What’s Sapping Your Motivation? Find out!

Google the word “motivation” and you’ll get back over 265 million results. It’s a hugely popular self-help topic for at least one reason: motivation is difficult to sustain over the long haul. It needs to be nurtured by the right conditions, sustained by an environment that reinforces and energizes the activity you undertake to achieve your goals. Too often, however, we find ourselves in an atmosphere at work, at home, or at school that does the opposite. It drains our motivation and leaves us exhausted.

What kills or builds motivation will be different for different personality styles. See where you fit in the list below:

  • Delighted by Details – if this describes you, then one major drain on your motivation is being put in a position where you have to act before you completely understand the situation. You enjoy getting all the facts and comprehending all the implications. Until you’re satisfied that you know precisely what will happen as a result of an action, you’re not ready to make a move.
  • Like to Take it Slow – if you’d prefer a steady, even pace, then sudden changes in direction will sap your motivational energy. Interruptions and pressure cause you to shut down. You need an environment in which you’re allowed to take time to adapt to change. If change is forced on you, you may react with passive negativity.
  • Driven to Achieve – for you, the least motivational atmosphere is one in which you’re given direct orders without getting a “say.” You much prefer to be in control and in charge, especially in situations where your leadership can be recognized and appreciated. When you feel pushed and bossed around, you don’t shut down. Instead, you push back. The conflict quickly drains any positive motivation.
  • Loving the Social Life – if you’re a talkative, relational person, then what messes with your motivation is the feeling that you’ve been rejected. You enjoy developing rapport with others, giving and receiving affirmation in equal measure. The unexpected sting of being criticized or put down will deplete your positive energy.

 If you can relate to one or more of the behavioral styles above, watch out for the motivation-busters listed. If you can, try to insulate yourself from the negative influences that consistently weaken your resolve. Choose to spend time with people whose positivity has an uplifting effect on you. If possible, express your desire for a change in the environment. If you’d like more time to think through a problem, ask for it. Want more control and responsibility in a project? Volunteer to lead it. Sometimes you can’t escape or change the difficult atmosphere. In those cases, try to take the long view – remember that the pressure can’t last forever. Hang in there!


How does he do that?

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you walked away from a conversation, you knew you’d left the other person feeling more valued, more capable and more brilliant?

I have a colleague who can do just that for me and the others who work with him. We enjoy working with this person not just because of his skills or contribution to projects, but also because of his knack for bringing out our best.

How does he do it?

The key seems to be in what he doesn’t do.

This guy actually doesn’t give a lot of input of his own. Unlike most of us, he has a remarkable lack of desire to add his two cents to every discussion. Instead, he pulls a dollar or two out of the rest of us. He is an engaged listener who asks clarifying questions. As we answer, his whole body communicates openness, interest, and the sense that he’s impressed. His eyebrows lift, he smiles, and he nods. His questions are open-ended and tend to be short and to the point. He leaves room for us to expand on our own ideas.

The truly impressive thing about this guy is that he’s not our peer – he’s our leader.  We think of the leader as the one who’s running the show, but that’s not how it feels here. It feels like we’re the MVPs. I think it’s because he really listens and chooses not to “add value” to every idea he hears.

The average leader can’t listen to someone tell them something they already know without communicating “I already knew that – I know a better way.” By listening with interest and asking insightful questions, our guy gives the opposite impression: that we’re the wisest, brightest and best around. As a result, that’s who we want to be.

Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of impact?

How can I get motivated?

Coaches hear this question a lot. In fact, finding the answer is one of the most common reasons people seek coaching!

What does it take to really get you motivated? My motivational catalysts fit into one of two raw, basic emotions: fear or desire. I’m either driven away from something I don’t want or I’m driven toward something I do want. It’s that simple. Knowing this, I can often trigger motivation in myself through some subtle Jedi mind tricks.

By imagining in detail the thing I don’t want, I develop within myself an actual sense of fear, however mild. For example, I can envision – in great detail – being pulled over for speeding. I feel that shock of realization that those lights are flashing for me. I cringe inwardly as I see the officer marching toward my in my side-view mirror. Worst of all, I grieve the $138 check I write to pay for the ticket. Unfortunately, I have some past experience to draw on with this fear. I am afraid of those bad results because I can really imagine what they might be like. (Free advice: when in a school-zone, slow down….)

In the same powerful way I triggered motivation through fear, I can also motivate myself through a desire for excellent results. When I imagine myself doing 45 push-ups easily, envisioning myself rocketing through that set of exercises, I do become energized to act, even if I’m not initially motivated. For me, it’s as if the development of sincere belief (intellectual) can trigger excitement (emotional). The excitement triggers action.

Try it yourself. If you want to achieve a goal, try engaging your imagination in two ways. First, take time to envision an excellent result (a completed novel for sale on the bookstore shelves, maybe). Then imagine a poor result of inaction (piles of never-submitted manuscripts that someone will probably toss when you’ve left this earth). Either of those images would stoke the fires of motivation for me; together, they’d be even more effective. Give it a try and leave a comment to let us know how it works for you.