Becoming great at anything requires energy, direction, and persistence. How do athletes, musicians, and other experts do it? Their secret isn’t talent but motivation.
Motivation makes you work hard and propels you to accomplish things. Motivation can be intrinsic—you study French because you love the way it sounds and you’re interested in French culture—or extrinsic (you learn French because you have to for work).
Research shows that intrinsic motivation produces better results. Intrinsically motivated people are more interested, excited, and confident, and as a consequence, they perform better, are inspired to persist when things get rough, and are generally more creative (Deci & Ryan, 1991).
Intrinsic motivation is also connected with higher levels of wellbeing (Ryan, Deci, & Grolnick, 1995) and self-esteem (Deci & Ryan, 1995), as well as with prosocial behavior, i.e., actions that benefit other people or society as a whole (Waterman, 1981).
Intrinsic goals + growth mindset = flow
Highly motivated people tend to have a growth mindset—they believe they can improve with practice and see failures as learning opportunities. They also enjoy the work involved in pursuing their goals, which means they more easily and frequently enter a state of complete absorption, or “flow.”
So, if you want to be more motivated, cultivating a growth mindset and making goals personally meaningful to you are good ways to start.
These strategies also help:
Set powerful goals. Write them down. Focus on the experience and feelings you want to create. Use adjectives. This, says life coach Martha Beck, increases your chances of picking goals that will actually make you happy. Read her goal-setting instructions here.
Make your goals (but especially your progress) public. Writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. Sharing them with a friend and then sending that friend a weekly update helps increase those chances even more, according to a recent study (Matthews, 2015).
Start small. Whatever your goal, start by doing a very small part of it. The simple act of completing a small part of a bigger task will give you the boost you need to get motivated. Author Cheryl Strayed set out to write the Great American Novel but proceeded to watch reality TV instead. It was only when she embraced mediocrity—by deciding to write a book, any book—that she overcame her writer’s block. Watch her talk, The Humble Path to Greatness, here.
Don’t go it alone. If you are having trouble motivating yourself to go do something, invite a friend to join you. Making a commitment with someone will give you double the motivation.
I hope you’re motivated to keep learning about emotional intelligence. In the next episode, we’ll talk about Empathy.
Share with friends