How To Get And Stay Motivated
Ever wonder what Anna Karenina has to do with your motivation to show up and work toward your goals?
(Besides the serious amount of motivation you need to tackle 800 pages of Russian literature, of course.)
It’s right there in the opening lines. You may have heard them before.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
In that, a happy family is one that has satisfied a few fundamental aspects - like good health, financial stability, and mutual affection (or tolerance, if there are a lot of teenagers in the household).
There is a strong parallel here to motivation.
When we’re feeling motivated toward our goal (I’m going to get that raise! I’m going to run that marathon! I’m going to lose that weight!), we are happy as we progress along.
Losing that motivation, however, is a more painful story.
We don’t want to get out of bed to make it to work on time.
We’ve hit the wall in our marathon training and we skip a few days.
It doesn’t feel like the scale reflects our dieting efforts, so we take our cheat day a little early this week.
When we lose our motivation, there are a few things we can do. Often, we look for new ways to get motivated.
We read articles on getting motivated and staying motivated, the essence of motivation, or even how to keep working when you’re just not feeling it. These can all be useful if you’re looking for ways to design goals, find more effective rewards, and keep progressing.
Still, there is something fundamental missing here.
Motivation is a driving force toward our future. We can agree on that.
But it’s defining the kind of motivation that will help us get there. Like when we say ‘go for a drive’ and we get the idea of the expression. To actually go for a drive, though, we have to step into a car or truck or bus of some sort.
Knowing the vehicle is what allows us to actually get to the place.
Likewise, knowing the motivation allows us to better get to our goal.
That’s what we’re after by defining our types of motivation. Instead of chasing after the ideal of motivation, figuring out the kind will make it easier to understand why we’re lacking motivation - and how to change it.
The Types Of Motivation
Motivation is often divided into two major groups: intrinsic and extrinsic.
From there, we can further categorize six types of intrinsic motivation and three types of extrinsic motivation.
When you figure out what’s really driving you, getting to where you want to go becomes that much clearer.
What Is Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that makes you feel good inside. Fuzzy, we know.
Intrinsic motivation generates internal rewards, like a sense of accomplishment, of progress, or of self-esteem.
Or, heck, even fun!
You likely recognize in your own days some activities that you are intrinsically motivated to do, even without subjecting them to the idea of “I don’t feel *motivated* to do this.”
Some examples of intrinsic motivation in action:
- Mastering a new recipe
- Playing games
- Learning a new skill
- Taking a class
- Investing to become financially independent
What Is Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation is related to the driving factors outside of ourselves. These motivations can be categorized as compensation and punishment.
(Charming categories, we know.)
This is what compensation can look like:
As it concerns extrinsic motivation, punishments take the form of:
- Loss of compensation (money, trophies, etc.)
Whether your aim is to gain the compensation or to avoid the punishment, you can see how the pressure coming from outside affects your motivation.
Similarities & Differences Between Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivations
What they both have in common is the chance to be positive or negative. This depends on your own mindset or the circumstances you find yourself in.
They differ in a few key areas. Intrinsic motivation is harder to stimulate than extrinsic motivation, which is boosted automatically by the reward (or the lack of punishment). Still, it can be longer-lasting and more durable (the lifelong pursuit of a creative hobby, for example), as extrinsic motivations (like your yearly bonus) are more fleeting.
Knowing The Six Kinds Of Intrinsic Motivations
By now, you should have a general idea of what kind of motivation you’re looking at. Let’s take a deeper look now at the six kinds of motivations driven by our own desires.
Achievement motivation is fueled by the desire to attain a specific goal, position, or title.
In that sense, achievement motivation is often considered one of the drivers of personal development. In the professional world, it’s aiming for a promotion because it signifies a height reached, not a financial goal. With sports, it could be aiming for your own personal record.
Similar to competence motivation, too, could be the drive to get a degree or a certification. It’s an achievement that is driven by an internal quest for more knowledge.
(And if you feel seen when talking about achievement motivation, you might like our In Real Life Achievement coins!)
Affiliate motivation is fueled by the desire to belong or be accepted.
