The root of motivation is motive. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary describes motive as “something (a need or desire) that causes a person to act.” Motive is the reason we do some things and not others. We must first become aware of our desire or need and then choose whether or not the task at hand warrants our highest level of dedication. If it does, we choose to consciously work toward completing the task or achieving a goal because it satisfies our needs or desires. Motivation is a committed, conscious choice to act. People who reach their goals have the courage to first contemplate and name their hopes for the future. The highest level of committed motivation occurs when we choose to do something greater in our lives, whether that means obtaining a higher level of fitness or excelling at our profession. When we aspire to be greater, we consciously choose to work toward that objective. I know too few people who take the time to truly reflect on why they are motivated, why they get up and do what they do, and what more they want in their lives. On the other hand, I know many people who hope and wish for increased motivation. However, one does not become more motivated by hoping and wishing. Motivation occurs with a conscious connection to need, desire, and hope, followed by sustained commitment and action – the doing that is required to reach a goal.
Progress Is My Motivation
People who know me well often describe me as highly driven and motivated. I am always thinking, doing, and acting. Progress is my motivation. The more progress I make, the more motivated I am to continue. The more attention I give to my goals and passions, the more motivation I have. It has never been lost on me that my own personal drive, motivation, and engagement are essential to our organization’s success. It was because of my initiative that our organization began. However, the motivation and engagement of the people who work in our organization have become equally important. It is our employees who ensure that the activities required for progress are actualized.
Many people are motivated for short bursts of time and then find that their motivation wanes. One only has to look at the increased attendance at fitness clubs each January and then return a few months later to see that many people have not been able to stick to their New Year’s resolution fitness goals. Success is not achieved within periods of fleeting motivation. Goals, dreams, and long-term successes are only achieved while staying motivated for long periods of time. Our ability and desire to get up day after day to pursue our dreams is what separates those of us with high levels of motivation from those who only have fleeting commitment. The key distinction between sustained and fleeting motivation is disciplined effort. Motivation does not sustain itself. Those who relentlessly pursue their goals and dreams with focused discipline and ambitious effort are the people who obtain sustained motivation. When we give more disciplined effort, we will feel more motivation.
Disciplined and Continual Effort
I am not a former Olympic athlete or even a high-level athlete. In fact, the highest praise I can give myself while keeping a straight face is that I am slightly above average when it comes to fitness. Over a decade ago, I participated in an adventure race. It was one of the hardest activities I have ever done. I was on a team of four. The event combined biking, hiking, navigating, and canoeing over a period of 36 hours through rugged wilderness terrain. For the slightly above average athlete, this is a really long time and a major test of motivation. I had been committed throughout my preparation for the race, practicing and training harder than I ever had before. Yet I was unprepared for the inevitable point in the race, early in the morning after biking all night, when I simply wanted to quit. I was tired, bloody, hungry, and grumpy. My motivation for completing the task had waned, but I dug down, found my reserve of effort, and continued. Unfortunately, there is no glory at the end of the story: at the 35th hour, we became lost and were unable to complete the race. The moral of the story is this: When motivation begins to wane, take an honest assessment of your effort. Has it also waned? Often it is not our dreams or goals that have withered, but our disciplined effort. If you are looking for a secret to motivation, this is it: disciplined and continual effort is the key. Continuing on despite setbacks and hardships even – and perhaps especially – when you feel like stopping is the key to motivation.
“A” Is for Attitude
Pessimism kills motivation. The doom and gloom of pessimism quickly engulfs any motivation that might have been glimmering. People who are pessimistic can become angry and resentful of others who surpass them, and they are quick to offer excuses as to why they are left behind.
Look around at those you know who are motivated. They are not angry or pessimistic about the things they are doing. Instead, they are passionate and enthusiastic about their lives and optimistic about their goals and dreams. Who has ever achieved great things with a scowl on their face? A positive and hopeful attitude is a prerequisite for motivation.
This blog post is an excerpt from my book The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization. Available on Amazon.