What motivates me? Take the Motivation Test
Understanding your underlying motivations can have a bigger impact on your life than providing a decent answer to a cliche interview question.
Motivations are highly individual so how exactly do you determine what it is that motivates you? Our motivation test analyze your existing behaviors so you can understand exactly what will set your motivation on fire.
41 Hacks to Get Seriously Motivated
Pouring over the latest research in human motivation we've compiled 41 ways for you to become seriously driven. During our research we discovered many old fashion ideas used to increase motivation end up doing the opposite. Finding motivation may be as much about implementing new patterns as it is about killing old ones you currently believe are helping. If you've found it difficult to maintain motivation or want to find new levels of drive read on.
- Find Purpose
- Become a Master
- Sprint, Rest, Sprint
- Completely Immerse Yourself - Flow
- Relax when Motivation Subsides
- Financial Rewards Don't Work
- Be an Optimist
- Be Realistic Too
- Specific Goals beat 'Do your Best'
- Spend your Willpower Wisely
- Is Fear Killing Motivation?
- Create a To Don't List
- Signs Multiple Motivation
- Have a Backup Plan
- Use the Energy Hack
- Create a Rivalry
- Scrap Motivation and Use Habits
- Celebrate New Year's Everyday
- Understand your Values and Personality
- Supercharge your Why's
- Positive Self talk Works - But Choose Carefully
- Make it Easy
- Take Control - Be your Own Boss
- Get the Motivation App
- Eliminate Doubt
- Don't Share Your Goal
- Be Impartial and Leave Ego Behind
- Let Failiure Make you Stronger
- Get Better Progressively and Avoid Burnout
Find a way to work on something you find meaningful. Motivation will constantly become a struggle if you find little meaning in applying effort while it will feel almost self perpetuating when your work has legitimate meaning to you. Make your work matter.
When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.- W. Clement Stone
People that feel a sense of improvement in skills tend to be more motivated. Chunk your tasks into small manageable segments and reward yourself at every stage with rewards that correspond to the size and level of achievement you've attained. Motivation is easier to come by when you get to make progress.
Our minds are not designed to maintain focus for hours and hours upon end. Instead treat your work as a series of short sprints and learn how to rest in between.
Find a way to make your tasks fun and exciting and give it your all. Become emotionally engaged and committed to perfection. Do this well enough and you'll find yourself in a state of 'flow'. During the state of flow people often lose the perception of time and motivation becomes completely effortless. Check out how to achieve the state of flow here.
Like all states motivation will vary depending upon our mood, health and many factors beyond our immediate control. Don't sweat it, your motivation will return and a rest may be the best way to come about it.
Behavioral research has demonstrated a seemingly counter intuitive idea. Extrinsic rewards such as money do not increase performance in tasks requiring creativity, in fact they tend to produce poorer performance. If the work you're attempting to find motivation for is a manual task then financial incentives can boost motivation and performance. Check out the Dan Pink video below to see how to motivate yourself for tasks requiring creativity.
Your motivation to complete a task improves if you hold a more optimistic outlook for the results of your efforts. Take a look at our test to determine if you're optimistic and further research on the benefits of being optimistic. Yes, optimism can be learned.
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.- Helen Keller
Many modern positive psychology books advocate visualisng your life having attained your success. The theory is that your brain will go to work on pulling you toward this vision. What the research actually shows is the opposite. The flaw in the theory seems to be that these long term visions do little to impact more immediate levels of motivation. They also fail to prepare you for the associated challenges and pitfalls you'll encounter. Long term goals are great but they must come with the acceptance of overcoming challenges. Go back to tip 2 for the right way to approach your goals.
While the value of this tip has been a little overstated the research does back the claim that writing specific goals improves levels of motivation.
Many psychologist are beginning to think of willpower as an energy system. Each difficult or arduous task you complete makes a withdrawal from the pool of available willpower energy. It's known as Ego Depletion. Aggressive dieting, detrimental relationships, breaking a habit and anything which you perceive as difficult deplete the levels of willpower energy we have available. If you're finding it difficult to muster the motivation for a task can you find willpower energy from other parts of your life which may be depleting it?
In order to be motivated to do something you need to believe that your efforts will lead to your goal. This often involves a risk of failure and loss of something you might already have. Is your fear reasonable? Is the effort likely to lead to reward and what can you do to improve your chances?
