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Motivation: real or rubbish?

Learn some tricks to mobilise your motivation

Did you leap out of bed this morning? It’s cold… it’s winter, Covid-restrictions limit our movements and business operations and we’ve learnt to no longer look too far ahead.  So, do you even set any goals during these crazy times? If yes, what fuels your progress?

This year’s lockdown restrictions and lifestyle is a lot easier for me than last year.  I like the “new normal”.  Working from home, doing more online shopping to avoid busy malls (buying things we don’t need) and appreciating my own lovely home is a blessing.  I’ve learnt to focus on close relationships and live more intentionally.  Learnt to not sweat the small stuff.

I have different goals now.

I want to run further, not necessarily faster.  I would like to reach people in a more meaningful manner with my online training and coaching, not necessarily having bigger audiences.  I would like to nurture the special people in my life, rather than seeing so many people.  My fuel or motivation is to live a full life, despite restrictions, empty conference rooms and places where we used to gather, closed.

The textbook description of motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. It is what causes you to act, whether it is walking or running to become fit, studying a course to obtain a qualification or the self-discipline to save some money towards a personal goal.

Getting started is the hardest part though….

The interesting reality about what really motivates us

Are you motivated to get up from the couch and get cracking on achieving your goals? How hard do you push yourself to get things done? Money is seldom a motivator on the long term, as we don’t work for money, rather for what money can do for us (providing for our families, financing dreams or doing good where we go).  So then why do we work?

Motivation comes in two flavours, namely intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic type comes from inside and compels someone to pursue a set of goals. When you are intrinsically motivated, you engage in an activity because you enjoy it and get personal satisfaction from doing it. When you are extrinsically motivated, you do something in order to gain an external reward.

Self-motivation is the force that keeps pushing us to go on – it’s our internal drive to achieve, produce, develop, and keep moving forward. When you think you’re ready to quit something, or you just don’t know how to start, your self-motivation is what pushes you to go on.  I see this with my awesome running friends who push themselves to go further and/or faster. Dedicated students of all ages use this powerful force to achieve academic results. In a time when working from home has become so important, our internal locus of control takes over to be productive and efficient.

The 3 elements of intrinsic motivation

Daniel Pink is a modern writer on business and management. He argues that the evidence of scientific studies on motivation and rewards suggests that basic financial reward systems simply do not work. In fact, they can lead to worse performance. The holy grail of motivation is therefore:


Autonomy is the desire to direct our own lives. Pink argues that allowing employees autonomy results in employees being more engaged in what they are doing and this reflects positively in the bottom line. The new remote economy requires this mind shift to happen sooner than later!


This is the desire to continually improve at something that matters.  Humans love to “get better at stuff” – they enjoy the satisfaction from personal achievement and progress. Allowing employees to enjoy a sense of progress at work contributes to their inner drive.


This is the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves. We intrinsically want to do things that matter. Most of us spend more than half our awake hours working. We want that time to matter.

Want to learn a new skill?

Annabel Marais – a cellistwho is doing her master’s degree thesis on adults wanting to play an instrument, found that adult learners are usually far more eager to learn to play their chosen instrument than child learners.  Adult learners don’t play the cello due to a parent’s own projected need – they play because they would like to discover the beauty of a classic instrument and the heavenly music.  Because Annabel knows why her students want to play the cello, she is able to provide the right music and coaching that will help them achieve their goals.

In contrast, children do not always have the same goal for starting with a musical instrument. Adult learners push themselves (intrinsic motivation) because they have already succeeded in learning various skills throughout their lives. Now, they choose to learn to play a new instrument from scratch.  The sense of satisfaction when a new piece of music is mastered, is immense.

Adult learners are also more motivated to practise their instruments because they pay for the lessons themselves. They are self-motivated to progress and practise despite having day jobs.  One adult student was encouraged to play the cello because it was her lifelong dream, another participant wanted to learn to play the cello alongside her six-year-old daughter.

See Annabel in action: L E A P Sometimes you just need to take that… – White Motion Films | Facebook

Which skill are you keen to master? it’s never too late to sign up for a study course or learning a new trick.  A computer course, a qualification or learning to crochet.

Companies who provide learning opportunities like formal (online) training, coaching and self-directed learning are encouraging people to grow and become more confident. The good news is therefore that a good balance of adequate external motivation, and an environment that encourages internal motivation, is achievable. On the altruistic side, it has been shown that higher motivation also leads to better employee wellness and satisfaction. It seems like a no-brainer.

Success and motivation co-exist.  It never happens on its own, it requires a plan that we must stick to.  Try these tips:

  1. Have clear objectives –Create a list of all the things you wish to accomplish, whether at home, in business, with friends, in relationships, etc. Set realistic time frames that you can achieve.
  2. Get yourself a partner-in-crime –Having someone else by your side is hugely motivational since this person will be your biggest cheerleader and motivate you whenever you need some cheering on. Exercising is way more likely to happen if someone is awaiting you.
  3. Stick to your values and ethics –People are attracted to those with strong personal and business ethics. Be kind to those who cannot ever repay you.
  4. Use your influence – You will be amazed at your ability to influence others with your own positive outlook on life – regardless of your address, occupation or bank balance.
  5. View problems as challenges –yeah, I know it sounds like a cliché, but it works.  Life is a series of problems that need to be resolved.
  6. Make those decisions –Just do it, don’t procrastinate as all decisions eventually have to be made!
  7. Seek out advice –We can never know everything ourselves whereas more minds contain more information and ideas. Only fools don’t ask. Advice is cheap but mistakes become expensive.
  8. You are your biggest asset –to achieve your list you must realise that you are the only one who can do it. This makes you a very important asset to yourself. Invest in your health, skills and happiness.
  9. Make time for your loved ones – you only have today once. Love the people you committed yourself and your life to by spending time with them.  They will love you back.
  10. Get movin’ –Get up off your butt and make things happen.
  11. Keep your life interesting and challenging –try new things and embark on adventures (even if it is in your own living room). Stretch your mind and your abilities. Do things that make you happy.
  12. Forgive yourself for mistakes made –look back and ask only what lessons you have learnt. Don’t repeat the mistake.  I repeat – don’t repeat the mistake.
  13. Ensure that you do at least one meaningful thing a day – and you get to choose what this is.
  14. Reward yourself – When you reach your goals, acknowledge your win and reward yourself.

It’s nobody’s job to motivate you or to make you happy.  You have to take responsibility for your life and happiness.  Decide what it takes – and then… just do it!

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