We all have divine potential.
We all are capable of achieving whatever we want to achieve.
Nothing is impossible for any one of us.
So why don’t we always recognize that potential?
Why do we not always achieve what we set out to achieve?
Why does life feel impossible sometimes?
There could be several answers to these questions, but there’s one we see often enough that it’s worth calling out here:
It’s a lack of motivation.
What is motivation?
Motivation is defined as:
- “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way”
- “desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm”
When it comes to creating lasting, meaningful personal change in your life (which is what Design.org is all about), motivation makes a huge difference.
In fact, it’s often the difference between failure and success.
Because here’s the thing: when you’re working toward something, whether it’s learning a new l language or trying to quit smoking, there’s going to come a point when it’s going to get hard. Really hard. Harder than you realized it would be. At that point, do you quit, or do you keep going?
When you have true, driving motivation to do something, nothing can stand in your way. Any obstacle, any hardship, any setback will be met with determination to press forward and see it through.
Without that motivation, there’s no technique, no method, no amount of planning that will help you overcome those hard moments.
In the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, which is based on a true story, Will Smith portrays Chris Gardner, a man who, despite his high level of intelligence, is struggling to find and keep a steady job. He faces incredible challenges, including homelessness. Through it all, however, he is able to maintain a (mostly) positive attitude, and he doesn’t give up until he lands that job.
Why didn’t he ever just give up and claim that life had beaten him? Because of his son. Motivated to create a better life for his son, Chris pushes through the hardest time of his life so that he and his son can come out on the other side, even stronger than before.
Chris created a “how” because he had a “why.”
The right motivation
Motivation is one of those things that we sometimes take for granted. When we set a goal, the motivation behind the goal can seem obvious:
“Of course I want to lose 20 pounds. Who wouldn’t?”
“Everyone tells me saving money is important, so I’m going to save money!”
“I’ve always wanted to write a book; I was practically born with that goal.”
The problem is that this often isn’t enough to keep us going when the going gets tough—when your friends invite you to your favorite cheesecake place to celebrate your birthday; when that Broadway play you’ve been dying to see finally comes to your city; when an editor tells you your book will need a major rewrite if it’s ever going to be published.
It takes more than generic motivation to stay in the game when it feels like you’re down thirty points, your fans have all left, and you’re injured.
But how can you tell if your motivation is the kind that will carry you through?
Sometimes it’s glaringly obvious that we’re lacking proper motivation. This is that “can’t get out of bed” feeling that is often associated with depression, but could also just be a sign that you don’t have a “why” that is helping you get through the day.
Other times, though, it’s harder to see that we’re lacking the motivation we need until we hit a major roadblock—and of course, by that point, it’s already too late.
Is your motivation giving you the push you need? Try asking yourself these questions and see what kind of answers come up. This is purely exploratory, so be honest!
- Why do you get out of bed every morning?
- Think of a goal you’re working on. What is the “why” behind that goal? What outcome do you desire from doing it?
- On hard days, are you still able to actively work toward your goals?
- When was a time in your life that you felt especially motivated?
- Have you ever given up on a goal or endeavor? Did you have a “why” behind that goal? What was it?
Love vs. fear
In our experience, love is the ultimate motivator.
As we describe in detail in this post, love moves you toward something you want. It is positive, proactive, and powerful in its ability to keep you moving even in dark times. Love was certainly the motivator for Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness!
In contrast, if you’re motivated by fear, you’re moving away from something you don’t want. You’re trying to escape your circumstances. You’re reacting to what is happening to you, instead of purposefully going after your goal or vision. When fear is your motivator, you’re more likely to cower and give in when faced with those tough times.
Discovering your motivation
So how do you find motivation that works for you, will help you achieve your goals, and will ultimately help you create a more meaningful life? Here are some things to try.
Define your values.
What do you stand for? What do you prioritize? Values are the ultimate indicators of your “why.” If you can define a set of values that help govern your life, it will be easier for you to uncover motivation behind your behavior.
When you’re able to visualize where you want to go, you’re more likely to feel motivated to get there. Picturing yourself as the kind of person you want to be can be a great source of motivation, and can give you something to hold on to when things get tough or when you feel discouraged.
Let go of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is not motivation. In fact, it usually serves as the opposite. Since it’s impossible to be perfect, trying will only discourage you. Let go of perfectionism, and you’ll be able to more clearly see what is really motivating you.
Ask for help.
Sometimes, other people see things in us that we can’t see in ourselves. If you’re having trouble finding your motivation, ask other people what they’ve noticed about your habits and patterns. The new perspective might help you discover motivation you didn’t know you had.
Stick with what works (until it doesn’t anymore).
If a source of motivation has worked in the past, don’t be afraid to use it again. That consistency can make the motivation even stronger. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to let go of motivation that doesn’t serve you anymore.
Find your Enneagram number
The Enneagram is a personality framework that focuses on motivation and desire. Whether or not you’re into personality frameworks, this is one that can at least shed some light on the kinds of things that motivate you.
Finding your motivation can make all the difference as you progress toward a happier, more meaningful life. Stop trying to make progress without sufficient motivation to back it up! Find out what drives you, and use it to propel you forward. You’ve got places to go!