I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying.- Michael Jordan
You found motivation and started out brilliantly but somehow ended up spending too much time on Facebook once again. The day is lost and your sense of achievement and accomplishment is gone. Now you're not feeling quite so motivated. This is a common scenario and a perfect reason to create a "To Don't List". What has sidetracked you in the last month? What has it kept you from achieving. Write out your list and stick it to your monitor.
Researchers were able to get more people to take the stairs simply by printing out signs encouraging them to do so. Once you've established the most effective methods for motivating yourself place visual cues where you most need them.
Disaster, challenges and setbacks are all inevitable and a part of everyone's lives and potential motivation killers. Research has shown our ability to respond to these situations greatly improves if we set out a plan for responding to these events. Maintain your motivation by creating a plan for all scenarios.
I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best- Benjamin Disraeli
Point 10 talked about the science of Willpower as energy. How do you replenish your available levels of energy? Well just spending a few moments away from the task at hand is not enough. Research has shown your energy levels are restored when you spend time on something you find genuinely interesting. It doesn't need to be easy, relaxing or related to anything in particular, it just needs to be intensely interesting to you. Work for 20 minutes and then take 5 on something you find interesting and watch your energy levels rebound.
Competition increases motivation when we believe we have a decent chance of winning. Research has shown students taking the SAT's in room of 10 people will outperform students taking the test in a group of 100. Competition doesn't work for everyone and tends to be more effective in motivating men. Pro Tip: Testosterone levels of athelets increase when the competitive rival is despized.
Many of our conscious and unconscious behaviours are driven by habit. If you can find a way to accomplish a task by implementing a new habbit you'll require less motivation and are more likely to make longer term changes. Checkout Charles Duhigg's book on using habits to change your life and his brilliant infographic on changing habits.
Research has shown that our level of motivation increases around big annual events. Why is this? When we look forward to the future and envision an improved version of ourselves our levels of motivation increase. Don't wait until new years to set goals and look toward the future.
Research by Dr Steven Reiss conducted on the motivational forces of over 60,000 individuals has shown there isn't a one size fits all approach to finding motivation. Your values and personality will play a big role in finding effective motivators. This is one reason we encourage our test and a little probing into your personality firsthand.
Perhaps your levels of motivation are suffering because you lack compelling reasons why something must occur. Forget for a moment about your levels of motivation and focus instead on what it would mean for you if 'it' did happen. List as many compelling reasons as possible. Now focus on what it means to you if 'it' doesn't happen. Both of these lists should be long and compelling. If they're not big lists perhaps it's not your levels of motivation that are suffering but instead it's the level of motivation your goals provide.
He who has a why can endure any how- Friedrich Nietzsche
Research has shown that tasks requiring higher levels of technique and precision, self talk which focuses on technique and precision boosts performance. For these kinds of tasks focus on statements like "Chin down arms up" if you're boxing. If your work requires simple applications of effort more general statements are effective, think "This problem is not bigger than me"
Researchers presented two groups of students with an exercise program. One group had the program printed in a clear and easy to read font. The second groups program was printed in a difficult to read cursive font. People from the first group were far more likely to engage in exercise and described it as requiring less effort. How can you simplify the task at hand? Can you create a simple easy to read plan of the required steps?
You're far more likely to sustain motivation if you're working under your own direction. Research has demonstrated those given direction do not maintain motivation for as long as those working under their own control. If you have no choice and do not agree with the direction of your work, speak with your manager. Find a way to work towards a goal you both believe is important.
We know that if you're participating in a group that hold similar motivational values and goals your chances of maintaining motivation improve. Free online apps like 'Lift' allow you to commit to improvement within a group of people sharing the same goal.
Research had one group of students write out the phrase "Will I" and another group write the phrase "I Will" The task was presented as an exercise in handwriting skill. Following this the research gave both groups a set of anagrams to complete. The group writing "I Will" performed significantly better.
Research has shown that sharing your intention to do something can actually decrease your motivation to act. Psychologist speculate that sharing our goals gives us a sense of achievement which can reduce our motivation to act. Let your actions be your recognition, not your goals.
