Many of us likely recognize how much more productive we could be if we were only more self-motivated. In our work at MindVue, we have been researching motivation and developing strategies to help foster it in individuals of all ages – from students in the classroom to adults in the office. Through our work, we have discovered there are specific aspects that contribute to one’s level of motivation.
So what can be done to help enhance your self-motivation? Try some of these ideas:
When examining extremely driven individuals, one of the common findings we see in our work is that these high performers are driven by a cause greater than themselves. They hold a clear understanding of the values they possess which helps foster a clear sense of purpose in their life. They then use this strong sense of purpose to create and work toward goals that continually push them in a positive direction.
We must always analyze whether the goals we are currently working on align with our greater sense of purpose. Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” If we are not loving what we are currently doing, chances are that the goals we are working on are not meaningfully contributing to our larger sense of purpose.
We often find that many individuals have not established a clear sense of purpose. Indeed, one of the biggest killers of motivation is ambiguity in one’s purpose. If this is the case, spend some time thinking about the larger purpose you hold in life and then start setting goals that contribute to that greater purpose.
Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking research at Stanford University has taught us that individuals engage in thinking patterns characterized by two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. When thinking with a fixed mindset, individuals possess the belief that talent and intelligence is fixed and incapable of being improved. On the other hand, when using a growth mindset, people view that talent and intelligence can be cultivated with effort.
Dweck’s research has highlighted how individuals with a growth mindset tend to experience better academic and workplace outcomes over time. In holding this growth mindset, individuals make it a goal to be continuously learning. As such, when they experience a setback, they are more likely to respond to that adversity with continued effort.
To cultivate a growth mindset, we must examine the thoughts we internalize as well as the outward words we say. Are we thinking and saying phrases like “I was just not born to do this” or “I’m just not wired to do that”? If so, we are likely operating with a fixed mindset.
To begin the process of fostering a growth mindset, we need to catch ourselves when we are thinking with a fixed mindset and then revise those thinking patterns toward that of a growth mindset. When we find ourselves thinking “I’m just not wired that way”, we need to make a mental note of the thought and revise our thinking patterns toward something along the lines of “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ll keep trying to learn.” Doing this will not only assist us in being more resilient, but it will also help to keep us more motivated.
Centuries ago, the ancient Greeks first coined the phrase “know thyself”. In order to promote our levels of self-motivation, we need to follow the advice of these ancient Greeks and gain an accurate awareness of the strengths and weaknesses we possess. In their book examining strengths-based leadership, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie describe how the father of the strengths movement, Dr. Donald Clifton, once said. “A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter know his tools, or a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths - and can call on the right strength at the right time”. As Gallup’s research has consistently demonstrated, having an awareness of our strengths and the opportunity to utilize those strengths on a regular basis helps to foster not only self-motivation but also greater engagement and well-being.
Likewise, we have learned from the work of Flip Flippen that it is also important to be knowledgeable about our weaknesses. If our strengths are like the heat from the fire pushing the hot air balloon higher in the sky, our weaknesses are like weights being added to the basket of the hot air balloon, thus preventing the balloon from rising up. Once we are aware of our weaknesses, we can take steps to minimize those weaknesses so they do not negatively impact our performance.
As children, many of us probably remember reading the story The Little Engine that Could. While this book has helped us to learn the phrase “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”, we need much more than just simple positive thinking to achieve our goals as adults. While there are clear benefits to positive thinking, most of us can relate to also having that little voice in our head telling us all of the reasons why we cannot achieve our goals.
When this happens, it helps to identify our igniters. In terms of enhancing motivation, leadership author John Maxwell has taught us there are two types of people in our lives: those that build us up and increase our motivation and those that find a way to tear us down. We like to describe these people as our igniters and extinguishers. Igniters are the people who constantly make us excited about our goals when we talk with them. In a sense, they pour gasoline on the fires that burn within us to make us more excited, committed, and motivated to keep working toward our goals. On the other hand, there are other people in our lives that we consider extinguishers. These are the individuals, who despite often being very good people, tend to make us question ourselves and doubt our abilities, which ultimately diminishes our motivation.
When we do find ourselves hearing that voice telling us why we cannot do something and are struggling with our motivation, it is important to identify and talk with our igniters. Having a simple and short conversation with them can have immediate positive impacts on our levels of motivation.
In conclusion, enhancing our motivation starts with developing a clear sense of purpose that is rooted in a firmly held set of values and then setting goals that align with that purpose. Secondly, we must work to continually develop a growth mindset which will assist us in remaining motivated over time. Next, by accurately understanding and utilizing our strengths and minimizing our weaknesses, we will be more engaged as we strive toward our goals. Finally, we must learn to identify and talk with the people who ignite our fire when we are struggling with our goals. Implementing these four crucial elements in your life will assist you in not only enhancing your motivation but will also ultimately help you to ignite the greatness that lies within you.