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Motivation comes from the word ‘move’ and means ‘to move’. Motivation literally means; Understanding Motivation Debunking the Motivation Myth that which moves a person to a course of action. Motivation indicates a movement that is initiated by a reason or purpose. This is an important point to understand; having a reason and purpose will activate motivation. For example, it is hard to move towards something if you can’t see any reason or purpose. In other words you need a motif or good reason as to why you would put in the effort and to create some momentum and move from where you currently are. If you are keen to do something you are more likely to be motivated; you don’t have to try, you will just want do it. Remember also that you might have a reason and purpose to NOT be motivated; in that case you won’t to ‘move’.

Move away or towards?

At the core we humans are very simple creatures. We either move away from something or towards something courtesy of the brain. The brain is designed to move towards reward or pleasure and move away from pain. Like any other living creature we move away from pain and towards pleasure (survival). In order to be motivated (to move) you need to have a good reason; either a reward or benefit, or a move away from discomfort, dislike or danger.

To be or not to be motivated…that is the question

There are many questions about personal motivation – or lack of it – as well as motivation in others. People often wonder why they themselves or someone else is not motivated.

Managers often ask the question ‘How can I motivate my team?’ The problem is they look for a simple solution like a team building day, expecting it to work like magic. They think that somehow by waving a magic wand they will become motivated. Even if you get the world’s most respected motivational speaker, it’s unlikely to achieve anything more than a short term high. It generally does not result in the team being more motivated to work together. Why…because if there is not a clear reason, a motif for the individuals in that team, nothing much will move them. The same goes for personal motivation. Many people go searching for the magic motivation formula instead of just being clear about their purpose or reason.

WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

We generally are only motivated if the most fundamental questions are addressed: What is the point? Why should I be doing this? What’s in it for me? Why is this relevant to me?

In order to be motivated there needs to be something in it for you. Even if you are motivated to help others, it makes you feel good; it gives you satisfaction, a purpose. You need to create and have a good reason to put in continuous effort. Why else would you put in the effort and generally give up doing something else that you might otherwise enjoy?

Did you ever wonder why you had to do certain subjects at school that did not particularly interest you? The answer probably was ‘because it is part of the curriculum’. Did this motivate and inspire you to do well? While you probably complied – as not doing so probably had negative consequences – you certainly did not undertake the task feeling motivated, eager and excited.

But I am trying

How well does it work when you feel you ‘should’ give up smoking, ‘should’ lose weight, ‘should’ drink less or ‘should’ exercise more, when you don’t really want to? Have you ever met someone who has been trying to give up smoking? Answer one question: Do they or don’t they smoke? The problem is with the implication of the word trying.

The word trying says you are not really motivated or committed but you are attempting something, having a go. Only when you see a compelling reason and decide to do something will you be motivated enough to change your habits and achieve what it is you want to achieve. Without a decision and a compelling reason you can try as hard as you like, but you are unlikely to succeed. No amount of teambuilding, motivational speakers or programs can do this for you. No rewards will help you to become motivated beyond compliance if you don’t personally see a motif or a good reason why.

The more motifs, the more motivation

As a general rule, the more reasons you have to do something – the more benefits there are for you – the more motivated you are likely to be. No matter how many reasons other people might give you or how much they try to persuade or influence you, until it resonates with what is important to you, in other words with what you value, you just cannot and will not be motivated.

You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Ultimately no-one else can motivate you other than you. The more your activities and goals are aligned with what you value, the more motivated you will be. You are unlikely to be motivated by what you ‘should’ do rather then what you would love to do. Of course we are also motivated by what I call ‘secondary motivation.’

Secondary motivation is being motivated to do something because if you don’t it will have negative consequences.

If you don’t lose weight and look after your body you might get sick, if you don’t do your tax return, pay your mortgage, earn money etc. there will be costs, discomfort…in other words pain.

The more compelling reasons you can find to do something, the more motivated you will be and the easier things will become. If there is a lack of motivation it is because there is no clear primary or secondary benefit. When you are not motivated in areas of your life that are important to you, examine the ‘pay off’, the reason or benefit of staying stuck. By the way, you can’t make the horse drink but you can make it very thirsty!

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