We all hear how important motivation is. Once I get enough motivation, I’m going to lose weight, go on that dream holiday etc. The list goes on. I used to watch motivational videos on YouTube, read articles that I found motivating and listen to speakers who were motivational.
Some days I felt really motivated. Other days not so much. On the days I’m motivated – it’s a case of “I feel motivated – but motivated to do what?”
We can chase this elusive motivation all the time, wait to feel motivated and never start anything.
Motivation is great – as long as you DO something. It’s a great excuse when we don’t have motivation to do NOTHING. And if we waited until we felt like doing things, we’d do nothing.
And that’s why one of the things I thought I’d write about today, motivation, comes from the book Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. I thought it’d be helpful to summarise the chapter where he documents research and stories on motivation so you have actionable things you can do NOW, today, tomorrow, this week, month, year or never.
I wanted to give a quick summary here and more detail on each below:
- Focus on what you have control over and focus on CHOOSING your action
- Choose rather than accept what you’re given, focus on your internal locus of control and find some way to exert control
- Find meaning in the actions
- Ask WHY you’re doing this, and how it aligns with a greater mission or goal you have
Focus on what you have control over and focus on CHOOSING your action
Have you ever had your choices taken away from you and decided to rebel against that with inaction? Rules being passed down in work, processes that must be strictly followed – we’ve all experienced this. You must do task X – then Y – then Z – or else you’re in trouble with a higher authority.
One of the things that’s discussed in the book is people who have an internal locus of control achieve more, are less stressed, live longer and generally do better in life than those who have an external locus of control who are more likely to complain and give out about the things that life presents to them.
- Internal locus of control is when you believe you control the outcomes you experience. You have something to do with what you achieve. You don’t blame external things for happening – you focus on what you couldn’t done differently next time – you learn and you grow.
- External locus of control is when you complain and blame things that happen to you and think they’re the reason you haven’t achieved success or been happy or anything. You think life happens to you, and you can do nothing about it.
In the first chapter Charles mentions how an internal locus of control can be taught and referred to a number of studies. One of these was with school kids who were given a test and when they were given the results, half were praised for how hard they worked (internal locus of control – they can do something about this), the other half were praised for being smart (external locus of control – we can’t control how much smarts we were born with).
When they were given further tests the group who were encouraged for working hard solved more problems, started with the difficult problems and stayed longer at the tasks. The group who were told they were smart, because they thought it was outside of their control, they took the easier problems first, got bored easily and didn’t solve as many problems.
So what can you do? Find opportunities where you can exert choice, and CHOOSE something. Choose to do a task rather than feel you have to. When you have mails to answer, pick one in the middle of the bunch rather than feeling you have to work top-down or vice versa. When you are trying to lose weight – choose not to eat the cake and choose to eat fruit instead rather than feeling like you have to eat healthy. When you are trying to get fit, choose to go for a run, cycle or swim – rather than feeling like you have to.
Once you focus on the things you can control and choose to do something about it – you’ll be entrepreneurial about your life – self start and then it’ll result in higher motivation to tackle more and more things as you build confidence.
(I’ve done a post here that touches on the same things with Self-belief, Learning and Confidence )
(And you can look at Carol Dweck’s TED talk about growth mindsets here – we can all change! )
Find meaning in the actions
Following on from the first point for motivation – focusing on the control you have and exerting this control to feel more motivated and self-starting – the second lesson is on finding the meaning of the task rather than just doing it for the sake of it.
If you want to become a better leader – you need to build towards that – it doesn’t happen overnight. You also don’t have to feel like you HAVE to read the book “Leadership for Dummies” but if you give it the meaning that because you want to be better able to lead people, you WANT to read this book because it covers topics that successful leaders possess and exhibit – then you’re going to feel more motivated to read it and are more likely to finish it too!
Once we ask why for these seemingly small tasks, they take on a piece of a larger project towards achieving your bigger goals.
When we CHOOSE to do the chores around the house because the meaning we give it is that we want to be a good partner, then this shows we are making meaningful choices towards what we’re trying to achieve and will build motivation towards this with each meaningful choice we make.
So I think these are interesting things to think about – CHOOSE and ask WHY – to feel more motivated today.
(Interesting, hilarious TED talk about The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor)
I’d love to hear where you’ve tried to apply these two things today.