August 27, 2020

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With success, there is one overlooked key component. It may be more important than talent, intelligence, money, or connections. That elusive piece of the puzzle is motivation. In this post, we're looking at the science of motivation and ways to harness motivation to your advantage... Even if you shouldn't rely on it.


Without some kind of motivation, you can't accomplish anything. You won’t reach your goals or meet your self-imposed deadlines without the motivation to take action toward them.

Unfortunately, that motivation is often what is lacking in fulfilling desires. We all have lists of things we hope to accomplish. These lists contain big goals, daily tasks, and everything in between.

Learning how to increase your motivation will boost the likelihood of checking more items off your list.

An Improved Approach to Motivation

Author Dan Pink writes in his best-selling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, that the there are three components of motivation that compel individuals to get things done.

The traditional method of motivating ourselves and others using a "carrots and sticks" type of reward system is ineffective. 

Instead, he argues that the scientific approach to understanding the makeup of motivation provides a far better lens from which to view the subject. By understanding the factors that tangibly affect motivation, we can then develop strategies to increase it.

Three Elements of Motivation

The three elements of motivation Pink discusses in his book are autonomyvalue, and competence. These components, according to researchers, drive people to become motivated.

Autonomy refers to the amount of control or independence one feels over a task or action. Science has shown that when you feel you have a significant amount of input regarding that task, you are more likely to follow through to completion.

Value is the amount of personal significance or importance you place on a matter. If something matters to you on a personal level, you will feel more motivation to take it on than if it's an assignment to which you feel no connection.

Competence comes from an individual’s feeling of mastery. It relates to practice and hard work, not necessarily to one’s natural abilities. If you develop competence toward a particular goal, the science of motivation predicts that you're more likely to achieve that goal.

Strategies to Increase Motivation

Let's consider some strategies to increase motivation.

Using the concept of autonomy as a guide, here are some ways to add a sense of control or involvement in activities that you need to complete.

Take Ownership 

One way to do this is to take ownership of a chore or add some aspect of self-direction to it. If you are having difficulty starting a project such as submitting a paper for review, it may help to think of how doing so will set you apart as an expert in your field. In this example, you’ll see that turning in the paper is a necessary component to sharing your unique views with your colleagues.

Make it Meaningful 

To add value to your task, you want to make it meaningful or personal. Add purpose to that item on your to-do list. This involves changing your perspective or the way you look at that item.

Completing your taxes is a dreaded chore for most of us, but you can add purpose to it by focusing on the work you’ve done that comprises the numbers on the page or the contribution you’ve made to your job and community through your efforts. Paying taxes is a symbol of good citizenry.

Practice for Mastery 

Finally, there’s competence. Feeling mastery over an act requires practice. Try to look at the job at hand as one in which you are working toward an end goal of skillfulness.

For instance, you’ll soon see the treadmill as less of an adversary the more workout sessions you endure. So, along with the goal of getting fit, you’ll soon see each session become easier, leading to a feeling of accomplishment.

The Science of Motivation is Clear

Motivation is not always easy to come by. It's fleeting and often unpredictable. However, with this knowledge of the science behind it, you can now pursue the steps required to achieve your dreams more effectively. Soon you’ll be mastering your goals, which will fuel your motivation toward future endeavors.

About the author 


Life & mindset coach, writer, host of podcast This is Type 1: Real Life with Type 1 Diabetes, and full-time analyst in the power industry. I'm passionate about showing people that how we think determines our realities.

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