You can learn to motivate yourself from within when you learn all motivation is Internal!
As important as the notion that your only competition is yourself, so too is the concept that all your ability to motivate yourself is internal.
It’s amazing how many of us find our motivation from external sources: awards, rewards, benefits, and bonuses.
We live in a culture where external validation is critical to motivate employees in order to maintain and improve performance. However, there is the rare gem that exists.
The person who possesses that fire… they are motivated intrinsically. They simply need the right environment and structure to flourish.
Are you one of these people? Do you possess the mindset of the most elite that only compete with themselves… those who are driven by something deeper than a pat on the back?
That person who knows… on a cellular level… that you are meant to do more.
Here’s how you can tell. Chances are the “Employee of the Month” program is something that you don’t subscribe to because you have so many ideas and are working to execute that you wonder why someone wouldn’t want to elevate their game to that level every day.
So many people strive to work hard all so they can win the award (or reward) and receive recognition from outside themselves. The “employee benefits” we receive for our hard work is another prime example. Because we work hard for the company, they reward us, so we’re more likely to want to work hard.
If that’s the kind of thing that pumps your tires… here’s a cold, hard truth: those external (also called extrinsic) motivators aren’t going to get you far. Eventually, things like your salary, benefits package, or even an “Employee of the Month” award aren’t going to be enough to get you through the tough days.
If you’re depending on outside sources for motivation, you’re in for a rough time.
Instead, it’s time to switch your mindset and shift your thinking. Stop looking for outside rewards, and instead find the motivation from inside yourself. This is known as “intrinsic motivation” and it’s the type most likely to actually keep you going!
Hold yourself accountable to yourself. Ask yourself many times throughout the day.. Is this best use of my time, can I be better, can I do more.
I used to play a mind game with myself when I was in the Army… I would paint rocks with happy faces on them and carry them around in my rucksack on operations. My platoon mates would ask wtf I was doing and I simply explained that if they ever found a rock with a happy face on it, they would know I had gotten weak.
Imagine ever having to take one of those out because my ruck was too heavy? Zero!
How Intrinsic Motivation Works
With extrinsic motivation, we act because there is a promise of a reward or the threat of a punishment. It’s very much an “I do X, and X will happen; I don’t do X and X will happen” system.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, causes us to act for the sake of the activity itself. We derive personal rewards simply from acting, so that’s the motivation that keeps up acting even when the action itself becomes difficult. As you can imagine, that’s the type of motivation that will help you to stay the course when life gets rough.
You may be thinking, “But if there’s no external reward—no prize or benefit to me—why would I want to do it? What could possibly motivate me to perform some task or engage in some activity that brings me no personal benefit?”
Well, the motivation comes from the internal benefits that you will derive from engaging in the activity:
Honor – We all have our own code of honor, the system of ethics that we adhere to. When we act honorably and ethically, we feel good because we know we’re doing the “right” thing. We don’t need someone else telling us what to do, but we can feel the motivation to do something because it is the honorable or correct thing to do. This is critical to your strength of character.
Acceptance – One of the greatest needs of all humans is to feel accepted, to be one of the “pack”. Isolated, we are vulnerable to predators (an evolutionary instinct hard-wired into our minds), so we seek the acceptance and companionship of our peers in order to feel protected and valued. This is one of the most primal motivations to do anything, and one of the most deeply rewarding.
Social Contact – How many times have you gone out somewhere you didn’t like, all because a friend invited you? Social contact and connection is a huge driving force behind many of our decisions. If you use this as a motivator for your actions, you’ll find it brings a lot of rewards that you’d never have expected. You may not love bar trivia, tabletop gaming, or fancy dinners, but because it brings you closer to your friends, there is an internal motivation and reward that makes you more likely to do it.
Curiosity – We all have an innate curiosity to see, feel, touch, taste, smell, hear, and experience new things. Curiosity is hard-wired into our brains because the experience is the only thing that can teach us what is safe, what is a threat, what makes us happy, and what makes us afraid. Curiosity is a powerful motivator, one that can help us to take actions or do things we’d never have done otherwise. Satiating your curiosity is one of the best intrinsic motivations to do new things.
Power and Control – We all need to feel powerful and in control of our lives. We may not need to be president, CEO, or king, but we have to feel like we have control of at least some small aspects of our lives. By making the decisions we do, we take that control and exercise what limited power we have. The simple act of choosing to do something—no matter how small or mundane—brings its own reward.
Happiness – How many times have you done something because you know it will make you happy? It doesn’t matter what anyone else says; the action will make you happy, so you do it anyway. We all want to find happiness in our lives, but remember that happiness is something born from the inside, not derived from external sources. Taking actions that will increase our happiness is one of the chief motivating factors behind our decisions.
These are just a few examples of intrinsic rewards you reap through your actions!
Stop Looking Outside
So many people struggle at work because they find that their boss is a jerk, their coworkers are rude, their workspace is uncomfortable, their commute is too long, and their schedule is too hard.
All of these complaints have one thing in common: they’re all focused on external factors.
Instead, it’s time to focus inward, on the internal factors.
If you hate your job, think about why. Not what others have done to make you miserable, but which internal factor is triggering that misery. Not about why your circumstances are causing you to feel bad, but why your response to that circumstance is to feel bad.
The moment you stop looking around you and start looking inside for motivation, that’s the moment you start to take back the power and control in your life. You’ll stop using excuses and start digging deeper to uncover the real reasons that you’re lacking motivation.
When you start looking inside yourself for motivation, that’s the day you actually start feeling it!