“Motivation” is one of the many buzzwords of the ongoing pandemic era, and it’s totally understandable given these very dark times.
Some toxic positivists would probably say, “it’s all in your mind, you just need to be more mentally resilient”; however, motivation actually goes beyond the mind and is important in almost every facet of our human behavior.
In reality, motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive elements that activate human behavior. All these forces combined initiate, guide, and maintain people’s behaviors towards attaining their goals.1
In layman’s terms, motivation is the “why” behind our actions. So, what is your ‘why’?
And if you feel like you’ve lost your ‘why’ along the way or you’re just coursing through life without a final destination which is causing you emotional exhaustion, demotivation, and burnout, it’s best to seek a mental health professional who is equipped to help you navigate this hard time in your life.
What motivates people?
Some people get motivated by being around their loved ones, some by earning money, and some by having short and long-term goals they want to achieve. People have different sources of motivation.
The question now is, “what motivates YOU in life?” or “what makes you get out of bed and continue living?”
According to an article written by Dr. Kou Marayama, an associate professor at the University of Reading who heads the multidisciplinary Motivation Science lab, there are various sources of motivation and reasons for being motivated:
- Motivation and learning – In terms of learning, people study for different goals, as well: to master materials and develop their competencies and/or to perform well in comparison to others.
- Reward and motivation – When it comes to motivation, incentives such as money is the first thing that comes to our mind. And yes, according to recent findings in cognitive neuroscience, rewards/incentives are a huge motivation for others. There are two types of rewards: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
- Competition and motivation – A study by Dr. Marayama’s team saw that competition triggers both performance approach and performance-avoidance goals, and they cancel each other out which lead to a weak impact in motivation. In lay-man’s terms, competition does not consistently bring motivational benefits.
Other sources of motivation are external incentives, avoiding losses, hitting “rock bottom”, intrinsic motivation, maintaining a positive self-image, self-validation, curiosity, autonomy, current mood, and other people.2
In essence, people are motivated by various things and there is no hierarchy to it, as long as it works for the person.
What are the different forms of motivation?
Forms of motivation are very different from sources of motivation. The aforementioned sources of motivation can be categorized into these four forms of motivation:3
- Extrinsic motivation – this is an external factor that compels people to behave in a certain way and to accomplish a task.
Examples of extrinsic motivation are: competing to win the trophy; completing a task to earn money; buying one, getting one sale; or buying or flying to get discounts or rewards, etc.
- Intrinsic motivation – this is an internal motivation, which is subjective. The beauty of this is it occurs as a result of making our actions align with our values or with the pleasure of performing a task.
In simple terms, you are motivated to do something because it’s fun, satisfying, and internally rewarding. Examples of intrinsic motivation are: participating in activities because it’s fun, learning a language for new experience, spending time with others for leisure, cleaning because you like a tidy house, working because you love what you do or what your company works for, etc.4
- Introjected motivation – this is much like intrinsic motivation, but the caveat is it’s a result of pressure to perform in order to gain recognition and/or appreciation.
Examples of introjected motivation are: learning an instrument because the person is raised to believe that every successful child should learn an instrument, studying in a prestigious school because that’s where they are expected to be, working a job their parents envisioned them to do, etc.
- Identified motivation – this motivation is a result of an understanding or feeling the need to perform a task but not yet acting on it.
Examples of introjected motivation are: a person with cancer who knows he needs to smoke but has not acted on it, needing to study for a final test to pass the semester but hasn’t done anything, improving behavior to gain more friends but hasn’t changed yet, etc.
How do you increase your motivation?
Motivation is one of the biggest challenges people, especially students and laborers, face during the pandemic.
Not being able to go out, meet with friends, do activities, and anything that gives us an instant dose of dopamine, the main brain chemical responsible for fueling our motivation or simply the motivation neurotransmitter.
Just like the sources of motivation, there are also various ways to boost your dopamine levels and consequently increase your motivation:5
- Planning and simplifying your life – focus on the things you love, and don’t exert effort on activities that do not excite you.
- Focus on your accomplishments – do not focus on the goal, but focus on your accomplishments and appreciate how far you have come.
