Imagine standing atop a 100-story building. A narrow bridge with no arm rails connects the top of your building to the top of another building 100 feet away. Atop this other building is a suitcase with $100,000 inside.
Would you take the risk to cross the bridge to recover the money?
Now imagine the same scenario, but instead of the $100,000, it’s a trapped loved atop the other building. Would that change your level of motivation to overcome the danger and fear of crossing the bridge? If you’re shaking your “yes,” what brought about this change in your “motivation”? A motivational speech? Willpower? Maybe a change in your genetic brain structure that turned you into a “go-getter”?
Motivation is often viewed as a mystical power that some are blessed with at birth. These fortunate few then go on to be the envy of the “unmotivated,” the ones who spend their lives lamenting Mondays and celebrating Fridays. In actuality, research shows that motivation has less to do with gimmicks and genetics, and far more to do with an ability to tie your values and sense of purpose to action.
If you struggle with motivation in some aspect of life, consider the following tips and insights to aid in linking your inner most beliefs and values with consistent action.
Identify Your Most Critical Values and Beliefs
As demonstrated in the tall building scenario, taking action associated with our deepest values and beliefs often happens reflexively. While a suitcase full of $100,000 may make us ponder the possibilities before making a decision, a loved one in peril prompts immediate action.
What are three of your deepest values? These are the intangibles in your life. Without these, you would not be who you are. It’s important to take time to identify these and modify these values and beliefs as your life changes over time.
Consider how you make decisions. What are the primary themes that impact these decisions? Having frank and honest conversations with others close to you can provide further insight as to what values and beliefs you consistently demonstrate.
It’s essential to suspend judgement in this process. Regardless of the societal weight placed on certain values and beliefs, it’s essential that you assess what actually makes YOU tick. Research suggests that our sense of autonomy with our actions is essential in creating continued motivation. Vanity? Recognition? Control? If you’re aware that these impact your willingness to act, they can become powerful forces that drive you to take consistent action.
Once you have identified your values, consider how a task you are struggling to take action with is linked to your critical belief system. If your family is high on your value chart and you struggle with the motivation to change your health, what are the realities of how your impaired health could impact your family?
It’s important to record your thoughts and insights. If you continue to struggle, it may be necessary to go back to the drawing board to establish a higher-order value that can motivate action.
Identify Your Purpose
While the purpose of human existence has been examined since the dawn of time, the complexity of this thought process deters many from even considering it. Adult life easily can become a Groundhog Day of trivial demands and survival-based actions. When is it Friday??
Without discounting the very real pitfalls and challenges of daily life, research shows that those connected to a higher purpose associated with taking action perform more consistently, at a higher level, and are more resilient to setbacks.
A sense of purpose provides us with a WHY for nearly everything we do. It establishes our intended GPS coordinates for where we would like our values and beliefs to take us.
While establishing a sense of purpose is a constant work in progress, the following two questions can aid in making your life intentions and ambitions more clear and tangible.
1. Who do you want to become?
Nearly every successful business has a mission statement. This outlines what they aim to accomplish with their core competencies, values and actions. While it seems logical that a company would need this, many of us neglect to define this in our own lives. Without a vision of intention, it’s difficult to tie action to any meaningful end result. Motivation suffers.
2. How do you wish to be perceived by others?
At the end of your life, what MUST you be remembered for? What example MUST you have set for others? What do you want your epitaph to say? Humans are by nature social people. Our need to make some degree of social impact is a powerful motivator. When struggling to “find” motivation to take action on something, consider the impact of this task on your legacy.
Identifying and having an awareness associated with these “big picture” concepts provides us all with a foundation for taking consistent action. When we struggle or fail with our motivation, it’s important to reexamine the relationship between our desired action and the possible outcome, and how these are related to our values, beliefs and purpose.
To stay motivated and positive toward the often-trivialized demands of daily life, we may need to spend time with these deeper questions. For example, many trivialize the purpose of their work, outside of merely putting food on the table. This can be a significant source of frustration and demotivation. Becoming aware of how your approach to your work can align with your deeper values can create clarity and a shift in attitude and performance.
When you complete this process, you no longer are governed by fleeting willpower or the frustration that you weren’t born one of the fortunate, highly motivated few. When it is necessary to marshal an elevated degree of motivation to begin or sustain action, you can evaluate if and why it’s important to you.