How to Create Motivation…And Keep it
Time is ticking. Get on it! What are you doing wasting time?! The day’s almost here and you have absolutely nothing done! What were you thinking, waiting this long? Maybe if I take a nap or go out for a little I can clear my head and nail this out. It’s fine, I work better under pressure.
Any of that sound familiar to you?
It should. Those are the thoughts that typically fill our minds when the deadline for a project or task is approaching us while, meanwhile, we’ve yet to approach the starting line.
Inevitably, we all experience a point in time where we lose absolutely all drive to do necessary work. As a student, I’m sure you might have this feeling every other week. Between quizzes, projects, tasks, papers, and exams, the course load can leave you feeling drained and lethargic. Completing every assignment feels virtually impossible.
What you lack is motivation.
We both know it. You’re demotivated to the point where literally anything else seems like a better option than actually doing work.
Have no fear, there’s some good news…and a bit of bad news. The good news: once you read this article, you’ll understand everything you need to know about motivation AND you’ll have the tools necessary to motivate yourself on a daily basis. But wait, let’s not forget about the bad news. The bad news is: It won’t be easy. But look at the bright side—if it weren’t difficult then it probably wouldn’t be worth it.
So, let’s get started with understanding more about motivation as a concept.
What is Motivation
In order to provide yourself with a steady source of motivation, it’s important to know just what is in order to understand how it works. Motivation is the driving force that compels an individual to perform an activity or strive towards a goal. For a college student, it is a necessary catalyst that initiates progress towards the ultimate goal (which is likely getting a college degree).
I’m sure you understand this much. You understand that motivation is a driving force that gets you going. Consider it the “key” that revs up your engine. But allow me to break it down further and really show you how you can manipulate your motivation levels on a daily basis.
Overall, there are four components that affect your motivation. These components are:
- Intrinsic Motivation
- Extrinsic Motivation
- The Success Gained from a Task
- Perception of Failure
Below, I’ll describe how each of these four components affect you and what you can do to manipulate your levels of motivation. This is where the hard part comes in. At the end of each description of these four components, I’ll give you challenges to complete. I highly encourage you to take my personal challenge immediately in order to implement what you’ve learned into your life in order to improve yourself. The challenge will help you understand more about what motivates you and how you can tap into a longer lasting drive.
Before I begin I want to also mention that motivation and willpower aren’t unlimited. In fact, willpower (which allows you to motivate yourself) is present in limited quantity and needs to be trained like a muscle. The same way you go into a gym and perform sets and reps in order to gain more muscle, you’ll need to train your mind and perform the adequate “sets and reps” to achieve more willpower and increase your motivation.
Develop Values to Create Intrinsic Motivation
Arguably, having a solid level of intrinsic motivation is where I believe most college students fail. What are intrinsic values? Well, intrinsic values are essentially internal motivators. Let me give you a personal example from my college life to help you understand what an intrinsic motivator is.
During my sophomore year in college, I attended Penn State at what was known as a satellite campus. Essentially, a satellite campus was a separate location (not the main university campus) that housed only a handful of dorms and only a few classroom buildings—about 3 for the particular satellite campus where I resided.
I’d heard stories about how amazing and fun the main Penn State campus was and my ultimate goal was to go and experience it. In order to transfer to the main campus (the Valhalla of my college life) one would simply need to have high enough grades during their Freshman and Sophomore years. In order to not miss my opportunity, I made sure I scored high enough to leave the satellite campus (in fact, I ended up getting Dean’s List during my Sophomore year as a result of my determination to leave the satellite campus).
With immense joy, I eventually found myself beginning a new stage of my college life at the main Penn State University campus but I’d lost something important in exchange—my motivation. In achieving my goal of getting to the main campus, I no longer had the drive to do well in my classes. As a result, my grades decreased immensely and I fell into a rut.
My Intrinsic Reward was Getting to the main campus.
Now, while I chose a bad motivator, I had the basic premise down pretty well. Set your sights on something and then the motivation will follow (or at least a quarter of the total potential motivation).
However, I want to take this a step further. Rather than set your sights on one goal, develop a long list of values and lifelong goals that you wish to achieve. In a previous opinion article, I wrote entitled Why You Can’t Set Goals, I mentioned that I developed a huge Microsoft Word document of goals and experiences that I wish to have.
The majority of my goals require a lot of time to accomplish but the long-term commitment is what gives me the motivation to chip at each goal piece by piece whenever possible. This is why I encourage people to evaluate themselves, discover their values, and set goals based off of their values to achieve.
As a quick example of a goal that I have that motivates me each day is: Read 1000 books and create my own personal library in a future home that I own. Now technically, that’s about 3 goals in one but you get the point.
