Motivation | What Motivates You?

Motivation is defined as the willingness and/or desire to do something. In the New Year, many of us make resolutions, set new goals, and tackle the year with a fresh start. We are all motivated by a variety of things, and many of us realize we have the motivation for change but few of us focus on what has motivated us and how to make it last. This begs the question, what motivates you? And then, how do you stay motivated?

Fundamentally, we all seek pleasure and avoid pain. And, there are two different basic ways in which we are motivated to fundamentally seek pleasure and avoid pain. Intrinsic motivation (internal motivation) is long lasting and continuous because it naturally comes from within you. Extrinsic motivation (external motivation) can be helpful short-term for things such as cheering up after a bad day – it won’t last long because it is not coming from within you. For example, the old saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is helpful in pointing out intrinsic motivation. The ability to fish within someone provides long lasting reward and motivation. Simply being given a fish, while rewarding, is very short-lived.

Often times, motivation comes from both positive and negative circumstances (pain and pleasure). For example, anxiety about getting good grades may motivate one to study harder. Studying hard may lead to good grades, therefore a good grade acts as a reward. So, a relatively negative feeling of anxiety coupled with the reward of good grades may both serve as motivation. Knowing what motivates you helps you be more successful (both in and out of therapy), and helps to keep you motivated. The more you can get familiar with yourself, how you react, what you tend to avoid, what you seek, what you feel, and what you think, the more you will be able to recognize your motivations and achieve personal success. When we know ourselves and understand what pushes us toward achieving our goals, we can ask for what we need and gain momentum in our journey to achieve goals.

Written by Kelly Rachu, LAMFT

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