Motivation – the buzz word of the last few years!
If I asked you to describe motivation – how would you define it?

Definitions of Motivation:



1. A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.
‘escape can be a strong motivation for travel’

1.1 mass noun Desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm.
‘keep staff up to date and maintain interest and motivation’

Wikipedia definition:

Motivation is the reason for people’s actions, willingness and goals. Motivation is derived from the word motive which is defined as a need that requires satisfaction. These needs could be wants or desires that are acquired through the influence of culture, society, lifestyle, etc. or generally innate. Motivation is one’s direction to behaviour, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behaviour, a set of force that acts behind the motives.

What motivates us?

According to Maslow, we are all driven by the same set of needs:

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.


Is motivation willpower?

Nope, it’s far more than that!

Motivation is deeply entrenched in the brain, linked to levels of Dopamine, and in the subconscious mind. (which we access and work with during Life Coaching via NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming).


As Dean Griffith, the Founder & CEO of Energy Fusion explains:

Within our brains we have an emotionally sensitive switching station, called the amygdala, which lies deep within the limbic system. In the absence of high stress or fear, the amygdala directs incoming information to the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC’s role then is to turn that information into long-term memory or process it through the cognitive and emotional control networks of the higher functions within our brain. That then allows us to either respond or to ignore it.

Our motivation levels are related to our perceived difficulty of a task and the perceived rewards that come from completing that task.” This means that when there are low rewards, the motivation to power through a task is going to be lower.”

If the perceived difficulty of a task suddenly increases during a period of low motivation, our motivation level will then drop even further.” This will eventually lead to “a downward spiral in motivational level unless we do something to override this.”

How do we achieve motivation?

When we have a deep, deep desire for the reward/outcome of doing a certain task, then we have energy and inspiration for the action.

For e.g, if I have a burning desire to run the Comrades Marathon, then I will certainly be motivated to put in the hours of gym and road training required to build up the fitness, stamina and endurance.

What happens with the less desirable, maybe boring or repetitive tasks, how do we find motivation for those?

  1. Train your subconscious mind
  •  learn to get in touch with the feeling of already having completed the task
  • speak of the outcome in the present tense eg I am an amazing Olympic athlete (as opposed to I want to be an Olympic athlete)
  1. Set achievable goals
  •   Break down the task into smaller, more doable steps eg I will increase my weekly running    distance by 1 km every week
  • The achievement of each of these smaller goals then spurs you on and motivates you to     take the next steps

Types of Motivation:

  • Intrinsic – coming from within yourself. This is very much self-sustaining and is usually long-lasting. The reward is usually is a greater sense of self, well-being, the thrill of mastering a skill or acquiring added knowledge in a particular field or on a certain subject. You do it because it is interesting or enjoyable. It is far easier to be motivated if you are doing the task purely because you want to. This motivation is not dependent on another person or set of eternal circumstances.


  • Extrinsic – inspired by others or by external events. The motivation can either be the threat of what will happen if you don’t do the task, (punishment) or the reward you will receive if you complete the task. Think of the shopper Loyalty points you earn when you have a Loyalty Card and purchase at a specific store. Here, the retailers are driving you to buy from them with the promise of a reward, a free gift or discount etc. The disadvantage of his type of motivation is that it will only last as long as the external rewards are available, so it is not self-sustaining.


  • Push motivation – stems from pushing yourself toward a desired achievement or goal – health, prestige etc. This relies to a greater extent on willpower and on the desire behind the willpower. It is very easy to become discouraged if there are challenges or obstacles on the path.


  • Pull motivation – the opposite of push motivation and much stronger. Here we are looking at the attractiveness of the destination given our existing desire to travel. Pull Motivation can be seen as the desire to achieve a goal so badly that we are being pulled/drawn toward the goal. As an example, think of a time when you wanted to do something at all costs – you would do anything and everything it took to achieve your goal – no matter what the challenges or obstacles.


Points of Demotivation, or resistance to doing:

  1.  Problem: I can’t do this: When you think or believe cannot accomplish the task. You either   don’t know how to even begin or you believe, before you start, that you will fail.
    Reframe: I’ll take the 1st baby step, and I will continue to take further baby
    steps and put persistent effort into the task. If I need help, I am willing to reach
    out and ask for help.
  2.  Problem: I don’t feel good about doing this. When your values and beliefs are not aligned with the task, you do not feel motivated to do whatever it is eg. You have to work overtime   but you would far rather spend time at home with your partner and kids.
    Reframe: Maybe I can “bank” the overtime worked and take a half-day off some time to spend  with my family. Or I can use the extra money I earn from overtime to put toward a holiday with my partner and kids.
  3.  Problem: The “I have to” Syndrome: You all know that feeling of digging in your heels and resisting because you feel, or have been told, you “have to do this”!
    Reframe: Change the way you think about the task. Perhaps you could use the words         “I choose to do this” instead. We know that life is all about choices, there is always a choice, as  long as you are willing to live with the outcome of your choice. Eg. You don’t have to go to work every day, you can choose not to, but then you may not have a home and/ or any regular income. By admitting to yourself that you choose to do something, it goes a long way to removing the resistance you feel to it.

Motivation in the Workplace:

Six key elements that make up the framework for employee motivation and performance:

  1. Purpose
  2. Expectations
  3. Competence
  4. Feedback
  5. Support
  6. Rewards

Most often, we equate workplace motivation with salary. However, on closer study, some interesting facts emerge. It is important for companies to be aware of looking at the individual, rather than generalising, when it comes to retaining and rewarding employees.

Depending on the personality and nature of the person, an employee may be motivated by many different factors: (Rewards)

Some people are driven by financial reward (the salary).

Others prefer status – they are motivated more by the esteem of the Job Title than the salary package. Coupled with this is the draw-card of a promotion within the company.

Sometimes, the employee is motivated by the quality of life they can enjoy – perhaps been allocated extra annual leave or flexible working hours.

Everyone has the need to feel needed and acknowledged. (Support & feedback). When an employee’s skills and talents are aligned with the specific work they do, they are more likely to feel motivated and to succeed. (Competence) If a company makes its staff aware of its values and the greater goal they are wanting to achieve, it is far easier for employees to align themselves with the company and motivated to work toward the bigger picture. (Purpose & expectation).

In closing:

I’m reminded of an anecdote I once heard:

Two bricklayers were once asked what their job was – the 1st replied “ I lay bricks”, the 2nd one replied: “I’m helping build a cathedral”. Guess who had greater motivation?

So, my question to you is – in your life, are you merely laying bricks, or are you helping build that magnificent cathedral?










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