Where does your motivation come from?

Motivation can be a finicky SOB. Some motivators are true, genuine and deep; others paper thin, false and short-sighted. We often trick ourselves into thinking our motivation has thickness and depth and deserves its place in our pursuits. Of course we can have pure intentions and strong, deep motivation from great places, but that’s not always the case. See if you can recognize where your motivation comes from in different areas of your life and sort it accordingly. Once you figure out the source you can almost immediately decide if the task or goal is worth pursuing. 

The type of motivation we need to look out for and be apprehensive toward running with is that of an external nature. It’s actually quite simple to have external motivation. You’re in it for someone else’s reasons, you don’t have much “skin in the game”, it’s cheap, doesn’t carry a ton of weight or meaning, and overall you’re probably trying to satisfy someone else’s agenda. This can be tricky, though, because it doesn’t always make the task unworthy, you’re simply pursuing it from the wrong angle for the wrong reasons. Or you have to pursue it because that person’s agenda pays your bills or has importance from a team perspective. Either way, you’re starting to see through the clouds and understand the external source. 

External motivation is like when your parents ask you to clean your room so the house looks nice for company coming over. You don’t have a ton of skin in that game because either way you know where all your stuff in your room is and you don’t have to organize it to achieve that goal. Though, it would look nicer, maybe have a more pleasant smell, and maybe even keep you out of trouble, that’s a hard task to sell unless you can play the parent “because I said so” card. 

Internal motivation is a completely different animal. It has depth like no other. You find meaning in or from this motivation, it is extremely costly to you (not monetarily), its overall weight is thick and cumbersome, but not always in the traditional sense of making it hard to wield, and it is formed by your agenda making it extremely difficult to bend or break. Your motivation runs deep in these scenarios and stands the test of may things thrown at it. 

For instance, you have a date coming to your house and want the space to look presentable. Your parents (the age for this scenario doesn’t matter much) don’t have to try very hard to convince you to not only clean your room, but the entire house. You’d most likely prefer to have a presentable home for your guest to walk into. You’ll go to great lengths to clean up even the smallest things. I suppose you could argue the ensuing date is an external motivator, but that’s a bit secondary, I think. At this point it sure seems like semantics. You see where I’m heading. 

Motivation can be found internally or externally and neither are always as clear as we’d like. Both can be falsely labeled or even never labeled at that. They can have grave consequences and severely throw off our goal setting and task completion. 

Do things for the right reasons, the internal ones. Find your internal motivation for the things you want to pursue and if you’re unable to find it there you’re probably shedding light on the narrative of its worth and the execution to begin with. Look inside. There are quite a few answers in there. 

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