The goal needs to be something that you deeply value (I value education and constant improvement). Once you develop an intrinsic reward (such as getting to a fun campus or reading a variety of books) you’ll spark the desire to embark in achieving your goals.
Challenge: Create a list of values and goals. Give yourself at least 5 goals that you wish to achieve within the next 5-10 years (graduation can’t be one of them).
Set your Eyes on an Extrinsic Reward
This next one is much simpler and is where I believe most people start when it comes to setting goals. You need to give yourself extrinsic rewards!
What are extrinsic rewards? Well, extrinsic rewards are merely concrete things that can be physically obtained.
For example, if you wish to graduate, an extrinsic reward could be your degree or perhaps the money that comes from a well-paying job. Maybe for others, an extrinsic reward could be a new car or a laptop. You get the idea.
A part of becoming motivated is setting your sights on a concrete object that you can visualize yourself actually obtaining. Using the above example of reading 1000 books and desiring a library in my home, the extrinsic reward would be having a large library or, more specifically, having every individual book in my possession to place in my library.
Challenge: For each goal that you created, give at least 1 definitive extrinsic reward that you could receive and would love to have a result. For example, if your goal is to land a career 15 years from now that pays you $300,000+ dollars, an extrinsic reward could be purchasing a Lamborghini or perhaps a boat. Or, if your goal is to simply start a family within the next few years, an extrinsic reward could be a loving spouse, a large house, or perhaps several kids. Remember, it just needs to be something that you could obtain (and would actually want) as a result of achieving your goal.
Now, this is where the real effort comes into play. This is where we move from the thinking to the actual doing.
You need to win. And you need to win over and over again.
What do I mean by this? Well, research indicates that dopamine spikes are what help us stay motivated. When we win (and achieve our goals) we get a good jolt of dopamine which makes us feel good and consequently encourages us to keep achieving our goals.
Alternatively, when we lose (or fail to complete our goals) we actually lose the ability to receive dopamine. Yes, you read that correctly. Our dendrites, which are dopamine receptors, actually “fall apart”, so to speak, and cause you to feel worse. Essentially, you end up losing the ability to even take in dopamine.
With all that being said, it should be clear that you need to start winning—and why wouldn’t you want to? How? Get working on your goals. But don’t try to shoot for the moon on your first shot. Aim for a closer target and then progressively work your way up until the moon doesn’t seem so distant.
Challenge: For every goal you’ve created, create a micro-goal that you can definitely accomplish and progressively increase in difficulty. Once again using my library goal as an example. When I first set my overall goal to read 1000 books to create a large library, I set these micro-goals to supplement my main goal (which I’ll list in order)
-Read 5 pages a day
-Read 10 pages a day
-Read 20 pages a day
-Read 1 book per month
-Read 1 book per week
-Read 1 book per day
I literally set those exact micro-goals and am currently in between reading a book a day and a book a week—I have read a few books in one day but typically I’ll read a book in a week.
Find the Beauty in Failure
This is probably the most difficult step on the list. Research indicates that one of the biggest trip-ups when it comes to motivation is our own self-confidence and beliefs.
If someone believes that they cannot succeed then they automatically lose all motivation to make an attempt.
When it comes down to it, we fear failure. Everyone fears failure.
Whether it’s due to embarrassment, diminished self-esteem, or the societal pressure that we believe we’ll face, everyone has a reason to move away from tasks that we might not be able to succeed at.
My suggestion, don’t see failure as something that should be avoided but rather see failure as an ally that seeks to push you in the correct direction. When you embrace the reality that you will fail inevitably (and it won’t be that bad) you’ll discover a deeper sense of confidence within you.
Say to yourself, What’s the worst that could happen? Typically, the end result of a failure isn’t that bad. If you fail a test you won’t suddenly get kicked out of college or even the class. In fact, in many circumstances, you could fail a test and still receive a high grade (believe me, I know this to be a fact).
Personally, I’ve come to see failure as a blessing. Why a blessing? Well, I think putting forth the effort to do something difficult enough to fail puts you in a position to learn, gather yourself, and come back twice as strong.
Overall, failure is learning and learning is growth!
With that being said, don’t fear failure. Embrace it!
Just to review, in order to motivate yourself at all times and become more productive you must develop core values and goals that you wish to strive for and accomplish, visualize yourself with the physical prize, create small wins to boost your self-esteem, and acknowledge failure will happen and is a blessing. Using these powerful techniques, I hope that you increase your daily motivation and productivity tenfold. Be sure to take the challenges I presented above for a simple way to implement the concepts above into your life. And be sure to share this article with someone else that might need some motivation!