started, but things like habit, commitment, dedication, determination, and discipline must take the place of motivation to keep you going. Even those don’t guarantee perfection and 100% success. We’re human. Life happens. We get tired. We get distracted. We’re in a rut. We get out of the groove. We might even get totally derailed. If you struggle with mental health like I do, battling your own brain will often get in the way; you only have a limited amount of mental energy. I often don’t have enough dedication to go around (and motivation = long gone), so I must prioritize and set aside or scale back on some goals for a while.
There are two kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is an inner desire—self-motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from an external pressure or expectation of some sort of external affirmation or reward. Whether you’re doing it for yourself or for some reason outside of yourself, identifying the source of your motivation can be helpful, especially if we feel motivated for negative reasons.
Ensuring that our motivation comes from a positive source can be important to long-term success. Negative motivation can fizzle fast and lead to a bitter mindset. Maybe you feel motivated to exercise because someone called you a lazy slob. This extrinsic motivation is negative. However, you can re-frame that negative situation and change your perspective, deciding to commit to bettering your health for your own reasons, so your motivation is now intrinsic and positive. If you decide to pursue exercise because you hate how your body looks, this is intrinsic but negative. Not all external motivation is negative, and not all intrinsic motivation is positive.
By the way, sometimes your motivation will be both intrinsic and extrinsic and/or a mixture of positive and negative. Earlier this year, I went to Colorado for a corporate retreat; one of my colleagues and her husband are professional disc golfers. A few of us went with them to a course to play, and my motivation to not give up, even though I was pretty terrible at the game, was internal and external. I’d like to say it was all positive, but there was definitely some negative pride at play! Ha! I was so motivated that I became determined to have fun and finish out the course as best as I could. I spent a lot of time climbing through and over prickly bushes, even multiple times on the same hole, trying to make my shot from the middle of the brush! The company CEO even had to fetch my disc a few times when I chucked it beyond my reach in the vegetation! My motivation for playing disc golf began way before the game started, too, as I was self-conscious about playing since I knew I wouldn’t be good at it. However, I was motivated (and committed) to get out of my comfort zone and make the most out of the retreat. I almost didn’t even go to that retreat due to self-doubt and anxiety. Motivation and determination got me there, and it was a wonderful experience.
Lastly, identifying the WHY behind your motivation—whether internal or external—is also key in turning that feeling of motivation into something with more staying power. It might take you awhile to dig into the root of it, but figure out why you want to accomplish that goal or desire. Sometimes it’ll be simple, but a complicated reason may take you by surprise and lead to important self-reflection. Write it down, and put it where you can see it regularly. Being reminded of your “why” will help you stay on track when motivation fades and commitment is wavering.
You know what else can be a vital part of your success? Surrounding yourself with influences that model encouragement and dedication! Whether it’s loved ones that you spend time with, people you follow on social media, or books you read, fill your world with positivity.
Motivation isn’t bad. We need that jump-start. But, like after you jump your car’s battery, you have to depend on something else for sustained power besides what gave you that initial jolt.
So, when you feel motivated to take on a big task or set a goal, determine the source of your motivation and that it’s rooted in positivity. Note your “why”. Fill your world with positive influences. Choose daily to be committed. (Sometimes, you’ll need to make that choice several times a day!) Create habits that’ll get you closer to your goal. What word resonates with you—commitment, dedication, discipline, or another one? With that powerful word, keep reminding yourself. I am committed. I am dedicated. I am disciplined. I vow to do this. I will persist. Lastly, don’t expect perfection. Learn from mistakes. Keep showing up. Don’t compare yourself with others. Appreciate your little victories and measures of progress, no matter how small or slow. Keep trying. Always keep fighting. You’ve got this.