A few words about Motivation
10th May 2019
Often my clients want to increase motivation to reach a goal. Most of us struggle to stay focused – that Saturday morning laze in bed so tempting, when we know we should go for a run or prep that important interview next week.
Daniel Pink (Drive) is good on this topic. He argues that motivation is about intrinsic drivers, particularly autonomy, mastery and purpose. That’s different from the extrinsic factors of traditional motivation theorists. We often use extrinsic goals on ourselves or our kids to increase motivation. So we might set rewards or penalties: “If you do your homework you’ll get screen time” or “if you don’t eat your supper, you won’t get any sweets”. These tactics might work for a bit, but won’t sustain motivation.
Intrinsic goals are ones we are personally committed to. E.g. having a determination to increase confidence at public speaking. However, although a strong, internal desire helps, we still won’t be able to avoid the waves of self doubt, tiredness and life generally getting in the way. So how do we maintain focus? One way that’s helpful is to build self-belief in our ability to try.
Often, we doubt our ability to try (and to keep trying) and we become unmotivated and give up. But if we decide that simply trying is our aim, we get all those things Pink talks about:
Autonomy – we are in control of trying.
Mastery – we try in ways that give us confidence in our abilities and increase skills.
Purpose – we set ourselves “trying” goals that give structure and meaning.
It comes down to that old adage “you can only do your best”. When we hear those words they can feel like a throw-away comment to make us feel better when something hasn’t gone well. But truthfully knowing that you have tried your best (while accepting it won’t be perfect) is empowering.
Doing our best doesn’t necessarily equate with success. But it does mean that we know that we have the skill and confidence to try our best again. It means we’ll feel strong on the journey and at some point, our “best trying” will pay off.