Motivation: Its Types and Steps to Increase It

Updated on May 8, 2019

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

Motivation is an internal process that encourages a person to move toward a goal. Motivation can only be observed by noting a person’s behavior. Motivation is what causes a person to act whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.

We all have a goal to achieve, for example, like wanting to lose 20 pounds or run a marathon. But simply having the desire to accomplish something is not enough. To achieve such a goal we require the ability to persist through obstacles and endurance to keep going in spite of difficulties. This is where the role of motivation comes into play.

There are three major components of motivation: activation, persistence, and intensity.

Activation – It involves a decision to initiate a behavior such as losing 20 pounds of weight.

Persistence – It is the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist. For example, in order to lose weight one will have to gain adequate knowledge of the methods of weight loss and persistently act on them, despite some obstacles that may come in its way.

Intensity – It is the concentration and vigor that goes into pursuing a goal.

Types of Motivation –

Basically, there are two types:

Intrinsic – They arise from within the individual, for example, doing a complicated crossword puzzle purely for the personal gratification of solving a problem. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.

Extrinsic – They arise from outside of the individual and often involve rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition or praise.

The two types of motivation can differ in how effective they are at driving the behavior. Most people suggest that intrinsic motivation is best but, in some cases, people simply have no internal desire to engage in an activity. On the other hand, excessive rewards may cause problems but when used appropriately, extrinsic motivators can be a useful tool. For example, extrinsic motivation can be used to get people to complete a work task or school assignment in which they have no internal interest.

As a matter of fact, intrinsic motivation is often seen as the ideal but both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are important ways of encouraging a behavior. Intrinsically motivated behaviors have their own rewards, which involve creating positive emotions within the individual. In fact, a person's intrinsic enjoyment of activity provides sufficient justification for their behavior.

Researchers have discovered that offering external rewards for an already internally rewarding activity can actually make the activity less intrinsically rewarding. This phenomenon is known as the over-justification effect.

When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren't the people who are motivated but have consistency in their motivation. - Arsene Wenger

Steps to Increase Motivation –

It is common that most of us get motivated when we are about to face the negative consequences of having not completed the task before a deadline. For example, a late fee motivates us to pay bills.

In reality, procrastination trains the brain to dump adrenaline right before the event. As a result, motivation to get things done comes when we reach the danger zone of fear, worry or anxiety, so a lack of adequate motivation can be the cause of much stress.

Since motivation has a great significance in our day-to-day life, it can be developed like a muscle. Some important steps to increase it are enumerated below:

Set small goals –

Smaller goals can be achieved over a short time period, which can motivate us since the end is always within sight. In addition to setting small goals, make sure that they are measurable and specific.

Set deadlines –

A lack of motivation and procrastination go hand in hand. It's hard for us to feel motivated to make significant progress when we feel like we have plenty of time to complete the task in hand. Without a deadline breathing down our necks, we have almost no reason to get to work. Furthermore, it is more motivating to set your deadlines in days rather than weeks or months. For instance, tell to yourself that you have set the deadline of 30 days instead of one month.

Work in chunks –

It has been found that working in blocks of time with short breaks in between is much better for our motivation and productivity. Some experts suggest if we work for 52 minutes with a 17-minute break, splitting our work time into smaller chunks, we will make the whole process seem far less daunting. Though taking breaks might seem counterintuitive, there are benefits associated with giving your brain a quick rest, including better memory.

Enlist a partner –

We all need some encouragement now and then while moving toward our goal. By recruiting the help of someone dependable to encourage us in the pursuit of our goals, we can move steadily toward them.

In a study presented in May 2015 at the Ninth Annual International Conference of the Psychology Research Unit of Athens Institute for Education and Research, it was found that 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement as compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves without writing them down.

Celebrate results –

Setting small and measurable goals is important in the sense that it provides plenty of opportunities to applaud the results of our hard work. Little incentives in the form of small celebrations encourage us toward our goal.

Stay positive –

It turns out that positivity plays a greater role in the success of our achievements that we would ever imagine.

Stay healthy –

Try your best to stay healthy because nothing is worse than when you force yourself to work when you are sick. This would hinder the progress to your goal.

See the bigger picture –

If you can understand how the work you are doing at present fits into the larger picture of the goal, it will serve as an antidote to discouragement. Completing a task usually provides a small sense of accomplishment but knowing how that task helped you move toward your goal is a real encouragement.

Get into a flow state –

According to experts, when you are feeling low on motivation, you need to get yourself into a flow state, which happens when you become so involved with your work that nothing else seems to exist. When you're in a flow state, you're totally focused and performing your best.

The Bottom Line –

Two people doing the same task have different motivational levels, which has many underlying reasons. But we can raise our motivational levels to reach our goals. In fact, the reward for finishing a task is itself highly motivational but this alone is not enough as many people set goals with the reward in mind but never take action. The secret to motivation is how to overcome procrastination and take proactively a positive action.

Questions & Answers

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      • Dr Pran Rangan profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Pran Rangan 

        2 weeks ago from Kanpur (UP), India

        Thanks Dana for your nice comments.

        I agree with your views. In fact, failures will not make us victim if we stay motivated. That is where lies its significance. All successful people know the value of motivation.

      • Dana Tate profile image

        Dana Tate 

        2 weeks ago from LOS ANGELES

        Dr. Pran.

        I think if it was ever a time for this article, it is now. Now, more than ever people are lacking the motivation to get things done. Some can be, as you say, the goals can be set too high. Others could be that the world is fast paced and ever changing and trying to keep up is exhausting.

        Let's also mention the many failures or not getting the results the way you want that can take the zest out of life.

        When I took the burden off myself to achieve every goal, I didn't necessarily want to achieve but, felt I needed to achieve to be successful in life; I became more motivated. We need to define for ourselves what success means. I know many people and I myself was almost a victim of being successful in life but, being unsuccessful in the things that really

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