The Motivation Conundrum

Publish date: 2021-03-28
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Motivation plays an active role in the pursuit of wellness along 9 developmental lines (see figure below). Each of these lines can develop in the area of your interest or what you find to be personally important to pursue growth, learning, and development in.

These “areas” can be divided into two major categories: Public Life and Private Life. Public Life is mostly your professional, and social interactions and your Private Life could include your personal and social interactions.

In your Public Life you have social interactions with colleagues and the people you meet. In your Private Life you have interactions with your family, friends and romantic partners.

Some people may be extremely motivated to work on their relationships, some seek to further their career, or improve their business and finances, while others are more inclined to focus on personal health and fitness.

There are many reasons why we lose motivation in our pursuits like keeping up with a health regimen, continuing to work on a new hobby, keeping in touch with family, friends and colleagues or pursuing professional goals. So we must first understand what actually motivates us.

Our Motivators and the Stumbling Blocks

Emotions are the source of motivation and we all have at least one area of our lives where our emotions are plugged in. The source of our motivation could be a positive emotion like excitement for an impending reward or an instant or resurfacing negative emotion like fear, guilt, hurt, anger, or sadness.

Positive emotions engage the neocortex and lead to endurance. Negative emotions activate the part of the brain that triggers the freeze, fight or flight mode- but this subsides once the brain concludes you are out of the danger zone.

Factors such as age, level of personal development, and/or past or current traumatic experiences can also play a part in this. Perhaps the most important of these factors is trauma.
Trauma by definition is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that can occur on a personal or collective level. On a personal level, many of us have experienced physical and psychological trauma or a trauma resulting from a crisis in our finances, career, or relationship like when you lose your savings or job or a loved-one. A good example of a trauma suffered collectively is the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted the lives of almost everyone on the planet. Trauma and crisis can either lead to personal growth and insight or withdrawal, resentment and/or violence.
Whatever the case may be, the good news is that once you pinpoint what is causing you to lose motivation there are strategies that can be used to reverse the cycle and get back on track to achieve your goals.

Motivation and Mindset

The first step to identifying what is causing your loss of motivation is understanding the link between Motivation and Mindset.

Essentially, Motivation is a psychological force tied into one's Mindset.
Mindset is the lens we see the world through and from where we operate. The mindset can be embedded in the positive or the negative. It is the underlying structure behind our attitude and behaviour and consists of different styles of thinking such as black and white, gray, or colorful.

The structure of our mindset is nested upon a psychological model. This model is a collection of perceptual filters and mental patterns as well as other internal filters such as values, beliefs, ideas, opinions, and interests that are developed over time as a result of different life experiences. These filters and patterns run in the back of our mind and play multiple roles in our psyche. They influence what we set as our goals, our way of thinking and decision making, and which emotions motivate us to follow through with our decisions.

Patterns: What we repeatedly do, say, or feel.We develop patterns either to feel more of something or less of something.

Filters: They influence what comes into our field of awareness and help us gather, absorb, process, and retain information.
A combination of our internal filters, perceptual filters and mental patterns shape our reality and our identity.
Therefore, Mindset and Motivation are very person specific. This means that the motive that activates motion in you may have no effect on another person. In fact, our predominant habitual filters influence how we define our motivators and what triggers motivation in us.

Finding Your Motivational Triggers

The first step to tackling your lack of motivation is determining what propels you to take action. Are you driven by negative emotions or positive ones?
You could start by asking yourself these questions:
  1. What is the worst case scenario that could happen?
  2. What are the unwanted consequences that may come up if you delay things any further?
  3. How will you feel once you finish your task or accomplish your goal?
  4. What are the positive things you could gain from finishing your task or accomplishing your goal ?
The answer to these questions can help you pinpoint your motivators, predominant emotional triggers, filters, mental patterns, and even certain language patterns. These answers reflect your current state of mind and emotions.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Don't look for a right or wrong answer. There are none. So be honest.
  2. Don't be too critical of yourself.
  3. Don't over analyze things.
If fear of the worst case scenario drives you just know that it is normal. This is a mental habit that has been installed in us since we were small. We learned to move away from things that could potentially put us in an unfavourable situation. So now our habitual response is to start imagining worst case scenarios and soothing ourselves by thinking up solutions. For example when you are on a deadline you scare yourself by thinking of how much trouble you will be in if you miss that deadline and then soothe and reassure yourself that by taking step A and step B you will meet your deadline and everything will be okay.

Fear is a temporary motivator. Even if it leads to some sort of advancement, it could potentially hurt your wellbeing. By taking corrective action you can eliminate the possibility of depression, resistance, and stagnation.

The key to fixing your fear-driven responses is self-reflection which I won't lie to you will require emotional labor to face these barriers and to get past the defences you have created. It takes courage, honesty, strength, and determination to confront difficult emotions and to wrestle with our so-called inner demons.

Here are a few sample questions that can help you take the first step toward self-reflection:
  1. In which areas of your life does fear drive you?
  2. Why is this response your go-to strategy?
  3. What mental filter(s) is (are) reinforcing this strategy in you?
The mental shift from the negative to the positive requires practice and a certain level of awareness. Once you recognize your role in the equation you can begin the process of balancing your internal emotional scale and using positive motivational triggers.

If excitement is what motivates you, I would just like to remind you that in order for this emotion to continue driving you, you’ll need to follow through with timely action. It is one thing to start with positivity in this case excitement and it’s another thing to be able to maintain it. Your positivity could quickly turn to negativity but by taking the necessary steps you can keep working toward the best case scenario.

Grounding your mindset in the positive requires continuous work. Spending a few minutes everyday to reconnect with your vision is helpful in maintaining your motivation.

Here are a few sample questions that can help you reconnect with your vision:
  1. How significant is this goal for you?
  2. How much time do you spend on envisioning the steps needed to accomplish this goal ?
  3. How would achieving this goal change your life and the lives of others?
Training yourself to move out of a fear-based mindset towards a more confident and balanced one can help you change your life and steer it in your desired direction. Reconnecting with your vision helps you stay focused on the task at hand, it will energize you to stay on track to achieve your goal.

Remember staying motivated is in your control because it's never too late to take the first step. Taking action creates motivation. So let's get started!

I do group coaching as well as one-on-one sessions. You can learn more about coaching sessions with IVY here. For questions or feedback contact us here.