It’s Monday morning. The alarm rings. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you open your eyes?
“I really don’t want to go to work today”, “I have such a long day ahead, what a dread”, or “Yes! It’s a brand new week ahead! Looking forward to getting lots done.”
Whatever your response may be, ask yourself this question:
“What is it that made you feel unmotivated?” What was driving you to feel negative or positive about your Monday ahead? How to get motivated?
I used to have a colleague by the name of Nancy. She came to work at the same time every morning, and would leave at 6.30 sharp every evening. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. She was known to be the office grinch as she was often grumpy towards everyone, so much so people would avoid her whenever possible. She complained about everything under the sun.
I had a brief conversation with her one morning in the office lounge where we were both getting coffee. She told me she had been working with the company for over 20 years! When she told me that, I asked her what motivated her to stay on for so long, and her reply was simply “I don’t know. It’s a job that pays the bills, and is close to where I live.” With that, she walked away and I was left standing alone in the lounge with my hot coffee, at a loss for words.
How could someone be doing the exact same thing for over 20 years? And she clearly doesn’t enjoy her work, what with all that complaints and grouchy attitude. So why hasn’t she done anything about it?
The 2 Types of People
This might be an extreme case, but I’m sure you must know of people who have been doing the same thing for years and seem to not have any problem staying stagnant. Whether it be in their marriage, job, or personal endeavors, they seem to be getting along just fine without progressing towards anything ‘better’.
On the other hand, I’m sure you would also know of individuals who focus on the positive, set goals and are constantly pushing themselves to greater heights. Be it promotions at work, building a family, celebrating milestones in their marriage or relationships, upgrading houses and cars, setting up new businesses, or going to school again, these individuals seem to constantly progress towards something that improves or enhances their life.
So what’s the difference between these 2 category of individuals?
What you feel like or don’t feel like doing, boils down to one thing. And that is motivation. It is the force, or lack of, that keeps driving you forward to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve your goals.
Without motivation, you’ll give up after a few failed attempts or even on the first tough challenge that comes your way. Or, in the case of Nancy, just remain where you are: unhappy yet not doing anything to progress ahead.
What is Motivation, Really?
Whether you realize it or not, motivation is a huge force in your life; and it needs to be harnessed in order to excel and actually enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, many overgeneralize the word motivation. We think of being either motivated or demotivated as a simple “yes” or “no” state of being.
But motivation is not a switch. Motivation is a flow. To feel motivated, you need to dive beyond the surface. Just reading a motivational quote, being encouraged by your friends or even mentor won’t help you build sustainable motivation in the long run.
You can think of the motivation that we want to achieve like the Sun (self-sustaining and long lasting), which supplies a constant influx of energy to all life on Earth. Just like the Sun, your “motivation engine” has different layers, starting from the core and spreading out to the surface. The surface is what you see, but the real process is driven from the core ; and that’s the most important part… I’ll explain why in a moment.
If you can create a self sustaining motivation engine, you’ll not only be able to find more meaning and purpose in your life, but you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of what you’re doing, which will make your roles and responsibilities less of a chore. Now wouldn’t that be a game changer?
Let me help you understand this motivation flow better, by breaking down the Motivation Engine into 3 parts:
- Core – Purpose
- Support – Enablers
- Surface – Acknowledgement
I’d say we’re most familiar with layers 2 and 3, as we come into direct contact with both of them frequently.
The Third Layer: Surface – Acknowledgement
The outermost layer, also known as Acknowledgement, encompasses any type of external recognition that might give you motivation. It may come in the form of respect or recognition, such as compliments and praise.
Or it could be emotional support through encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism. It could also be affiliation, where you have mutual companions or buddies sharing the same goal or burden with you.
This is generally what you see on the surface when you look at other people. You see the external acknowledgement, respect, and recognition they’re getting.
The Second Layer: Support – Enablers
In essence, the second layer of the Motivation Engine (also known as Enablers) is what supports your goals. They can magnify the motivation core you have, or speed up the momentum that you build. Basically, they create favorable circumstances for things to go smoothly.
The Innermost Layer: Core – Purpose
But what’s most important, and the true driving force behind your Motivation flow, is the innermost core – your Purpose. Your purpose is what differentiates the motivated from the demotivated, the achievers from the underachievers, the happy from the unhappy.
Your motivational core is your Purpose, and is sustained by two things: Having Meaning, and Forward Movement. With these two as a foundation, you’ll have a power source that will feed you motivational energy indefinitely.
So, how do you do these two things?
How to Sustain Your Purpose
Having Meaning is simple. Just ask yourself a question: Why?
Why are you pursuing a certain goal? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. While motivation provides you energy to do something, that energy needs to be focused somewhere. So without meaning, there is no direction for your energy to be focused on.
Yet, having a meaningful objective doesn’t mean you have to change the world or create A huge impact on society. The secret to meaningful work is simple: it should contribute value to something or someone that matters to you.
Next up is gaining Forward Movement. In short, this means to just keep moving. Like a snowball, motivation from having progress creates momentum. So to keep this up, you have to keep moving.
And the good news is, your progress doesn’t have to be huge for you to recognize it. Small amounts of progress can be just as motivating, as long as they keep coming. Like driving a car, you may be really impatient if you’re at a complete halt. But, it lessens if you’re moving forward–even if you’re moving slowly.
Creating a simple progress indicator like checklists or milestones, are a great way to visualize your small (and big) wins. They trigger your brain to recognize and acknowledge them, giving you small boosts of motivational energy.
This is why video games are so addictive! They’re full of progress indicators everywhere. Even though the progress is completely virtual, they’re still able to trigger the motivation centers in your brain.
Find Out What Drives You Today
So why not take some time today and do a quick reflection of where you’re at now? Take one aspect of your life that you’d like to progress further in.
For example, it may be your current job. First, start with why. Write down your reasons for why you’re in the job that you’re in. Then think about your Motivation Core: Your Purpose. Write down what it is within your job that gives you meaning, and what are some things that will help push you forward in life.
Once you have those points, it’s time to do a comparison. Does your current job help you make progress towards that Purpose that you’ve written?
If it does, then wonderful! You’re on the right track. But if it doesn’t entirely, or you now realize you’re way off target, don’t panic. It’s definitely not too late!
Staying Motivated and Happy
Happiness need not be a vague term or illusion that you’re constantly chasing after–with no end in sight. By finding your true motivation, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your happiness and finding meaning in all things you do.
You may have tried many solutions to help you stay motivated and found that none of them really have any impact. That’s because they bring about incremental changes only, and permanent change requires a holistic approach. It requires more than just focusing on one area of your life or changing one part of your routine or actions.
You want to make a fundamental change; but it feels like big, unknown territory that you can’t afford to venture into at this point in your life.
The truth is, taking your life to the next stage doesn’t have to be this complicated. So, if you’d like to take the first step to achieving your life purpose, the time is now!
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