I spent much of Sunday morning watching a few hundred people participate in their first triathlon. It was sixty-something degrees and drizzling. What would possess these people—all ages, shapes and sizes—to come out in the rain to inflict discomfort on themselves? They swam a quarter of a mile in a lake, biked 12 miles on rain slick country roads and ran 3.1 miles over hilly trails. At the beginning and end of each portion of this event, each person had a small cheering section, but for the most part, each participant swam/biked/ran alone, competing against the elements and motivated by him/herself. How did each person motivate him/herself? How can you motivate yourself to do whatever your goal is?
Well, the good news AND the bad news is that motivation is individual. Every person is motivated differently. Some people need praise to be motivated. Some people need to feel like they’re contributing. Some people need to be able to tick off the boxes of their goals to be motivated. Some people like public recognition, some hate it. Few people, believe it or not, are motivated solely by money. In fact, money can be a demotivater–it’s not enough or it’s less than so and so got–you spend more time thinking about the negative than the positive of money rewards. Anyway, the way you are motivated is unique to you. You need to figure out how that is and then put it to work for you. You need to NOT wait for someone else to motivate you. Others can help (like the individual cheering sections at the triathlon), but you need to take the responsibility and develop the skill to motivate yourself.
There are two types of motivation: external and internal motivation. External motivation is in play when you are thinking that you “should” or you “want” to do something. You’ve got internal motivation when you “love” something or you “gotta do it.”
There is a motivational continuum between external motivation and internal motivation.
If you are all the way at the external motivation end of the continuum, then your motivation comes not only from outside yourself, but actually from other people—people who tell you what to do. You’re not doing it for yourself, but rather for others. If you are at the internal motivation end of the continuum, then you do it because you feel whole when you do it. You do it despite all the excuses/distractions/opportunities not to do it. You REALLY do it.
The question is, how do you push yourself toward the internal motivation end of the spectrum? First you need to understand what motivates you.
- Are you a planner? A list person?
- Do you need to be encouraged by others? Recognized by others?
- Do you need to feel like you accomplished something? Made a difference?
Think about times when you were most motivated. What made that happen? Was it that someone was proud of you? (External motivation) Was it that you could look at what was happening and you were proud of yourself? (Internal motivation). Whatever it is that pushes you, figure out a way to put that in your life. Create a situation that provides the reward(s) that work for you. They don’t have to be big rewards. Frequently people are just as motivated by any reward–that they care about–as a big reward.
The key is that you have to take charge of your own motivation. You will see your performance rocket significantly. Steve Chandler’s book. 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, will give you lots (100 to be precise) of ideas on how to motivate yourself.