- Set measurable goals – setting smaller and measurable goals will make us feel more accomplished, and will boost us more to do better.
- Shift your motivation from getting to giving – once you shift your mindset, your brian will be wired to innovate ways to spread more and more abundance.
Create and repeat a new positive habit- The key to creating a habit is consistency. Even when you don’t have the motivation sometimes, just try to show up or do something until it becomes a habit and it becomes a normal part of your life.
- Increased gratitude boosts motivation – numerous studies in positive psychology have also proven that gratitude (e.g, giving, showing appreciation), is strongly associated with greater happiness. More than improving your happiness, it also makes you more creative and deepens your motivation.
- Increase your energy to increase motivation – again, motivation is not just a mental thing. You have to take full care of yourself to be able to carry out the tasks that you need to do.
How to get motivation in different areas in your life
Different goals and activities require different types of motivational techniques. So here are the common activities in which we struggle to find motivation in doing:
- Motivation and workout – Make sure to lighten up and simplify your workout goals, especially if it’s your first time! Always focus on the journey and not the destination, to ensure that you celebrate each of your milestones, despite how big and small it is, to increase your motivation.
Telling people about your workout goals and having support will help, as well. For days that you don’t feel motivated, sometimes just wearing your workout clothes or moving for a few minutes will help you maintain your habit and motivation.
- Motivation and school work – sometimes school work piles up and they seem to be insurmountable. Because of this, students may be anxious or overwhelmed which will lead to procrastination or mental health degradation.
In order to sustain motivation in school, make sure to focus on the big picture.
There are different study techniques, such as pomodoro or time blocking, so you have to experiment and find out what works best for you.
Also ensure that you have a to-do list and simplify it, so once you finish something (even just as small as replying to an email) you’ll feel accomplished and be more motivated to finish other tasks.
- Motivation in doing house work – After getting back from your 9-5 job or classes, it’s really hard to still have the energy and motivation to do housework; however, it’s a normal part of life that needs to be done.
- Motivation and work tasks – First, you need to make your home a calming and happy place in order to be motivated: play some calming music, light up a scented candle, and even drink a calming beverage.
Now write a simple and doable to do list, and use timer and treats to maintain motivation!
Making a daily cleaning schedule will also help instead of doing a week’s worth of house chores in a day which will be more demotivating and overwhelming.
- Motivation to wake up and get out of bed – Sometimes when people talk about motivation, the initial question is: “what makes you get out of bed?”.
But what if you no longer have the motivation to get out of bed and live a normal life? First thing is to breathe and be kind to yourself and affirm that it’s perfectly alright to not have the motivation every day.
Once you have more energy, just start slowly by sitting up; this simple act will already get you closer to starting your day.
Once you’re up, other things that will help are: eat your favorite food, drink an energizing drink, get your daily dose of Vitamin D, and do some light movements.
Don’t pressure yourself in doing these things perfectly, standing up from your bed is a win in itself.
If you’ve exhausted all means listed above but still feel so unmotivated and unable to function, don’t be afraid to seek out social support or professional help.
What reduces people’s motivation?
According to the article written by Dean Bokhari, a podcast host and a book author on personal development, lack of motivation is a serious issue that can paralyze you into doing anything.
Other people are hyper-aware of why they are demotivated, while others are clueless. So let’s take a deep dive into the eight things that reduce motivation:
- You don’t know what you want – if you do not know your ‘why’, then it’s really impossible to find the motivation to do anything.
- You’re not in control of your physiology – sometimes how you walk, stand, or move affects your motivation, as well.
- You’ve made “lack of motivation” as part of your personality – for sure you know someone whose identity is being unmotivated all the time. It may be an internal dialogue you’ve learned in childhood or a statement that came from someone, and it may have a lasting effect on your personality.
- You’re not aiming high enough – it’s important to have SMART short-term goals, but it’s equally crucial to not lose sight of your long-term goal. For other people, their long-term goal is their ‘why’ that motivates them every day.
- Being overwhelmed – We’ve all been through this. We get so overwhelmed with the amount of work that we just decide to do anything or decide to do the job the other day…which sometimes never comes.