Though this is connected with our place in the world, it isn’t necessarily driven by what others think of us. It is our impression of how we fit in, whether it’s with our new book club, our extended family, or a workplace.
Real-life examples of this could be watching old seasons of a television series to be able to chat about it at work. There isn’t a reward or punishment for us if we don’t watch the series, but we feel we’re accepted if we do it.
This kind of motivation is what drives us to seek opportunities to be accepted.
Attitude motivation is fueled by the desire to have an impact in the world, create something beneficial, and to help people.
Though these actions can also be motivated extrinsically (for the esteem of others), what matters in this scenario is that you’re doing it because you want to.
Maybe that’s helping someone cross the street, volunteering with shelter animals, or cleaning up a hiking trail in your spare time.
Competence motivation is fueled by the desire to learn, improve, get better, know more, and increase your skill set.
It could also be known as the learning motivation. Instead of acquiring skills to compete with peers or level up at work, you’re doing so just for the sake of doing so. If you get a promotion, cool, but you’d keep learning after the fact because that was your original motivation.
Creative motivation is fueled by the desire to express one’s self, to say something, and to make.
From that starting point of expression, this motivation can take many forms. Maybe it’s a written work, maybe it’s a business venture, maybe it’s a new outfit.
Though this can get muddled by those who create to achieve certain ends (publishing a book to get more career opportunities, for example, or sharing outfits on Instagram to get followers), creative motivation is about the intrinsic motivation to create.
With these examples, it’s not the act of publishing a book that would be satisfying, just completing it. It wouldn’t be selling a business, necessarily, just having the business existing and functioning.
Physiological motivation is fueled by the desire to satisfy basic physiological needs, like food, water, warmth, sex, and air.
In short, this is the motivation we have to stay alive. They are often conflated with other needs (food to survive is different than being able to take an Instagram photo of a three-Michelin star dinner).
When it’s the desire to be healthy by going for long walks or sleep better by leaving trivia night at the bar by 9pm, that’s physiological motivation in play.
Knowing The Three Kinds Of Extrinsic Motivations
Despite there being just three categories, we’ll recognize ourselves in many of these.
Fear-based motivation is fueled by the desire not to fail.
It is not necessarily negative, though often considered to be. It is also at play with the avoidance of pain or awkward feelings.
You can recognize this kind of motivation in the workplace, for example. If everyone stays until a certain time each day just in case their boss calls, regardless of whether there is work to be done, then there is fear-based motivation in play. It’s not about working harder, it’s just about the fear of an awkward, uncomfortable interaction.
Power-based motivation is fueled by the desire to have some control over other people.
Though it can be construed as negative (the controlling personality), it is also the motivation that leads to leadership.
Several of the situations we’ve discussed, like taking additional classes to learn more or staying late for fear of the boss, could be shown as power-based motivation if the goal of learning more or staying late was to move up the company’s ladder and end up with a higher position.
Reward-based motivation is fueled by the desire to get something for our extra effort.
For employees, that could be a bonus offer in their salary. For us as individuals, it could be the weekend movie we promise ourselves for spending five days at the gym during the week.
As effective as this kind of motivation is, it is fleeting. Once the reward is achieved, it’s often necessary to modify or increase the reward to create the same kind of motivation.
How To Maximize Your Motivation
Now, let’s return to the idea in the beginning. Looking to get and stay motivated? This is why it helps to know what kind of motivation you’re dealing with.
Because if you’re not feeling motivated, it’s possible that the reasons behind your motivation have changed. With that, it might make sense for the activity to change too.
Consider these three examples:
- Have you stopped reading books since you left your last job? Maybe you were more motivated by the inclusion in your company’s book club (affiliate motivation) than by Murakami’s collected works (competence motivation).
- Have you hit a wall in your book writing since you ran out of ideas? Maybe you were more motivated by the idea of finishing a book (achievement motivation) than by expressing those ideas (creative motivation).
- Or, have you had trouble showing up at work on time since you were passed over for a promotion? Maybe you were more motivated in the past by a strict manager (fear motivation) than by getting a new position (power motivation).
By understanding the source of your motivation, you can see why your interest may be waning.
Armed with that knowledge, you’ll be in a great position to do the work to ignite your motivation again.