Carrots, Sticks and Better Ways to Boost Your Motivation
Monday, March 8th, 2010 at 3:58
“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” – Fran Tarkenton
Motivation is the driving force behind most of our actions. It is a reason why we get up in the morning. Why we drive to work five days a week even if we do not enjoy it. Why we set goals and why we keep on moving forward.
Motivation is that one factor that often makes a difference between long-awaited success and an untimely failure. Our productivity, determination, leadership qualities, achievements, enthusiasm and self-esteem largely depends on our ability to motivate ourselves and others.
Understanding your motivation.
To put it simply, we take any kind of conscious action for two reasons: 1) because we feel like doing it or 2) because we have to do it. The first type of motivation is called intrinsic, the second – extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is internal and deeply personal. We do something, for no other reason than the inner sense of enjoyment and fulfillment. In other words, we act because we truly want to!
Intrinsic motivation is stimulated by curiosity, challenge, adventure, personal interests, duty and desire.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is rooted outside the person and based on two basic external drives: seek pleasure (reward) and avoid pain (punishment). Extrinsic motivation is stimulated by incentives, fear, outside circumstances (peer pressure, competition), deadlines and social approval.
Whenever you start doing any task, take a moment to reflect what your primary motivators are.
Discovering your intrinsic motivators:
• Are you looking forward to doing this task? Is it related to your hobbies or interests in some way?
• Do you find it challenging, but interesting?
• Are you motivated by an inner sense of duty or your core values? Do you feel that you must do your best, because it would not feel right to do a so-so job?
• Do you feel that the accomplishment of the task will bring you inner satisfaction and fulfillment?
Discovering your extrinsic motivators:
• Are there any financial benefits involved in doing this task?
• Is there any type of fear that holds you back and makes you procrastinate (fear of failure, fear of social disapproval)?
• Do you feel that you would work bester if you had a clear deadline?
• Are you looking forward to some kind of acknowledgement or appraisal for your work?
Combining both types of motivation in an optimum way.
Both types of motivation are not mutually exclusive. In order to achieve maximum results with minimal efforts, there are must be a balance between your levels of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
What can you do to improve your motivation today?
1. Pique your curiosity. We have all heard that curiosity killed the cat. But an unfortunate and tragic death of a poor cat set aside, curiosity is one of the main driving forces for learning, exploring, and discovering. Curiosity feeds us with knowledge, sparks our fantasy, and prompts us to explore different ideas, try new experiences and search for new limits. Whenever you are faced with an important task, ask yourself what can you learn here? How can you make it more interesting? Maybe you can try to do it differently? Or maybe you can check if it is possible to complete this task in less time and set your new personal time record? For example, if I do not feel like cooking dinner, I search the net for the fastest recipes and see if I can beat an estimated prep time of 30 seconds.
2. Keep your mind open. Your subconscious beliefs, self-perception, prejudices and biases largely influence your motivation level. And the more you hold onto them, the harder it becomes for you to step out of your comfort zone and accept change. A huge step to boosting your inner motivation is to challenge your old limiting beliefs and keep your mind open to new ideas and opinions (even if they are different from your own).
3. Turn theory into practice. They say “appetite comes with eating”. And this is very true! If you want to increase your motivation, switch from theory to practice. Do not wait for the right conditions, perfect opportunity, or a sign from heaven that will convince you that today is THE day! Applying your knowledge right away allows you to get immediate feedback on your actions. You can sit and guess whether something will or will not work out, but you will not find this out until you try!
4. Find your purpose. Wise men of old times believed that a person who is not passionate about anything, cannot truly enjoy life. They just kind of go with the flow, passively reacting to whatever challenges life throws at them. If lately your life has started to seem tasteless and boring it might be the first sign that you are moving away from your life purpose. Finding what you truly want to accomplish in life and directing your actions accordingly, is the most powerful and efficient way to boost and strengthen your inner motivation and regain your enthusiasm.
5. Reward yourself. Sometimes a promise of a reward can be the fastest way to motivate yourself and others into doing something. In goal setting one highly used motivational techniques is making a list of benefits that you will gain after accomplishing your goal. Similar, bribing yourself with a little treat can often help you to stick to your objectives and stop procrastinating.
However, be careful not to overdo it! Rewards work great when you already have inner drive to succeed. But they may be inefficient if you are trying to force yourself into pursuing long-term projects. Psychological studies show that people who are intrinsically motivated tend to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time than those who are motivated solely by compensation.
6. Set clear deadlines. There is something disturbing about not being able to finish a task on time. In fact there is a rather large group of people, who claim to work best under stress, which translated into simple English means “I usually wait two days before the final deadline in order to begin working on my project”. To be honest those people frequently demonstrate miracles of productivity and praiseworthy perseverance when it comes to meeting deadlines at the last second. But if there is no deadline – the work might never get done. If this sounds like your working style, do not beat yourself up! Make use of it! Always set deadlines for any task, no matter how small it may be.
7. Challenge yourself. Studies show that most people are more motivated when the task that they are working on presents some kind of challenge. You have probably noticed it yourself that if a task that you are working on is too easy, you become bored and your mind starts wandering. On the other hand, if the task seems too difficult it quickly becomes demotivating. The key to improving your motivation is keeping a healthy balance between the challenge of the task and your ability to accomplish it. The best tasks or objectives are ones that are almost, but not quite, too hard!
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