| 03.18.2018

The art of motivation — Getting things done requires action and endurance


Motivation can be a mystery. One day it’s here, the next it’s gone. It is a dilemma when someone wants to be motivated but they don’t know how to get there. Simply having the desire to accomplish something is not enough.

Most people never get moving because they can’t decide how to get started.

Scientists define motivation as a person’s general willingness to do something. Even though doing something can be way more difficult than doing nothing, at some point it is easier to change than to stay the same. The pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.

The choice of motivation resides in the individual. There is a reason for being unmotivated, and there is a reason for being motivated. Where there is a lack of motivation there is probably a lack of direction. If someone doubts their ability to do something, their desire to do it diminishes, and if they feel forced to do something they no longer see the value in doing, they won’t want to do it. If they see an activity as pointless, they have no reason to participate.

When someone is determined to do something, they will do it. The question is, do they really know what they want?

When someone knows exactly what they want, motivation finds a way to propel them to accomplish their goal.

Competence gained through dedication is an important factor in staying motivated. When someone knows that they can do something, they will probably keep persisting until they can actually do it or become better at it.

For example, Tim and Tina are both going rock climbing for the first time. Tim says he can’t climb to the top of the route because it’s too high. Tina says she can totally climb to the top, but it might take some training to get all the way up. Tina has motivation, while Tim does not. Tina recognizes her competence, even though she’s a beginner.

Psychologists in Greece found that practice made students more likely to consider themselves competent, and a sense of competence strongly predicted that they would engage in athletic activity. Similar studies in music and academics support these findings.

Competence comes from recognizing the basis of accomplishment. Those who credit innate talents rather than hard work give up more easily when facing a novel challenge because they assume it exceeds their ability. Believing that effort fosters excellence can inspire people to keep learning.

Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Don’t wait for motivation. Do something and motivation will happen — sustainable motivation that keeps going like the Energizer Bunny. Mr. Energizer Bunny had to start somewhere, now look at him.

The purpose of motivation is action, and action creates motivation.

What does a lifestyle that facilitates motivation look like? Schedules, routines and good habits.

Setting a schedule seems simple, but it puts decision-making on autopilot by giving goals a time and a place to live. It makes it more likely that someone will follow through regardless of their motivation levels.

How do some of the most prolific artists in the world motivate themselves? They don’t merely set schedules — they build rituals, like lush gardens of consistent motivation.

Persist through obstacles and have the endurance to keep going in spite of difficulties, and motivation will follow.

Andrew Brand can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @theandrewbrand

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