By Joshua Garrin, Ph.D., CPT, CHC, CBCS
Human motivation. My favorite subject—in the whole wide world. Why? Most likely because of the multitude of unanswered questions that it evokes. Why? Probably because we’re on a lifelong quest to better understand it. And why? Oh, the why of motivation is so mystifyingly mysterious—ever elusive and mercurial, like sand slipping through our fingers. Sure, we know that we’re driven by basic survival instincts. Of course, we strive for safety and security. And no doubt, we’re social animals who (sometimes desperately) want to belong. But what fuels our desire to raise the bar, uplevel our game, commit to the cause, and not “simply survive…but “thoroughly thrive”?
It’s “that thing”
Unbeknownst to us, that thing may be encouraging us to re-map our journey—because the road we’re travelling isn’t leading us to a rewarding destination. Whether we realize it or not, that thing may be redirecting us toward a detour—because the route we’ve chosen is sooooo painfully unfulfilling. Like an inner voice that whispers the truth, that thing may be telling us to reprogram our inner GPS to guide us down a more authentic, empowering path—one that magnifies our meaning, pressurizes our purpose, and optimizes our potential. We may not know what, how, or why, but that thing is fueling our desire for change.
And despite the perplexing complexity of that thing, one thing is crystal clear: Every ounce of the motivational “fuel” that we need on our journey to change is already in our “tank”.
You probably sensed that it was coming, so here it is: What’s been keeping you up staring at the ceiling all night? What’s been pushing you to transform those dreams into empowering schemes that manifest the best in you? What’s been daring you to step beyond your comfort zone, defy that dysfunctional familiarity, and transform “I can’t” into “I can…and I will”? Whatever it is, it’s sending you a clear, empowering message: It’s time to stop looking “out there” for the motivation to manifest your best self…and start believing that all you need is already abundantly “in here”.
When we stop looking in our news feeds for the icons, gurus, and motivational messiahs that (we hope) will elevate us to the next level, lo and behold—we discover seven self-generated, self-sustaining “things” that empower us to stop dreaming…and start doing.
- We’re autonomous beings—we want to feel free of externally imposed demands and in control of our outcomes. Autonomy is the element that spares us from mental servitude and emotional imprisonment. Freedom is free when it comes from within.
- We strive to master specific tasks in an effort to become more effective at a given pursuit. When we feel competent about our abilities, fear and insecurity transform into unbridled confidence—and our mindset shifts from “I think I can” to “I know I can”.
- Our self-esteem lurks within our every perception and action. It can dictate our desire to push forward…and make or break our belief that we are “worth” the effort expended. Place a high-value price tag on that face staring back at you in the mirror.
- Identity is ever changing—an element of our development that continually adapts, transforms, and evolves. As we write our “life book”, identity is momentary—who we are during this “chapter” inspires who we become in the next chapter.
- As individuals, we uphold an ethical responsibility to filter out the fiction, ignore the irrelevant, and be who we are. Through an authentic self-focus and a deep gratitude for our uniqueness, we remain in competition with our best (and only) “rival”.
- Our “path” should feel authentic and genuine. It should feel “true” (not false). Ideally, it should resonate with a clear, calm, coherent tone, which tells us that our actions are in alignment with our true desires. The formula is a simple one: “less force and more flow”.
- Once we’ve satisfied our basic life needs, we elevate to another level of satisfaction seeking—one in which we yearn for creativity, strive toward potentiality, and, according to Carl Rogers, seek “to achieve the highest level of ‘human beingness’ we can“.
As you may have guessed by now, these “things” are not figments of our imagination. They’re inspiring ideals that emanate from within the deepest recesses of our being—manifested by meaning, empowered by purpose, and triggered by truth. By now, we have gotten the message: When we stop looking to people, places, and things to dictate our path and, instead, choose to grab the wheel and map our own journey, the true reward isn’t in arriving at our destination.
The journey is the reward
As we stand on the verge of our own, unique, life-changing transformations, let’s consider how autonomy, competence, achievement, identity, integrity, coherence, and potentiality silently inspire our desire (to reach ever higher). Let’s consider how these ideals enable us to edit our script, twist our plot, and change the way our story ends. Let’s consider how these ideals fuel our transformational fire and bridge the gap between the possible…the probable…and the unstoppable. And the best part? We don’t even need to look “out there” for these powerfully empowering energies.
They’re already in us
Yes. Our will to transform intentionality into eventuality is driven by a self-generated, self-sustaining source of motivation—a fuel that burns from the inside out.
And luckily for us, our tank is full.
Garrin, J. M. (2014). The will to lead: The dynamic integration of intrinsic motivation and social change leadership. Journal of Social Change, 6(1), 86-108. doi:10.5590/JOSC.2014.06.1.07 http://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/jsc/vol6/iss1/6/
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row.
Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.