The Ingredients of Staying Motivated

The large majority of us quit at nearly every attempt we make towards nearly every goal we set. More than 95% of people, who set to achieve a goal, end up quitting far before the finish line. Many programs layout very specific plans for weight loss, financial gain, increased sales, or better savings, to name a few. However, only a very small percentage of the populations that buy in to these programs succeed. For the most part, these programs teach valid principles that would lead to success if maintained. However, all that we’ve proven over the last 50 years is even when we’re handed the perfect solution for success, we are still highly likely to stop pursuing the goal and revert back to our familiar way of living.

Well, what do those people, who succeed, have that we don’t? How are they able to keep their focus and prevent barriers on the journey to success from stopping them? What is preventing us from success that others can move past? Over the next series of articles, we’re going to investigate from where our motivation originates and what is needed to move past the barriers that get in the way of success.

Extrinsic Motivation

Defined: Extrinsic motivation drives individuals to do things for tangible rewards or pressures, rather than for the fun of it (Petri, 1995).

For most of us, when we establish a vision or goal it starts with extrinsic motivation. At times, extrinsic motivation can be very powerful and move us past obstacles that seem insurmountable. For instance, the famous story of Aron Ralston, whose cut off his arm with a dull pocket knife after getting trapped under a boulder, is an amazing story of the power of extrinsic motivation. Aron had envisioned a son he never had the very last night he was trapped. It was the powerful image of his future son that gave him the strength to painstakingly cut through bone, tendon, and nerve to free himself from the rock. In this case external motivation fueled him past major barriers.

Longevity is another example of an extrinsic reward. Personally, the thought of living a fulfilling and long life where I’m active with a purpose gives me motivation to make the best decisions I can make today, such as drinking tea, exercising, deep breathing, being in nature, and strong ties with my community.

Having an extrinsic motivation does not mean that you won’t enjoy the activity. In fact, if you’re lucky, you’ll find both an intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for pursuing a vision. But more often than not, a goal will begin with an extrinsic motivator and it’s important to understand that this motivation provides only short-term strength. You can’t expect to completely change behaviors you’ve maintained for 20 years with an extrinsic motivator alone. Think about it, the number one extrinsic motivation for losing weight is to feel and look better, yet this motivator is very broad and weak. Sure, it might help you get to the gym for a few weeks, but it will only get you so far. A more specific and powerful motivator will give you a more long-lasting fuel source.

Intrinsic Motivation

Defined: Motivation that comes from an internal desire/passion. Enjoying the actual activity and staying focused in the moment.

Intrinsic motivation allows you to experience enjoyment of partaking in the daily activities that lead towards your goal. Extrinsic motivation can keep you going for the short term, (The ideal to feel and look good), but along the journey towards your goal, you might find that the activities your engaged in become enjoyable. For example, I went from being a novice, inexperienced fitness athlete to a knowledgeable expert on how to move the body and stay in shape. It actually became a passion of mine and I now have intrinsic motivation to exercise every day.

Through consistent practice of behavior change, one can develop an intrinsic motivation for the activity that was once difficult. Intrinsic motivation comes from consistent and focused action on a specific activity. I wasn’t born being passionate about exercise; however, after nearly 20 years of consistent physical activity, I have developed a passion for it. Through consistency, education, and persistence, one can develop an intrinsic motivation for something that was once challenging.

An intrinsic desire, to engage in an activity, creates very intense emotions that give purpose and meaning. If you’re lucky enough to have a hobby, career, or interest that engages you to such a level where time ceases exist and you experience a state of flow, then you’ve uncovered a key ingredient to a fulfilling and long-lasting life. A truly intrinsic motivation will provide any amount of fuel to break through any unwanted barriers to change.

Motivational Resources

Periodic infusions of motivation from a seminar, class, webinar, audio CD, book, friend, or team are essential on the path towards behavior change and goal attainment. In fact, they are critical. It’s been said that motivation lasts around 3 months; however, I believe that even more consistent injections of motivation can lead to increased focus and consistent action towards your goals. A regular injection of motivation from an external source gives you energy, focus, determination and ultimately the belief that you can and will achieve your goals.

The increased motivation from listening to a CD, reading a book, attending a class or seminar will give you much needed fuel along your journey. They should be regarded as an essential tool for keeping you on target towards your goals.

1st Steps

So, if you’re like most people who know they are destined for greater success, yet quit before attaining the ultimate goal, then do something different next time. Clearly identify a specific extrinsic motivation, seek deep for your intrinsic desire, and engage with frequent motivation resources to keep you focused and motivated. You’ll be amazed at the improvement in energy and hope you’ll receive.