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I heard expressions “I need some motivation” and “I just don’t have any motivation to do this” many times. It would be nice to wake up, get a cup of motivation and go on with the day. Unfortunately, this is not how it works. Motivation is not something we can get. Let me explain.

Motivation Is Like a Momentum

The common stereotype is that everyone needs a motivation boost. We don’t even question it, when we hear someone say “I didn’t feel motivated.” That might be true, but what the person actually needs is to create an environment for motivation to happen and catch the momentum. Motivation is an effect and not a cause.

Motivation is like a force of momentum that moves an ocean wave. It gets the wave moving, but it isn’t the cause of this movement. Other things, such as tidal flows and the body of water, have collided to create the wave in the first place.

We Got It All Backwards

I have already mentioned that motivation is not something we can get all of a sudden, it’s a result of other things. So, it has certain conditions. When those conditions are met, we feel motivated. Although we can’t just get motivated suddenly, we can make sure that the conditions for motivation are met. Even though we can’t get a cup of motivation, we can prepare the ingredients for it.

The Four Conditions of Motivation

  1. Clear Objective. Clarity about the overall direction in life is a powerful driving force. For example, there might be an assignment due in one of the classes and there are million reasons to procrastinate and to not feel motivated. Therefore, I am suggesting to think about the bigger picture. I find one exercise especially helpful which I call ‘The Truth-seeker’. Basically, a person asks themselves the same question, ‘Why am I doing this?’ many times, until they reach the most important reason.Example. I have an assignment due, but I don’t have any motivation to do it.
    • Round 1. Why am I doing this?  Because it is 10% of the grade in this class.
    • Round 2. Why am I taking this class? Because it is a part of my major.
    • Round 3. Why am I getting degree in this major? Because I want to have a career in this field.
    • Round 4. Why do I want a career in this field? Because I think I will enjoy a lifestyle of this profession, which includes a good salary.
    • Round 5. Why do I want a good salary? Because I would like to support my parents who are working really hard.

    Clear Objective: It is important to complete this assignment to be able to support my parents later in life.

  2. Defined Action Steps. Imagine a feeling of driving a car through the thick fog. At some point a question ‘where am I going?’ will come up accompanied by a feeling of pointlessness. It is a similar feeling that stops a person from taking action, if they don’t know whether this step will take them closer to the destination. Motivation declines when the direction isn’t clear. The opposite holds true. As soon as the action steps are outlined, they replace the need for motivation.
  3. Experience. Let’ start by thinking about doing a task for the first time. For example, snowboarding or a programming language. The learner would naturally find someone they can observe and borrow experience from. Later the student feels a combination of curiosity, confidence and motivation about approaching a new skill. Similarly, if there is no book, no videos, no teacher, no peers, and no other sources to borrow experience from, the student would feel demotivated, lost and maybe even scared. Personal or borrowed experience ignites motivation. Surrounding yourself by people who reached the same goal is a common successful strategy for building momentum. If they could do it, you can too.
  4. External resources, like information, money, or simply energy, can affect the way we feel about the task. I don’t feel motivated to study when I want to sleep and it is raining outside.To overcome this, I identify and acquire resources that help gain motivation. Examples:
    • I feel motivated to study when surrounded by studying people. The resource here is surrounding myself with other people doing the same thing. To do that I go the library or coffee shop.
    • I feel motivated to study when I don’t feel sleepy. Resource is getting enough sleep.
    • I feel motivated to study when the sun is bright. Resource is light.

I Say “I’m Not Motivated”, But I Mean …

Obviously, “I am not motivated” is a self-destructive limiting statement. Overcoming the lack of motivation starts from the analysis of the underlying causes.  Am I madly in love with my objective? Do I need more experience and who can help me with it? Do I lack some resources? Answering these questions helps create momentum.

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Motivation is an effect of the four factors: clear objective, defined action steps, personal or borrowed experience, and external resources. By focusing on all, or some, of these factors we can catch the momentum and be all we want to be.