Motivation gives the reason to the goal. A goal set without a real desire behind it is most likely to fail. Motivation is the ‘why’ of life. You might want to buy a new car, however the reason for buying a car will be different for you than it is for someone else. For you it might be that ownership of the car makes you feel good in front of your friends or colleagues, whereas for someone else it is the safety features that appeal to them because it will reduce their stress when driving. Sometimes we are motivated towards the pleasure of something, while in other circumstances we are motivated away from potential pain that we might be faced with. We are most motivated to achieve a goal that either has a strong emotional pull, one that supports our safety, one that challenges our ability to problem solve or by a new experience.
Our bodies require physiological needs to be met to function optimally. These can be recognised as the need to avoid pain, to eat, to drink, to breath, to maintain the correct body temperature, to sleep, to eliminate and sex for the survival of the species. These motivators require a balance to be maintained and any deprivation or excess in any of these will increase our body’s motivation towards maintaining balance.
Our bodies also monitor the cost of any action. This cost can come in the form of body movement and brain function and in the time, discomfort and risk involved. This cost is also weighed against the possible gains of physiological and psychological needs being met. There are therefore complex decision-making processes happening in the body and the brain over the competition of multiple motivators which creates internal tensions. Some of these are conscious and some are unconscious and can result in conflicting behaviour.
Extrinsic motivation requires that a person will achieve a separate outcome or consequence when they achieve their goal, such as financial benefits, awards, prizes, certificates, or recognition. They may have longer term outcomes such as going for regular exercise to lose weight or learning a language to be able to speak to the locals on a foreign holiday.
Intrinsic motivation is seen in people who come across as self-determining. They feel internally rewarded just by doing something for the sake of it. They go for a run because they enjoy it. Intrinsic motivation is particularly associated with our tendency to seek out original experiences and challenging activities which are inherently fulfilling and appealing.
What is it that is causing you to choose your direction? Here are some statements you might like to consider when you are setting a new goal.
I am doing this task because I need ….
I will be able to complete this task easily because it is linked to my values of ….
This will be exciting to try because ….
So yes, motivation is what we think about when trying to achieve goals and yet it is about so much more. It is about learning and remembering, it is about your intelligent body communicating with your brain, it is about understanding your wants and your needs, it is about what you don’t want, it is about tension, choosing and decision making, it is about your ability to comply with narrow parameters and to experience vast joy, it is about the obvious and the hidden, it is about amazing you, just as you are.