Motivation can be a powerful tool but how do we harness it? Think back to what it felt like when you have been motivated.
If you could describe your motivation as a car, what car were you driving? Did it feel like shiny, sleek, Porsche speeding down the road? You got things done fast and efficiently and kept going. After some time did it feel more like a broken-down Ford Pinto that needs repaired, or better yet replaced, before you can get anywhere. Sometimes our motivation is in high gear and sometimes it needs some maintenance to keep going.
In the words of Zig Ziglar “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Let’s face it, at one time or another we have all be on autopilot in life.
We may have lost our motivation, or we were just not particularly driven by anything; therefore, we are not really taking control but rather letting the wind blow us in any direction it may. Sometimes that direction may take us by surprise and we find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be.
We can fall into feelings of contentment with our life. We might be missing that true joy and motivation that we may see in others. How do we regain our motivation and start taking control back?
Remember a time in your life you have been tremendously motivated. What was happening? What were you motivated by? Money? Recognition? Maybe you felt extremely passionate about something and therefore wanted to explore it.
Or it could be that you discovered one of your natural talents and wanted to improve. Perhaps you had a vision of where you wanted to be at a certain age and that motivated you to accomplish more.
We find ourselves stuck sometimes, wondering why our motivation has diminished. There are times when we think we can conquer the world and other times when we simply want to make it through the day. Where are you right now? Where would you like to be? How can you keep your motivation going and keep yourself from running on fumes?
Drive theory – when you feel like going from 0 to 60
What is drive theory? Drive theory can be linked to your motivation because it helps propel you. It can be explained by that feeling of wanting to reach a tangible goal to meet your needs. You are willing and ready to start your engine and get to the finish line.
This motivation has been around since the time of the caveman. It started with the basic motivation for survival which includes the need for food, water, and oxygen.
As we evolved, and survival became easier, we started to get other motivational drivers that are culturally determined or learned, such as the drive to obtain money, close relationships, or social approval. We can be driven by things such as acceptance by peers, social status, winning the big game, money, and fame. Do any of these sound familiar?
According to drive theory, you have a need that must be filled. Therefore, you must take an action to fill that need. For example, you might be motivated to drink a glass of water to reduce the internal state of thirst. Problems potentially arise when you have a need that is hard to satisfy. These needs could be more complicated, like love or other emotional needs. How do you fill the need for love if you are having trouble finding the right partner?
Why is so easy to get unmotivated and hit the brakes?
There are times in our life when we feel like we can’t win. Nothing seems to go right, our decisions feel all wrong, unexpected things happen to us. We hit the wall repeatedly. Therefore, you may come to the point where you fear any action at all. You decide to hit the brakes and just put the car in park for the time being. This seems like the safest plan and can be referred to as “learned helplessness”.
Learned helplessness is when you feel your actions have no effect and it can make you feel powerless. This can lower your motivation across the board and cause you to behave in a helpless manner. Feeling helpless leads you to take no action at all, and you are essentially hitting the breaks. Feeling this way could lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.
How do we get out of a rut if we have experienced some failures? Being successful at a task can have an opposite effect on your motivation. Positive outcomes can cause you to feel more hopeful, so don’t give up when you are frustrated.
Instead of doing nothing at all, do something that you are good at! Do something where you know the outcome will be successful. There ARE things you are good at, make a list of them to have when you start to feel defeated.
Here is a list of ideas:
- Play a game you have mastered
- Be a good friend
- Help someone in need
- Engage in a hobby you enjoy
- Play a sport you are good at
- Make a coffee date with a friend who makes you feel good about yourself
- Accomplish a task that you know you can do, such as cleaning for 20 minutes
- Do a self-care activity like yoga or an outside walk
Start Your Engine… AND TRY IT NOW!
- Make a list of all the things you feel that you are good at and that make you proud… Write the list down and keep it with you!
- When you are frustrated with a task where you are not feeling successful, take a short break to do something you are good at. Pull out the list you made and do an activity from that list.
- After a break, get back to what you were doing with more confidence, positive attitude, and resolve to reach your goal.
BIG TASK? No big deal – Take the car to the shop!
What do you do when your goal is overwhelming? Where do you even start? It can be hard to motivate yourself to do something that seems impossible. Big tasks can be scary! Consequently, the best thing to do in this situation is to break down the task with a checklist. Write out each step in a task. For example, if you must clean a messy house, take each room and divide it into tasks. This can break up your chores into more manageable steps. Once you get started and see progress, it will be rewarding!
The goal is not to do everything at once or do it all perfectly! Unless we have a deadline to meet, sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to accomplish things in a given time. When you make progress, or give something your best effort, your brain releases dopamine (the pleasure chemical in your brain). Therefore, even if you attempt something, you get some benefits even if you don’t succeed. You reward yourself by just trying, which is the ultimate participation trophy.
Your tires are spinning – Call the tow truck!
We all need help at one time or another in our lives. There is no shame in reaching out for help when you feel like you have tired everything, and your tires are still spinning. It may be that someone can give you a fresh perspective or maybe you just need help with accountability. Sometimes when we keep our goals to ourselves they can be harder to achieve because we don’t have anyone checking in on us.
Make a list of the people in your life who are positive and can help you. Can you tell them your dreams, your goals, and what you want to accomplish? Can they help keep you accountable? Do they have similar goals and want to join you on your journey to self-improvement? Once you put your intentions out in the world, it is harder to ignore them when your motivation starts to fade. Friends will check up on you and hopefully remind you why you had that goal in the first place.
If you feel stuck, it could be time to call a tow truck.
Maybe you need someone with more expertise to help you meet your goal? This is a time in your life when you may to need to get outside help to reach your goals. If it’s a financial goal, call a financial planner. Investigate a trainer, if it’s a fitness goal. Perhaps you are having personal problems, investigate a mental health counselor.
Getting help is an action that can move you forward, and you should feel proud of yourself for taking that step! Give yourself credit, we all struggle with motivation.
Remember, start where you are. If your car needs a tune up, it may take some time to get to where you want to be. Celebrate your progress and transformation along the way. Motivation has its highs and lows but knowing that you are moving forward every day will help you see the big picture. You are worth the investment!
Check us out at www.turningstonecounseling.com for more information.