We’ve heard a lot about motivation this year. How to keep it up during lockdown, how to find it in hard, lonely times. And we hear about it a lot in general. Here at Selfish Darlings, we’re always encouraging you to find motivation. Motivation for health and wellbeing, lifestyle and relationships. But for all the talk of being motivated, how much do we really understand what motivation is?
- a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.
- desire or willingness to do something, enthusiasm.
Synonyms of motivation include drive, incentive, ambition, stimulation. It derives from motive, from the late Latin motivus, from moevre, meaning to move. When we use the word nowadays, we often use it to understand why a person does something. It’s the process that helps us establish and complete certain goals or desires.
But it is not something we have often, nor it is something we can draw upon at any time. Motivation is a response to stimuli which trigger the brain and move us towards productivity. These stimuli and these triggers can all vary. This means that we can’t pull motivation out of anywhere, it’s not a natural well we have inside ourselves to source from at any given point. Motivation has to be inspired by something and depending on what we want to achieve, we have to consider what things have inspired us before.
Now, there is a hefty scientific explanation to with the brain, dopamine and nucleus accumbens that explains exactly what happens in the brain when we experience motivation. Put in very simple terms: dopamine is a neurotransmitter and the nucleus accumbens is the part of our brain used for reward behaviour. When the dopamine reaches this area in our brain, it predicts whether something good or bad is about to happen. This prediction is what prompts us to act in certain ways; to avoid the bad or maximise the good.
Types of Motivation
So, what stimuli out there triggers this process in our brain? Well, there are several. If you scour the internet, you’ll find lists from four to fourteen, but I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing it down for us here. The basic two types of motivator are intrinsic and extrinsic.
- Intrinsic: Internal, simply put. This is the motivation that comes from inside of us. We do it because we want to do it, not because outside forces are driving us to. Often, we don’t have an end goal or outcome for these types of motivation, they’re more about us, and we do them because we enjoy doing it.
Intrinsic motivators include creativity, curiosity, learning, meaning, love. These give us personal satisfaction, feelings of pride, acceptance or growth.
- Extrinsic: External. The motivation that comes from outside of us. These motivators come from other people or outside forces, and they are not always our natural desires or motivation, but things we do usually because we have been told to do them.
An extrinsic factor could be money, fear, competition, rewards, praise. These offer less personal satisfaction, more driven by outward appearance or success, and external measures of pride.
These can overlap, often in regard to our careers, our relationships or how we do academically, for example. Doing well on a test can give us a feeling of internal pride, and also a nice gold sticker.
We can also think about motivation in terms of push and pull. Things we do that push us towards a goal or pull us away.
The number of times I have been told that making your bed or going on a jog can motivate you is astonishing. But for a lot of people, it would work. And we’ve all been in one of those slumps where we just don’t feel like doing anything, so how do we find the motivation to crack on?
Well, as I mentioned above, we need to stimulate our brain. Get inspired, get excited, set yourself small, easy tasks that give you a good hormone boost when you achieve them.
In truth, there are hundreds of people out there with advice on getting motivated, any one of which can help with any specific problems, but at least now we know what motivation is.
It’s not something we have an endless resource of, not something we can pull up out of nowhere. We do have to trigger it, from our own curious, creative excitement, or with external praise and stickers.
Generally speaking, a motive is a need that requires satisfaction. A need that could be influenced by culture, lifestyle or society. A need could be acceptance, praise, love, exercise, social contact, status, independence, love or sometimes, hunger. When we have these needs, we find the motivation to fulfil them.
Please note, that a lack of motivation can be a sign of depression, and if you think you might be depressed, do not hesitate to ask for help.