Do you know what motivates you? Would you like to increase your motivation? Beverley from Meaningful Minds Psychologists looks at what motivation is and how we can increase it.
What Motivates You?
If you are like me, I am sure you have wondered why some people are more motivated than others. Additionally, where do they get their energy and internal drive to persist and keep on trying? Studies in motivation have become more attractive because everyone wants to know the secrets to being successful; we all want to be noticed as someone with motivation and drive to achieve our goals.
I suppose before we get into the nitty gritty of what motivates us, we need to define what motivation is. It can be described as a force that stimulates and guides our desire and energy to maintain goal-orientated activities. In other words, it is what pushes us to do something, whether it is to start up a new company, complete a degree or maybe it is just to do the dishes.
These motivational forces can be viewed according to biological, social, emotional or cognitive elements. Let’s take a closer look at some theories or explanations which may help us understand motivation a little better:
Instinct theories place emphasis on evolutionary processes and innate knowledge on how to survive in the world. For example, animals do not need to be told how and when to hibernate, build a nest or migrate. This knowledge has been preprogramed from birth and can be considered to be part of their DNA. Likewise, people can be motivated to engage in play, love and certain actions which promote survival. These behaviours can be described as instinctual as no one has to be taught how to do these.
According to the incentive theory, our actions are motivated by external rewards. For example, the motivation to get to work every day is the reward of getting a salary at the end of the month. Here, the salary acts as a positive reinforcement of behaviour thus we continue to do the action. However, should we feel punished in any way, such as being under paid, the motivation we once felt will start to decrease and it will become progressively more difficult to perform optimally or gain any satisfaction from our work.
This theory suggests that our actions are intentional and we engage in certain behaviours in order to gain rewards. The greater the reward, whether real or perceived, the stronger the motivation to pursue the goal will be.
The drive theory proposes that people are motivated to perform certain behaviours based on their need to reduce internal tensions as a result of unmet needs. A simple example would be the motivation to drink a glass of water in order to reduce your thirst thus meeting your internal need and returning to an internal sense of stability.
This theory has been critiqued as not all behaviours are motivated by physiological needs, such as over eating or eating when you are not hungry.
Arousal Theory of Motivation
The theory of arousal suggests that people perform various behaviours in an effort to maintain a comfortable level of arousal. Therefore, when your arousal level gets too high, you are more likely to engage in an activity to decrease it, such as doing yoga or reading a book. When your arousal level gets too low, you will probably engage in an activity to increase the levels, such as doing something physical or watching a scary movie.
A matter to consider is that we are all different in terms of what constitutes a comfortable level of arousal, which is also likely to depend on the situation presented with.
Perhaps the most well-known theory of motivation is the humanistic theory which is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory is based on the idea that people are motivated to achieve their potential, which is possible once certain basic human needs, such as safety, hunger, thirst and financial matters, have been met.
Once these basic needs are satisfied, a person will move up a level and continue to do so in an effort to reach the point of self-actualisation. This means that we can become the best person we can be, and that there is the possibility of completely understanding ourselves on an emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual level. Maslow suggested that this is a lifelong goal.
According to the expectancy theory, when thinking about the future, we start to formulate different, mostly positive, scenarios. These scenarios lead us to believe in the reality of this future thus we feel more motivated to pursue actions which may bring the scenarios to life.
This theory suggests that motivation comprises of valence, instrumentality and expectancy. Valence refers to the probability of the action resulting in personal rewards. The belief that we have a role to play in the success of the outcome is referred to as instrumentally and expectancy can be viewed as our belief that we have the required skills and knowledge to achieve the desired goal.
From this, people are likely to feel more motivated if the action has a higher valence, if the person feels as though they are instrumental in the process and if they feel as though they are capable.
From the above it may be obvious that no single theory may adequately explain the reason why we do certain things. These theories of motivation may supply us with a greater understanding of the drives or motivations to perform certain behaviours. However, in all likelihood many different factors, such as temperament and the way we learn to handle specific situations or emotions, interact to motivate someone to achieve their goal.
When attempting to achieve your personal successes, internal and external obstacles may begin to feel like mountains which you may or may not have the energy to overcome. This is the same for children, adolescents and adults. Self-doubt, a need for immediate gratification, low self-esteem, or finding it difficult to ask for help are possible factors making it more challenging. Being unable to overcome these challenges and not being able achieve your goals, short or long term, is likely to lead to symptoms of depression or anxiety. Motivation will likely decrease, and continue to do so, while these symptoms are present.
Furthermore, a better understanding of ourselves is an essential means of gaining insight into what drives us and what are realistic goals for our personal journeys. Below are a few things to try to increase your motivation.
Increase your knowledge. Knowledge is power, the more we know the more we are able to achieve. Educate yourself.
Surround yourself with people, environments, even colours that stimulate positivity and motivation. Research has found that the colour green motivates, calms and releases good hormones which makes us feel more positive and able to achieve. Positive affirmations, quotes or pictures that encourage us help to change our mindset to one that is more aligned to achieving.
Celebrate the small victories. Often the hardest part of doing something is getting started. By celebrating the little victories we are able to feel our success, which is a great motivating tool.
Clarify you goals. It is difficult to motivate ourselves if we don’t have a clear direction of where we are going. Having a clear picture of what we would like to achieve makes the goal more achievable.
Re- evaluate your goals and don’t be afraid to change direction. We are constantly changing, thus our goals should be flexible enough to change with us.
If you feel as though you are lacking in motivation and are struggling to achieve your goals; Meaningful Minds Psychologists are here to help you unlock some of the obstacles standing in your way.