The subject of motivation is a long, complex and incredibly interesting one. Even defining what motivation is can be tricky. As the word’s meaning is derived from the verb, “to move” it suggests that it is all about action and drive. Yet, at its purest form, we can also relate it to what gives life meaning, or what we strive for. Current literature contains some great ideas on what people, in general, really desire.
Control of our own life.
Sometimes, called self determination, sometimes, autonomy the sense behind is that we really want to be in charge of our own destiny – in the future and on a day to day basis. When this control is taken away from us, and things go wrong, the “victim mentality” can easily set in. At least if we make a bad decision, it was our own responsibility. Self responsibility is what is needed for people to make choices that create good lives for themselves – or ones they have chosen.
Control is taken away when we are not consulted on important decisions – at work or at home. We feel we have no say. When experts keep telling us what to do without taking into account our personal feelings. When rules are made that we don’t understand. There are lots of times we feel bypassed and this create despondency and a lack of, well, motivation!
How can we regain this feeling of self determination?
By making our own decisions instead of looking to someone else to choose for us. In the area of health and wellness this happens constantly. We know what we should eat, what we should (or shouldn’t) drink, what’s good for us, what’s bad for us, what to avoid, what rules we should live by in we want to live long and well. Yet, many people feel dis empowered by this constant stream of advice. Time spent working out what we want and why we want it will assist us in making choices based on current knowledge, but that work for us.. And if they don’t work, then we can can try something else but we are continually taking responsibility for our own lives. Responsibility simply means, “the ability to respond” and that suggests we have a choice. And that choice gives us what we truly need – a feeling of control.
Not only do we like to be self determining creatures but we also like to good at things! If we are not given the opportunity to expand our knowledge and abilities we will often stagnate, become demotivated and at times cease to grow. This is an inherent characteristic in the human psyche and it is a shame that more employers didn’t realise it! Essentially it means we seek to improve ourselves all the time – Maslow called it “self actualisation”. So what does this mean in our quest for better health and wellness? Two things:
If you are someone who is working towards an outcome, it is important to find something in the plan you have made that gives you that chance to become proficient at at least one of the changes. So say, for example, you have decided to cut out meat for a while; enrolling in a vegetarian cooking class could not only help you stick to the non meat diet, but give you a sense of accomplishment as your cooking skills improve. This will be more satisfying and help you stick to your plan than if you were simply say, cutting out meat! As a client or a trainer, we need to have goals to work towards. Not only do we get a feeling of having done what we said we’d do, we also can get a sense of competence if that goal has some element of challenge in it. So when we do decide to set a plan for the week, or quarter, try and include something in it that you have to either learn something new or overcome some resistance or fear. Playing a sport, doing a new class, running a certain distance are all good examples but you can be as creative as you like. Fact remains – we like to do things well and be good at something. We don’t have to be the best but we do like to have a degree of proficiency that will feed our sense of self worth and accomplishment.
The Third and biggest drive we have as human beings is the desire to “belong”