What motivates you?
As we enter the last quarter of the year and our attention turns to finishing our 2016 goals, it’s a good time to ask, “What really motivates you?”
I heard a motivational speaker at a women’s conference give some colorful advice on motivating husbands: “Ladies, your men are motivated by 3 things”, she said, and everyone leaned closer to hear this groundbreaking information: “They are: 1) Food 2) Sex, and 3) Money!!” “And if you aren’t making any money,” she continued, “you are going to be doing A WHOLE LOT of those other two.” Of course the room erupted in laughter. I dare say some of us were motivated to make some money!
All joking aside, what motivates you?
Many psychologists hold the view that the ultimate motive for all voluntary human action is the desire to experience pleasure or to avoid pain. I’ve also heard it said that at the core, each decision we make is motivated by either love or fear. Let that sink in for a minute.
And while some believe motivation is critical, others dismiss the value of motivation entirely. I recently overheard a personal trainer at the gym say, “Look, what needs to happen is the exercise – not the motivation for exercise!” Chalk one up for NIKE and just do it!
One of my favorite Life Coaches, Michael Neil, introduced the idea of 3 levels of motivation in his book, You can Have What you Want.
The first is motivation by Desperation: This looks like: I have to! I have no choice! It is a gun to the head mentality – and guess what? It works. It just doesn’t work forever, and putting your body in flight or fight mode causes stress and burnout over the long haul. I know people who have used this type of motivation for themselves and others their whole lives, and they are exhausting to be around. I was one. Motivation by desperation helped me create a great business, the problem came when I also wanted to create a great life.
The second level is motivation by Rationalization: This sounds like: I should. I should do this and I should do that. This form of motivation is the least effective and it usually indicates lack of ownership. It is often marked by some level of resentment. I am not taking responsibility for who I am and what I believe, but I SHOULD do this because someone else thinks it’s a good idea. Check yourself whenever you hear yourself saying, I should. Whose goal is it?
I would suggest the real power of motivation lies in the third and highest form of motivation: Inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t sound like “I have to” or” I should”, but rather, I want to! Inspiration requires you to dust of your imagination, put your skeptic in the corner, and consider the limitless possibilities that exist for you in the future. By doing this, you can develop a compelling vision, and own a mental picture of what success looks like for you. Your brain can only create a vision from one of two sources: your memory or your imagination. If you are not actively engaging your imagination, you default to memory.
When we use our memory, we play it safe and we do what we already know. We let our skeptic run the show and avoid taking risks and making changes. We tend to recreate the past, and we feel stuck. The goals we develop from this place usually start with great intentions and words like “I have to” (desperation) or” I should” (rationalization). Although there may be determination, there is very little internal energy to draw from.
For this reason, good coaching usually incorporates a process of creating a compelling vision, and engaging the imagination. In addition to providing a natural source of motivation, a compelling vision also becomes a mental roadmap for your brain to think about and create something new. Advances in neuroscience show that even your sleeping brain works towards this intentional picture of success by helping you notice opportunities and alerting you to resources you would not have noticed before. I am always amazed at what can be overcome when there is a compelling vision, and what can not when it’s missing.
So, how do we create a compelling vision that motivates us?
Try this simple exercise:
Think of a particular area of your life. It could be relationships, your physical health, or maybe your finances. Without overthinking it, rank your current satisfaction with this area of your life on a scale of 1-10. Let’s say you gave yourself a 4 on your physical health. Answer why you gave yourself that number. What would it take to move your satisfaction level to a 10? What if it was even better than a 10?
Here is an example from the notes I used to create a compelling vision for my health before my 40th birthday. Since our language choice reflects your level of motivation, I intentionally wrote my vision using “I want” instead of “have to” or “should”. This is probably going to feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s a great skill to learn!
What would make it a 10
I want to work out 5 days a week. I want to weigh xxx lbs, and I want all my size x clothes to fit and look awesome. I’d love to go shopping and have it be hard to choose, because everything looked great. I want to feel confident and know my way around the gym. I want to have energy to play with my kids. I want to feel free to eat whatever I wanted. People would remark that I looked younger than I am. I’d comfortably wear a two-piece bathing suit.
What would make it even better
I want to run a 5K (I have long admired the runners and been embarrassed and troubled by how winded I get when I run!)
I want to be able to touch my toes. (Don’t laugh. I have short little arms and it’s still such a challenge for me!)
I want to do a handstand! I’d feel like such a rock star, if I learned to do something at 40 that I couldn’t do at 12!
Once I was excited about the picture I had created in my head, I developed SMART goals to map out my progress. All of it has come to pass except the handstand, which I am still working on. The compelling vision of the healthy life I want to live and the results I have enjoyed are what still motivate me today!
Think of the area you decided to work on. Let yourself imagine what it would look like if your finances or your relationships were a 10. Picture it. How do you want to spend your days? Who do you want to hang out with? Where do you want to make a difference with your money? Who do you want to help? Where do you want to vacation? Now write down what would be even better than a 10? Keep going until your sense of wow is engaged! How would you feel if you were able to create this for yourself?
Now consider how far could you move your satisfaction level in the next three months? Could you move it from a 4 to a 6?
List out 2-3 things that you could accomplish to move your satisfaction level in this one area to a 6 in the next three months. Write down what you come up with – these are the goals create the bridge to your compelling vision.
In the world of coaching, we have a saying. “Follow the energy.” When you hear yourself becoming excited and enthusiastic about what you are setting out to do, you will know you are on the right path toward your compelling vision!