I have a problem with the word “motivation”.
And I’m not talking about what it represents.
I’m talking about the word itself.
The word “motivation” is itself a noun and by definition, we talk about it as if it’s a “thing” that exists in the real world.
This is better known as a “nominalization”.
A nominalization is a process or quality that is “frozen in time” and talked about as if it were a “thing”.
Once we de-nominalize motivation, we can begin to look at it as a dynamic system rather than a static entity.
Why a system?
If you look up the definition of system, it goes, “an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something”.
In the case of motivation, there are both internal and external factors that are involved in how motivated we are to achieve a particular task or outcome.
Both of these factors affect our physiological state and our state affects what behaviors we will exhibit.
When you put it all together, we come to the conclusion that motivation is the state that results from congruence and/or alignment between the internal systems and external systems in pursuit of a particular item.”
In other words, the greater the congruence between our internal and external systems, the more motivated we will be.
The opposite is also true as well. The less congruence between our internal and external systems, the less motivated we will be.
If you’re lacking the motivation to do a particular thing, it could be that what you’re considering isn’t right for you.
To make things more practical, I want to give you a useful framework to use to figure out whether or not what you want to do aligns with who you are.
There are 4 questions you must ask yourself:
Is this task or activity congruent with your sense of who you are? (Identity)
Is this task or activity congruent with your values?
Is this task or activity congruent with your beliefs?
Is this task or activity ecological?
We’re going to go through each point one-by-one.
Take out a sheet of paper and divide it into two.
On the left side, Write I AM… and list out all of your identity attributes.
On the right-hand side, list out all of the identity attributes associated with your task or activity.
For example, if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you would write “Successful entrepreneurs are…” and list out all of the identity attributes for being a successful entrepreneur.
After you’re done, compare the two lists and see if there are any clashes.
Go to the right-hand list and go through each identity, tune into your body and ask yourself “Is this really me?”
If an identity isn’t you, ask yourself “Is it something with time, support, and experience, will I be comfortable becoming?”
If the answer is still no, ask yourself “Am I as sure as I had originally thought that this quality is required for the task at hand? Are there people who have achieved this task who don't have these qualities?”
If a certain identity attribute is required and it’s not something you want to become, then it only makes sense that you’ll lack the necessary motivation to do the thing.
A value is anything that is important to a person that informs his or her actions.
Values are usually expressed as a nominalization.
For example, Communication, Responsibility, Honor, are nominalizations of communicating, responding, and honoring, respectively.
For this exercise, take out another sheet of paper and make a list of all of your values.
Out of that list, pick the 3 that are the most important.
For each value, ask yourself these 2 questions:
Will this task or process require me to violate or act contrary to this value?
Will pursuing this task or process prevent me from honoring that value in another part of my life?
Answer these questions logically and with your body.
If you find a values conflict, check to make sure that your information is accurate.
It could be that the value you’re struggling with isn’t actually involved at all.
If your information is accurate, check to see if the task can be re-shaped to better align with your values.
If that’s not possible either, then you know why you’re not motivated to do the task or process.
Beliefs are ideas that we accept unquestionably as true.
Our beliefs have a profound influence on what we feel motivated or unmotivated to do.
When it comes to motivation, there are 3 types of beliefs that are useful to us: Beliefs about Possibility, Beliefs about Permissibility, and Beliefs about Personal Efficacy.
Why these 3 types?
How motivated would you be if you felt that what you were doing was simply impossible?
How motivated would you feel if you had a vague & intuitive sense that what you were doing would break an unstated rule or law?
How motivated would you be if you felt that you couldn’t make a difference?
In all 3 of these cases, you probably wouldn’t be very motivated. Even if you tried to willpower your way into doing the thing, you’ll only go so far before you run out of willpower.
We’re going to attack each type of belief one-by-one.
For the first part, take out a sheet of paper and brainstorm a list of things that would make it possible to complete the task.
After you’ve finished, score each belief on a scale from 1 to 10 on how much you believe it.
If your scores are relatively low, then you can conclude that part of your lack of motivation stems from not believing that it’s possible to do the task or process.
For the second part, ask yourself “What has to happen for this task or process to be effectively pursued and unfold?”
After you’ve made your list, go through each item and ask yourself “Is this something I believe is allowed, acceptable and permissible?”
For the last part, take out a clean sheet of paper and start with the following prompt: “To effectively engage in this task requires me to personally be able to…”
From there, brainstorm a list of all the things you need to be able to do.
After you’ve made your list, go over it and check to see if there are any perceived requirements you feel that you’re unable to do.
If there, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you REALLY SURE you can't do it? Or are you selling yourself short?
Is this ability really required?
Is this ability something you can learn to do? Or be able to do with support?
Have you done something similar in the past?
If you definitely can’t do this, can someone do this for you?
In NLP, we define ecology as the study of consequences.
When you change one or more elements within a system, it’s very likely that change will affect other parts of the system.
Sometimes, that change is for the better. Other times, that change ends up doing more harm than good.
When you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, it may be helpful to look at the ecological consequences of your task or outcome.
To do that, I want you to take a mental trip into the future where you’re further along your task, process, or you’ve achieved your desired outcome.
From there, notice what has changed as a result of pursuing this particular path.
Here are a few areas to pay attention to:
- Fun/Recreation - Are you having as much fun as you did before or less?
- Self-Esteem - Do you feel better or worse about yourself?
- Energy - Do you have more or less energy?
- Family - Did your familial relationships improve or worsen?
- Life - Is your overall quality of life better or worse?
- Work/Career - Are things better or worse with your job/work?
- Security - Do you feel more secure or less secure?
- Health & Well-being - How’s your physical health?
- Wealth & Finances - Did your wealth increase or decrease?
- Personal Growth & Development - Are you growing as a person or shrinking?
- Relationships - How are your relationships with people?
- Spirituality - How’s your spiritual connection?
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but these are probably the most important areas in life for most people.
If one or more of these aspects are affected negatively, then you can be sure that it’s playing a part in your lack of motivation.
To conclude, motivation is a complex phenomenon made up of both internal and external systems.
We’ve identified these systems as identity, values, beliefs, and ecology.
If one or more of these systems don’t align with our chosen task or process, then there’s a greater chance we won’t feel motivated to do it.
Even though motivation is certainly an important thing to master, there’s something more important that must come first.
It’s so important that I created an entire course about it.
What is it exactly?
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