Inspiration to Motivation
Dr Jozelle Miller
January 18, 2022
Inspiration to Motivation

Daily, what is it that gets you going? What is it that keeps you going? Ever wonder why some people seem to be very successful, highly motivated individuals?  Where does the energy, the drive, or the direction come from?  Motivation is an area of psychology that has gotten a great deal of attention, especially in recent years.  The reason is because we all want to be successful, we all want direction and drive, and we all want to be seen as motivated.

There are several theories of motivation. I would however refer to the humanistic theory of motivation which perhaps is the most well-known theory of motivation.  According to this theory, humans are driven to achieve their maximum potential and will always do so unless obstacles are placed in their way.  These obstacles include hunger, thirst, financial problems, safety issues, or anything else that takes our focus away from maximum psychological growth.

The best way to describe this theory is to utilize the famous pyramid developed by Abraham Maslow (1970) called the Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow believed that humans have specific needs that must be met and that if lower-level needs go unmet, we cannot possibly strive for higher level needs.  The Hierarchy of Needs shows that at the lower level, we must focus on basic issues such as food, sleep, and safety. 

Without food, without sleep, how could we possible focus on the higher-level needs such as respect, education, and recognition?

So sometimes we notice children at school appearing to be unmotivated to do their work, they may be constantly lying on the desk or appear ‘spaced out’; inquire whether this child has had breakfast or even a good nights’ rest and the response to these may explain a lot about the child’s interest and motivation to learn.

Let it be noted that this is also true for adults. We are to pay keen attention to those around us. Find out in a genuinely caring and non-judgmental manner about what is going in their lives. Wherever possible attend to lower level needs first before harboring great expectations of motivation to achieve higher level goals.

Throughout our lives, we work toward achieving the top of the pyramid, self actualization, or the realization of all our potential.  As we move up the pyramid, however, things get in the way which slow us down and often knock us backward.  Imagine working toward the respect and recognition of your colleagues and suddenly finding yourself out of work and homeless.  Suddenly, you are forced backward and can no longer focus your attention on your work due to the need for finding food and shelter for you and your family.

According to Maslow, nobody has ever reached the peak of his pyramid.  We all may strive for it, and some may even get close, but no one has achieved full self-actualization.  Self-actualization means a complete understanding of who you are; a sense of completeness, of being the best person you could possibly be.  To have achieved this goal is to stop living, for what is there to strive for if you have learned everything about yourself, if you have experienced all that you can, and if there is no way left for you to grow emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually.

How do you motivate yourself? Fostering Self Motivation

Staying motivated is a struggle — our drive is constantly assaulted by negative thoughts and anxiety about the future. Everyone faces doubt and depression. What separates the highly successful is the ability to keep moving forward. There is no simple solution for a lack of motivation. Even after beating it, the problem reappears at the first sign of failure. The key is, understanding your thoughts and how they drive your emotions. By learning how to nurture motivating thoughts, neutralize negative ones, and focus on the task at hand, you can pull yourself out of a slump before it gains momentum.

Reasons We Lose Motivation: There are 3 primary reasons we lose motivation.

1. Lack of confidence – If you don’t believe you can succeed, what’s the point in trying?

2. Lack of focus – If you don’t know what you want, do you really want anything?

3. Lack of direction – If you don’t know what to do, it is likely you would not be motivated to do it.

Boost Your Confidence:

The first motivation killer is a lack of confidence. This usually happens when the focus is entirely on what you want and neglecting what you already have. When you only think about what you want, your mind creates explanations for why you aren’t getting it. This creates negative thoughts. REMEMBER YOUR MIND IS POWERFUL. Past failures, bad breaks, and personal weaknesses dominate your mind. You become jealous of your competitors and start making excuses for why you can’t succeed. In this state, you tend to make a bad impression, assume the worst about others, and lose self confidence.

The way to get out of this thought pattern is to focus on gratitude. A spirit of gratitude goes an extremely long way. Set aside time to focus on everything positive in your life. Make a mental list of your strengths, past successes, and current advantages. We tend to take our strengths for granted and dwell on our failures. By trying to feel grateful, you’ll realize how competent and successful you already are. This will rejuvenate your confidence and get you motivated to build on your current success.

Develop Focus in your Life:
The second motivation killer is a lack of focus. How often do we focus on what we don’t want, rather than on a concrete goal? We normally think in terms of fear. I’m afraid of being poor. I’m afraid no one will respect me. I’m afraid of being alone. The problem with this type of thinking is that fear alone isn’t actionable. Instead of doing something about our fear, it feeds on itself and drains our motivation.

If you’re caught up in fear-based thinking, the first step in changing this way of thinking is, focusing that energy on a well-defined goal. By defining a goal, you automatically define a set of actions. If you have a fear of poverty, create a plan to increase your income. It could be going back to school, obtaining a higher paying job, or managing your finances better. The key is moving from an intangible desire to taking concrete measurable steps.

By focusing your mind on a positive goal instead of an ambiguous fear, you put your brain to work. It instantly begins devising a plan for success. Instead of worrying about the future you start doing something about it. This is the first step in motivating yourself to act. When you know what you want, you become motivated to act.

Develop direction:

The final piece in the motivational puzzle is direction. If focus means having a goal, direction is having a day-to-day strategy to achieve it. A lack of direction kills motivation because without an obvious next action we succumb to procrastination. An example of this is a person who wants to be an artist, but who spends more time looking at others paint, without attempting to get some paint on his canvas.

The key to finding direction is identifying the activities that lead to success. For every goal, there are activities that pay off and those that don’t. Make a list of all your activities and arrange them based on results. Then make an action plan that focuses on the activities that lead to big returns. In keeping with the example above, the artist activity list would look like the following:

1. Prepare Canvas

2. Paint with only one color per week

3. Compare various painting techniques

4. Start adding more colors to the painting

Keeping track of your most important tasks will direct your energy towards success. Without a constant reminder, it’s easy to waste entire days. When my motivation starts to wane, I regain direction by creating a plan that contains two positive actions. The first one should be a small task you’ve been meaning to do, while the second should be a long-term goal. I immediately do the smaller task. This creates positive momentum. After that I take the first step towards achieving the long-term goal. Doing this periodically is great for getting out of a slump, creating positive reinforcement, and getting long-term plans moving.

It’s inevitable that we will encounter periods of low energy, bad luck, and even the occasional failure. If we don’t discipline our minds, these minor setbacks can turn into mental prisons. By being on guard against the top 3 motivation killers we can preserve our motivation and propel ourselves to success.