- You’re prone to procrastination – Sometimes procrastination becomes a habit or simply not knowing what to do next. This lack of direction eventually leads to a lack of motivation.
- You’re not being specific enough to spur motivation – Sometimes motivation is a fleeting emotion, and it can easily expire when it’s not directed to a specific goal. In line with simplifying your to-do list, you also have to make sure that it’s specific and doable so you won’t lose motivation to achieve it.
- You’re seeking motivation instead of habits – Motivation comes and goes, but habits stay, which is why it’s important to create rituals and habits that will help you accomplish all your tasks. On top of this, don’t forget to put into your routine activities that will boost your dopamine levels!
What is burnout?
It’s impossible to talk about motivation without talking about burnout. In a world where the hustle and grind culture is the norm and in a society where resting is seen as a bad thing, so many people are experiencing burnout.
According to the study entitled ‘The Relationship Between Burnout, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, burnout is a psychological syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism, and reduced personal accomplishments.
Some people might think that they’re just deeply lacking motivation, but there’s a high chance that these people are experiencing burnout, especially those in the workplace.
People often feel it when they are already so overwhelmed with work and can no longer keep up with the usual rigors of it.
If you experience any of these symptoms, please reach out to a mental health professional to address the issue.
How do you prevent and treat burnout?
According to Integris Health, there are five stages of burnout, and of course, early prevention is always key to any illness!6
- Honeymoon phase – it’s normal for any person to be highly energetic and optimistic about starting a new work. In the first stage, you may already experience some forms of stress and physical fatigue which is why it’s important to already implement positive coping mechanisms such as seeking social support, positive reappraisal, amongst many others.
- Onset of stress phase – the positive feelings in the honeymoon phase is already dwindling, and the stress you experience becomes heavier. In this stage, you may start to lose focus more easily, be less productive, and experience physical fatigue.
- Chronic stress phase – At this stage, stress is already persistent in your everyday life and is already interfering in the different aspects of life even outside work.
At this stage, you may already feel apathy, unproductivity, being late for work, social withdrawal, anger issues, and procrastination.
- Burnout phase – this is the stage where you reach your limit and you’re no longer functional. Stress and issues at work already consume you every hour, and your mind finds no escape from it.
Other symptoms are feeling emotionally numb, experiencing physical symptoms such as chronic headaches, and behavioral changes.
- Habitual burnout phase – If you don’t seek treatment immediately, habitual burnout can/will eventually lead to anxiety or depression. The mental and physical fatigue from burnout can also endanger your job status.
Again, early prevention is the key. Once you see these symptoms in yourself, implement healthy coping mechanisms. But if you believe that you are in the later stages of burnout, do go to your trusted mental health professional for help.
Burnout is not just stress, it’s a psychological syndrome that needs psychological interventions.
FAQS about motivation
- Are there any supplements that help with motivation?
As the saying goes, “a healthy body is a healthy mind” and “mental health is wealth”. Since motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive elements, having a healthy body with proper nutrients will surely help with your motivation.
There are supplements like L-theanine that improves mental functions or medicines that boost dopamine which improves a person’s motivation but consult a medical expert before taking any supplements or medicines.
- What are examples of activities that naturally increase dopamine?
Several studies have proven that these activities increase dopamine levels: regular physical activity like exercises; regular, enough, and undisrupted sleep
Other helpful activities are meditating, spending time in the sun which will also give you Vitamin D; listening to music or doing activities that give you pleasure; being in nature, and having a balanced diet and lifestyle amongst many others.7
- Is stress the same as lack of motivation?
No. Lack of motivation can be caused by stress amongst many other things, but stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.
- How to support someone who is demotivated?
When someone is going through something, it’s natural for people to give advice; however, this unsolicited advice just makes things a lot worse for the unmotivated person.
But once you know that the person is ready to receive pieces of advice and help, you can seek samples of advice from our “How do you increase your motivation?” list. You can also try to do some of the simple tasks that seem too overwhelming for them, like doing the dishes, going grocery, replying to an email, etc.
Lastly and the most important one is to always be there, especially at times when they no longer have the motivation to live.