Motivation: My Ultimate Enemy

by | Mar 19, 2024 | shitposts | 0 comments

Ugh, motivation. My mortal enemy. When you’re starting something new, motivation is leaking from every pore or burning like a wild flame. And then a week passes. And then a month passes. Without even noticing, that flame morphs into a dimly lit matchstick with very little left to give. And then you drop it.

I’ve picked up a gazillion skills over my lifetime, and I like to think the reason I never pursue any of them to an expert level is decision paralysis; if I decide on one, what will I leave behind? But let’s be real, the real reason I don’t follow through on my skill learning is… motivation. Some hobbies are intrinsically motivated (video games/whiskey), so I don’t really need to push myself to keep up with them. Others, not so much.

Thinking about it, I believe it is more important to understand your own motivations when going into a new goal and keeping those at the forefront. Otherwise, you may end up like me: give a new idea the college try, get bored, then stop growing. In that regard, I think we need to first discuss what types of motivations to leverage for goals, and what can be done to keep those motivations working beyond a week.

Motivations: Pick Your Poison

I already mentioned intrinsic motivations, aka stuff you do because you love it. Those are easy. I imagine you can list a few of those right now with relative ease. But let’s look at the others. One of my favorites: extrinsic. You know, money. Awards. Showing up on the highlight reel. You put the work in, and you get a specific recognition at the end, whether monetary or social. I’m down with extrinsic because there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And I looooove goooooooooold!

But these other motivations. These don’t stick with me as well, and it takes a lot of convincing for me to adopt them as my own. Let’s start with achievement motivations, aka setting goal targets and then achieving them. Personal milestones. Financially, these speak to me, as I can say, “I want $X in 10 years,” but I’ve never been one to unlock every achievement in a game (except Counter-Strike, but it’s been out for 20+ years), let alone real life. I’m presuming achievement motivations will ring true with many, mileage may vary.

Then you’ve got your competence motivations. This is about getting better, mastering skills, and leveling up. Honing your technical skills or mastering a new marketing strategy. And this is where I regress back to the beginning. I absolutely love learning new things, and I want to know as much as humanly possible about anything I find interesting. However, with competence motivations, I usually will learn all the way to “advanced” level but never go any farther. The amount of dedication it takes to become an expert at a new skill requires high levels of motivation, and competence alone is not a strong enough driver for me. Does that make me incompetent? Don’t answer that.

Power Motivation. Making an impact through strengthened influence. You might find and need this motivation whether leading a team, shaping opinions, or being a key player in decisions. As I’ve grown older, influence/power has held less sway in my heart. When I was younger, I determined it was my responsibility to change the world! I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me! Slowly, the reality slipped in that everyone has opinions, and honestly, I don’t know if mine are any better than anyone else. If I ever achieve power, I certainly won’t be motivated by it. Great responsibility seems like a hassle.

The final motivation I’ll mention today is the motivation of affiliation. This is for those who are driven by relationships, networking, and belonging to a group or community. Like being part of a guild in a game or engaging in team projects at work. I know people who live and die by this motivation, whether joining technical skill social groups, attending galas regularly, or actively partaking in community service. I don’t find affiliation motivations to be particularly swaying, but I also spend half my time wasting noobs over Discord. So maybe I’m being a little disingenuous here.

Get Knocked Down, Get Back Up Again

Okay, now that’s out of the way, which motivation goes with your goal? That’s for you to decide, but here’s a few goals you might be pursuing. Think about what would push you the most of the above to stay on target.

Want to climb the corporate ladder or expand a business? For me, I’m obviously pursing these for extrinsic motivations. Clout is great, money is better. But I could definitely see others building a business to enhance their influence, expand their competence in business management, or even to achieve things within an organization. I will tip my hat to you while I swim around in my pool filled with gold coins ala Scrooge McDuck.

Working on a degree or certification? This screams competence motivations but could also be a stage gate to succeeding in your future career. I recently achieved a certification in AI, robotics and blockchain, but I have zero plans to go into those fields, which means I guess this is one of the few places where I just wanted to grow competence instead of income sources. That gold coin pool is seeming farther and farther away now.

