Motivation what is it? how does it work? Do we make the most of its power to move us?

Definition – Motivation is the activation or energization of goal-oriented behaviour. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. Ok the science bit may be a bit heavy – all I want us to think about today is this – How motivated are we in the things that we do? Work, Family, Sport, Community? I would say that it’s almost impossible to remain “motivated” on a project or goal if we see no personal benefit, even if it’s to keep our job.
Yes I know that’s what motivation is but Im not sure we give it enough thought.

Going back to basics we have good old Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. He starts his pyramid with a foundation of basic needs to keep us alive, safe and comforted by our social circle the top 2 levels Esteem and Self Actualisation are the ones that mostly kick in for most motivations as we live in a society where fortunately the vast majority of the population have their basic needs met.

By way of a personal example Im taking part in this years Great North Run it will be my 7th. My family and I suspect a number of friends and colleagues think running 13.1 miles is sheer madness but somehow every year almost 50,000 do just that and it’s so popular double that number would take part if they could. What motivates so many people to run so far?

They’ll be dozens if not hundreds of different motivational drivers to do the GNR.

For me it’s quite simple, training helps to keep me fit, running de-stresses and helps you to feel positive. That’s a physiological benefit, beyond that I enjoy the sense of achievement in reaching the end. Last but not least is the feeling of altruism gained from taking the pain for a nominated charity and the reward you feel for doing something for others. These are my motivational drivers and they must be fairly strong given the fact it’s getting harder and I’m still plodding on.

So what of other “goals” that we may have? Achieve promotion, a pay rise, greater responsibility. Why do we want these things? Are we jealous of siblings who have achieved more, frustrated by driving the same small car for 5 years or living in a house that’s not big enough for your growing family? These are negative drivers to want to change circumstances but aren’t necessarily enough to see us change things.

Almost every year during the GNR, approximately 8 miles in I start to tire quite badly, it’s due to my training being mostly no more than 6 miles and my brain saying “oi stupido, you’re still running why haven’t you stopped?” at that point I’ve learnt to switch off the neggy nag in my head and instead visualise myself at the end, having a cool drink, a massage, exchanging running tales with fellow sweaty blobs but overall making myself feel that sense of achievement ahead of time. It’s strange but it works. our brains are fantastically powerful tools but most of the time we leave them in autopilot and don’t even think to try and manage it’s processing power.

Now to other personal goals, can you train the brain to see yourself in a better place? Yes I really believe we can and it’s something we should try and work on. For some placing a picture of the car of their dreams on the fridge door or screensaver works, others find time to meditate and project themselves forward to a time when the goal or goals have been achieved. If sceptical of this approach, thinking it’s akin to mumbo jumbo or poor mans Derren Brown start with a simple target. For example I recently decided to improve my cookery skills, Ramsay or Oliver I am certainly not but my repertoire of meals needed work. Each night I take a few minutes before falling asleep thinking of recipe ideas and then preparing, cooking and eating that meal with my family and when the opportunity arises I’ll try one out. You could just say “buy a cook book” but that wouldn’t motivate me to cook. The motivation comes from my desire to be original and delivery in imprinting the experience on my mind. Hopefully my family will survive the experience!

It’s not a unique technique nor 100% guaranteed to work but for me it has proven surprisingly effective.

What motivates people really does interest me. Personally I think the more honest we are with ourselves the better the chances of motivating ourselves to achieve the goal. Back to the GNR one benefit of training is that it not only keeps me fit but it prevents my middle from spreading any further and whilst there are health benefits to this my personal motivation is pure vanity. Such motivators are very personal but tend to be the ones that have the strongest impact and drive our actions to achieve the goal.

If you have a motivational story to share I’d love to hear it please drop me a line in confidence to

Motivation Management
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