Tell the world what you intend to do, but first show it- Napoleon Hill
Research is revealing the ego stroking positive psychology movement may not be particularly helpful. New evidence has indicated a view self compassion is a better ally to improving motivation and performance but why? Psychologist believe self compassion, or evaluating your pitfalls without criticising your ego produces better performance than blindly proclaiming your own virtues. Pro Tip: Separate your work from your sense of self and honestly evaluate your performance.
Not so long ago willpower was believed to be something you were born with, a trait. We now know that willpower along with many other determinants of motivation and success are skills we can learn. When you do encounter setbacks don't allow your inner voice to tell you "I don't have what it takes" or "I'm destined to fail" Instead remind yourself that willpower and motivation are skills which require practice and planning. Re-evaluate your plan and continue practicing.
As with exercise, taking on too much too soon will only lead to burn out. Willpower as we've pointed out is a muscle which improves with exercise. Aim to progressively improve your capacity and take rest seriously. You're more likely to enjoy the process.
A bigger stick
If the motivation test shows high behavioral inhibition you're motivated by avoiding pain and there are a number of strategies you can employ to improve your motivation.
- Get Real
- Deadlines Work
- Live the Alternative
- The Right Kind of Criticism Helps
- Sleep Efficiently
- Get enough Vitamin D
- Address Depression if it exists
- Don't eat too much or too little
- Exercise Aerobically
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation
- Evaluate your Friendships
- Music Motivates
Realize that if you don't work towards your goal and get yourself into gear you'll never achieve your goals and be trapped within your current circumstances. Nasty? Yep you bet but this works for you remember.
Set a reasonable date for completion of your task and don't let yourself fail. Without the deadline you don't have as much to avoid.
Take a minute out and consider the alternative. Imagine living your life without achieving the goal you're trying to achieve. Close your eyes and imagine every little detail of the alternative from how you would breathe to how you would walk, feel and think. Now open your eyes and seize the opportunity.
"You suck" is neither helpful or motivating. But research shows that when you're particularly advanced at a task negative feedback is both motivating and constructive. What is the right kind of negative feedback? "You dropped your elbows in the 5th round" provides technical feedback you can use to improve your game. Negative feedback is useful when it helps you to elevate your game and isn't simply a personal attack.
The physiology of motivation
Our motivation is affected not only by our patterns of thought but also the underlying physical chemistry of our brain. Within the brain we know motivation is controlled within the pre-frontal cortex and the striatum. Our levels of dopamine and histamine affect levels of alertness, motivation and many other processes. So in order to be highly motivated we need a healthy brain with healthy levels of both of these neurotransmitters.
Research shows great sleep improves our levels of motivation. Exactly what qualifies as enough sleep will depend upon your individual physiology but aiming for 8 hrs of efficient sleep is a great start. Efficient sleep means when you're lying down you're in a deep sleep. If you wake many times or spend a lot of time lying down awake you may be getting 8 hrs but it won't be efficient.
Among the myriad of problems associated with Vitamin D deficiency is a feeling of lethargy and lack of motivation. Vitamin D has been used to treat depression because of the positive effects it can have on dopamine levels. You can either aim for 30mins of sun a day or purchase Vitamin D supplements.
More severe forms of depression affect several neurotransmitters including dopamine. Extremely low levels of motivation may be psychomotor retardation, a symptom of depression. Take a look our test for depression for deeper look.
A major calorie deficit (eating too little) for an extended period of time is great for weight loss but will lead to feelings of lethargy and shift your bodies primary motivation to one of finding food. Too much food and your health will suffer which will also impact energy levels. Eat a high carbohydrate, high fibre diet for stable blood sugar levels and the sustained alertness that follow.
Aerobic exercise outperforms anaerobic when it comes to neuropsychological performance. What does this mean? Going for a 30min run will do more for your levels of motivation than lifting heavy weights.
Meditation changes the density and thickness of connections in our prefrontal cortex which as we mentioned is the part of the brain responsible for motivation. It also improves our awareness of our emotional state which can become a great ally when procrastination arises. We also know that regular meditation improves alertness and concentration. Checkout this awesome infographic on meditation.
Once you've identified values likely to motivate you it's important to consider how your friendships may impact your levels of motivation. Research has shown that maintaining friendships with values aligned to yours is going to help while those which conflict with your values are going to hurt.
Many marathons no longer permit to use of music because of the unfair advantage to performance it offers. The research shows that music boosts performance and effort without us even knowing so.