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(Alternatively you might want to check out my podcast episode about motivation which covers this same theme)

  • What IS Motivation?
  • What Is The Underlying Key To Motivation?
  • How Can We Rekindle Our Motivation (When Our Get-up-and-go Has Got-up-and-gone)?
  • What About “Toward” Motivation?

What IS Motivation?

Motivation is that something which causes us to act in a certain way, or to do a certain thing.

We all know how important it is if we are going to Get Things Done.

Alas, we probably all also know how elusive it can be!

Oh, not at the start – at the start we feel like we have all the motivation in the world!

But, all too often, as we start moving along our chosen path our motivation starts to wane.

And when we hit some pernicious obstacle? There’s no sign of that motivation, it’s gone off and hidden somewhere!

So what’s going on?

Let’s take a more detailed look into the wonderful world of motivation and see if we can uncover its secrets!

What Is The Underlying Key To Motivation?

Fundamentally, motivation is all about minimising pain. Click To Tweet

Fundamentally, motivation is all about minimising pain.

That may sound a bit strange, but let’s take a closer look.

When your perception of the pain of staying where you are is greater than your perception of the pain of changing, then you will be motivated to change – you’ll be motivated to move to a lower pain level.

Makes sense, right? I mean, who wants to stick somewhere painful, when you can move somewhere less painful AND without i hurting so much in the process.

The converse also applies, however.

When your perception of the pain of staying where you are is LESS than your perception of the pain of changing – well, you are going to stay where you are. Think about it – why would you incur MORE pain, why would you raise your pain levels?

That is the fundamental principle behind motivation – it’s all about reducing pain levels.

Of course pain could mean any kind of pain or discomfort, not just actual physical pain – it could include emotional, financial, spiritual… pain in any aspect of life and its experiences. Whatever the type of pain, the underlying principle is the same – motivation is the drive to minimise the pain. Always.

How Can We Rekindle Our Motivation

When Our Get-up-and-go Has Got-up-and-gone?

You know what it’s like. You’ve got your goal. You REALLY want i. And at the start, you make good progress.

But (there’s always a but, isn’ there?) sooner or later, motivation starts to wane, until it fizzles out completely.

Somehow, for whatever reason, you can’ muster up the motivation you know you once had.

Perhaps you have hit one obstacle too many. Or you are overwhelmed with other things. Or your enthusiasm has withered away.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same – you can’t bring yourself to actually do the thing you need to do. So you procrastinate.

How can you bring that motivation back?

By remembering that motivation is all about pain minimisation.

When your motivation has gone, all that has happened is that in that moment, your perception of the level of pain in Doing Something is greater than the level of pain you perceive in NOT Doing Something.  In other words, subconsciously you now think i will hurt less to stay where you are than to keep going.

Think about what’s going on, and why the pain balance has tipped.

Is the obstacle you are facing more painful than you’d expected?

Is the thing you want not actually that important?

Really get in touch again with what you want and WHY you want i. Examine the pain around not having it, really get a deep feel for it.

Think about when you have a plaster that needs to come off. You know it will hurt to pull it, BUT you also know that a quick pull and the short sharp pain is over and done with. And more importantly, the relief afterwards is much longer lasting!

So when your motivation is waning, re-examine the pain in staying where you are, the pain in changing, and the pain in not getting what you want. Get back in touch with all of that, and you will find a way to get motivated once again.

“If I don’t make this change, can I really put up with life being like this forever?”

What About “Toward” Motivation?

Usually when discussing goal setting, we talk about the difference between “Toward” and “Away from” motivation – being motivated by what you do want rather than what you don’t want.

It is usually said hat “toward motivation” – being motivated by what you do want – is more powerful and longer lasting.

And overall, that is indeed true,.

So how does that square with motivation being all about pain minimisation? Aren’t we saying that all motivation is away-from motivation (moving away from pain)?

At first glance, that does look like a massive contradiction. The reality is a little deeper, however.

Yes, “Toward motivation” does generally have a stronger drive. Picturing your ideal mansion, for example, and focusing on that rather than focusing on “I don’t want to be homeless”, is far more likely to get you to your mansion.

You see, when you really focus on wanting that mansion, on really picturing, i, experiencing it, looking and feeling and hearing every minute details – you create a massive sense of longing. So much so, that it actually hurts not to have it – and make the longing strong enough, it will hurt more no having it, than it will hurt to do whatever it takes to get it!

So yes, using Toward Motivation is very important for setting goals, it is very powerful – and to get it right, the vision needs to be so strong, vivid, real, that it actually hurts in some way to not have it!

It’s That Simple

So there you have it – the key to motivation is understanding that motivation is simply all about pain minimisation.

Get that right, and you will always be able to find ways to truly motivate yourself – either to achieve The Thing, or to realise The Thing isn’t that important and to work out what is instead.

Have fun!

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