What Is Motivation

Have you always wondered, “What is motivation?”

On this page we are going to break down exactly how the conscious and unconscious mind plays a vital role in what gets people to behave the way they do.

what is motivation

Introduction To Motivation

Motivation entails the emotional, biological, cognitive and social forces that drive our behavior. In everyday use, the word motivation is often used to explain why an individual does something.

For instance, you can say that a person who is motivated to secure a good grade in his behavioral psychology test spends every day studying for it.

Or on a more basic level, you could say that we are all motivated to eat and drink to stay alive.

A Definition of Motivation

Motivation can be defined in terms of various factors that direct, activate, and maintain our goal-directed behavior. A motive is the reason behind a certain behavior; it is the want or need that drives our behavior and explains what we often do. Although we do not observe our motives; instead, we can infer that they exist on the basis of the behavior that we observe.

A Brief Look at how the Mind and Subconscious Works

Your subconscious mind often plays an important part when it comes to shaping your personality, influencing your behavior, and consequently your whole life. To get familiar with how your subconscious works you must think of it as the component of the mind that stores volume of information you are not aware of consciously.

You can think of your subconscious mind like a huge memory bank that contains your memories, beliefs, and life experiences. The loads of information contained in your subconscious often influence your actions and behavior in various situations and this affects your daily motivation.

For example, if you tend to lack self confidence due to specific beliefs and notions you have regarding yourself (these are contained in the subconscious mind), it is likely you may begin to feel nervous and anxious around people. This can lead to de-motivation.

In this situation, you were anxious as your subconscious had false or misleading information that lead you to believe you were facing some kind of danger when, actually, you were not.

An interesting and important fact about how your subconscious mind works is it affects your behavior as well as your perception of different events. So, in the prior example, if you noticed two individuals smiling at you, you may incorrectly conclude they were trying to make fun of you.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind about how the subconscious works is that your mind is processing 400 billion bits of information a second. Because your conscious mind cannot maintain all of that information, it stores it in the subconscious. This is why advertising is so powerful and why companies spend millions of dollars on impressions: hoping that their brand will be stored in your subconscious mind so that when you have to make a purchasing decision, your conscious mind will retrieve their brand information so you choose them instead of their competitor.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Need Model

In 1939, American Psychologist Abraham Maslow released his study on hierarchy of needs which stipulated that humans have six basic needs to survive and thrive:

1. Physiological Needs – Basic survival needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.

2. Safety Needs – The need to feel safe and secure in our environment so that we can express ourselves to the fullest without shame, guilt, fear of ridicule, or fear of harm or death.

3. Social Belonging – The need to feel loved and appreciated by friends, family, and co-workers.

4. Esteem – The need to feel respected and good about yourself. We all need to have a good impression or belief about who we are as human beings.

5. Self-Actualization – The need to become your best self. For example, achieving the most you can from your career, body, relationships, and finances.

6. Self-transcendence – The need to be part of something that is bigger than the self. For example, donating time to a local charity.

Simply put, what Maslow’s needs reflect is that we need all six to feel motivated enough to live our lives.

Pain vs Pleasure

The psychology of motivation is actually quite simple: you will always move towards what you define to be more pleasurable and move away towards what you define as being more painful.

The keyword here is “define” because the truth is, life is “meaningless”. You as a human being have total control over what you define as pleasurable and what you define as painful.

For example, take someone who smokes every day and knows it will kill them. They know on the conscious level that smoking cigarettes will kill them. However, they choose to define it as being more pleasurable so they continue to smoke.

Why We Lose Motivation

We tend to lose motivation for a number of reasons. It may be because of laziness, weak desires, or simply shyness, and at times the reasons might be lack of self confidence and self esteem.

1. One reason that explains our loss of motivation is the lack of focus or purpose which hinders our vision. As humans, we often think in terms of what we do not want, instead of going after a targeted and well-defined goal. We often think in terms of fear. This ultimately drains the tiniest of enthusiasm and zeal that keeps us motivated.

2. Lack of direction is another reason we lose motivation. It is important to have a definite goal which requires focus, but a daily plan to attain the goal requires direction. Without a sense of direction, you will not know what step needs to be taken next, and you are likely to give in to procrastination.

Having a clearly defined purpose and vision for life will create excitement that will keep us energized so that we continue to take action every day towards what we say what we want. This is why defining the things we want as being more pleasurable is crucial to our continued motivation.

Ways We Can Stay Motivated

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to define not getting what you want as being more painful. What’s ironic about the human mind is that we actually take more action based upon pain versus pleasure.

For example, if you want to lose weight and know you need to go to the gym to exercise, if you focus more on the pleasure of being thin versus the pain of being overweight, you may have a higher tendency to choose not to go to the gym.

However, if in your mind you have defined the pain to be so miserable, then you will be more motivated to go than if you focused on the pleasure.

You can take the following steps to stay motivated:

1. Once you have identified the different activities that will help you achieve your vision, you have completed half of the job. Now you just have to put the pieces together. Come up with a list of fruitful and productive activities and arrange them on the basis of priority. Finally, devise a plan of action that targets those activities and lead to huge returns.

2. On a daily basis, devote some time to concentrate on and notice the positive aspects of your life. Make a list of your strengths, advantages and your past achievements. Do not take your strengths and accomplishments for granted; instead concentrate on your successes and value your talents.

Ways To Motivate Other People

Here are some steps to motivate other people:

Step 1 – Do they want to be motivated?

You cannot help people who do not want to be helped. Never try and push yourself onto another person. So make sure you have their permission to support them. If you do not, then don’t.

Step 2 – Listen

The next step is to listen to them. Fight the urge to give a lengthy speech as it will not work. Listen carefully to the other person and find out about their dreams and goals; it helps immensely.

Step 3 – Acknowledge Their Fears

People are often scared that they will look stupid or simply fail that they do not even give it a shot. This is where you can step in and encourage them by highlighting their strengths, achievements and unique skills. This would do their motivation a world of good.

Motivating Yourself

Learning how to get motivated can be quite challenging. The key is to take it one day at a time and chunk it down otherwise your mind will feel overwhelmed.


Send this to a friend