Sources of Self-Motivation

The best motivation is self-motivation. In fact, not many people succeed in life without self-generated drive. If you rely on others to energize you, or hesitate until the right mood hits, or delay until circumstances are ideal, then you’ll spend most of your life waiting. Leaders motivate themselves internally rather than depending on external incentives.

There’s a world of difference between unmotivated and self-motived people. Unmotivated people give required effort. Motivated people give inspired effort. The first group looks to do the minimum; the latter group seeks every opportunity to add value to the team.

If self-motivation is such a valuable trait, then the question is: where does self-motivation come from?

1) Clarifying your vision.

A vision is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will, and emotions to do everything in your power to achieve it. Andy Stanley writes, “Vision gives you reason to get up in the morning.” A vision leads the leader. It provides the spark that propels a leader forward. Vision activates your sense of purpose, connecting your daily work to your understanding of why you were placed on this earth. The clarity of your vision relates directly to your level of motivation.

2) Taking 100% responsibility for your life.

The expectations of others can dissuade us from living out our purpose in life. Operating according to someone else’s dream for us—instead of following our own dream—is a recipe for eventual burnout. Thankfully, to paraphrase Les Brown, someone else’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. 

Negative emotions can also serve as tremendous de-motivators. Yet our emotions do not have to dictate what we do. As Harvard psychologist Jerome Bruner says, “You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling; than feel yourself into action.” When we take the steps we know to be right, even when they run contrary to our emotions, eventually our feelings come into alignment with our deeds.

3) Charting a course for the future.

Lack of direction leads either to paralysis or misspent energy—each of which undercuts motivation. Successful people research the road to the top in order to identify waypoints along the journey. These waypoints allow them to develop a mix of short-term and long-range goals that guide their day-to-day activities. They not only have a vision in mind; they also have a practical plan to move toward it.

Application:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your level of self-motivation? Which of the three sources of self-motivation above could help you improve that rating?

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