Are you a gym rat with particular fitness goals? I don’t understand you people. My sloth-like lifestyle requires no more than 20 steps a day. But hopefully you know which motivation drives you in this area. I can’t help you except on the “recovery phase.” I will supply the meats and cheeses.

Saving for a house, investing wisely, or reaching a net worth milestone? Now we’re on the same wavelength. For me, financial goals combine all the motivations into a perfect storm. Financial independence, to me, equals freedom. Freedom brings achievement, competence, and power.

But here’s the catch with aligning and focusing on your motivations for particular goals: you will ebb and flow. You will fail every once in a while. Priorities shift, interests evolve, and what used to spark a fire might just not cut it anymore. At the end of the day, motivation is personal, and it’s all about what keeps you moving forward, even if it’s not at full throttle all the time.

Keep That Fire Burning

One thing I remind myself is not to take small failures personally. Human nature is imperfect. Don’t internalize your failures, but instead shrug and start back where you left off. Carrying a non-essential burden will only ruin momentum. Instead, keep your initial motivations in the foreground. Remind yourself why you want to achieve a particular goal.

If you’re finding it hard to relight that passion, here are a few tips to keep those motivations burning. In no particular order. OR ARE THEY? They aren’t.

Reflect on past successes: Ride a time machine to when you were highly motivated and accomplished your goals. What was driving you? Was it the joy of the activity itself, the rewards you received, or the satisfaction of improving a skill? “My future is in my past, and my past is my present. I must now make the present my future.” Enrich your future by first connecting the dots between your past and present in a way that creates a better version of you. If that sentence was confusing, you can blame Vladimir Horowitz. I don’t speak in prose.

Experiment with different motivators: Try setting goals based on different types of motivations and see what sticks. For example, work on a project that interests you purely for the sake of learning (intrinsic motivation) or set a goal with a tangible reward at the end (extrinsic motivation). See which ones keep you more engaged and driven. Example: money.

Monitor your energy and engagement: Consider how different tasks and goals make you feel. Are you more energized when working toward something that aligns with your values or when there’s a competitive element involved? Your energy levels can be a good indicator of what motivates you. If I’m pwning noobs, I am doing something right.

Seek feedback: I’m bad at this one, but sometimes outsiders can see things you can’t. Ask friends, family, or colleagues what they notice when you seem most motivated and engaged. It could be that you don’t even realize your own motivations. Or maybe you’re too in the groove to notice.

Align with your values and interests: Motivation tends to stick around when you’re striving for something that aligns with your core values and interests. Identify what matters most to you and set goals that resonate with these areas. For example, if you’re passionate about a cause, you might find motivation in activities that contribute to that cause. Such as bacon-tasting events.

Adjust and adapt: Your sources of motivation might change over time, I know mine have. Be open to adapting and exploring new motivators as your circumstances change. If you are pushing hard for a goal but realize that’s just not your jam, don’t feel bad if you drop it. Just try to replace it with something that fits better with your current situation. Nothing is worse than pushing to achieve a goal and then, once achieved, realizing you don’t really care about it at all.

Motivations: The Final Pep Talk

Life inevitably throws curve balls, and sometimes, you’ll mess up in pursuing your goals. I’ve been staring at my electric guitar for four years and have yet to play Wonderwall. Sad. Maybe you planned to hit the gym but instead binged every episode of Ozark. It happens to the best of us. Well, not me, I haven’t watched Ozark since season two. But the key here isn’t to dive into a pool of guilt or self-criticism.

We’re only human, not robots programmed to follow a perfect schedule. Skipping a session, procrastinating, or having an off day doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re normal. The magic lies in how you respond to these slip-ups. Beat yourself up, and you’ll likely throw in the towel. Maintain a forward-focused mindset: what’s done is done, and the best step is always the next one.

And if you’re wondering, yes, this whole diatribe is a coping mechanism for not writing an article last week. See you next Tuesday. 😉

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