Motivation is the willingness to take a certain action. It is the driving desire or reason behind any activity. Some authors speak of it as if it’s everything; others, as if it doesn’t matter at all.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Motivation is extremely important, but not something that you should rely on for ongoing efforts. If you have zero motivation, such as in a state of low dopamine, then your life will be flat and boring. On the other hand, motivation is a feeling, and all feelings come and go, so you cannot rely on it for maintaining habits.
Motivation is that initial spark that makes you start something, and then re-energizes you to pursue it deeper. Commitment, on the other hand, is turning that spark into an ongoing fire. Even when that fire is already burning, though, you’ll still need to increase the heat from time to time—which is where motivation comes into play.
Now that we know the place of motivation, the next question is: what is the nature of motivation, and how do we increase it? Three elements need to be present for you to feel motivated:
- A big reward
- Feeling that you can achieve that reward
- Frictionless path
The first two elements are entirely subjective—you can increase them through self-reflection and self-talk. The third one is somewhat objective. It’s about choosing a path forward in which the perceived pains of achieving the reward are smaller than the benefits of the reward; or finding ways to make the path less painful.
We know that half of success is showing up (self-discipline). What about the other half? The other half is to do the work passionately, purposefully, and wholeheartedly. That is motivation and drive. If you are waiting for the fire to be there so you take action, you won’t go very far. But if the fire is gone and you are just showing up, then your actions are no longer alive.
Which of the three elements of motivation do you need to focus on to enhance your fire?
To enhance your motivation, try the “Make Your Sacrifice” meditation in the Mindful Self-Discipline app. The other meditations under the “Aspiration” category will also help.