Motivation: What it is, and what it isn’t

Motivation What it is

Ah, motivation. That elusive, finicky driving force. The thing that helps us get out of bed, throw on our running shoes, and hit the pavement first thing in the morning. Or the thing that sustains us when it’s 2 a.m. and we’re still working towards that deadline. Or the thing that helps us decide that it’s time to kick the booze. Today, let’s take a look at motivation: what it is, what it isn’t, and how we find more of it.


Positive Psychology shares a good working definition of motivation:


“Motivation is an internal process. Whether we define it as a drive or a need, motivation is a condition inside us that desires a change, either in the self or the environment.”


Change, in either self or the environment. A different way, something different than what we have or feel or experience right now. We also know that motivation shows up from two different sources: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, or internal vs. external motivation.


An example of intrinsic motivation would be the desire to change your relationship with alcohol so you have better wellness and self-esteem, whereas an extrinsic motivation might look like being motivated to drink less because someone else told you to (or perhaps avoidance of negative consequences like a DUI). And of course, we know that motivation is something that waxes and wanes yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and even hourly… or so it sometimes seems.


When we are motivated, we’re able to put one foot in front of the other and move through the world in an adaptive, goal-oriented way. Of course, sometimes we’re motivated by things that are ultimately harmful for us; one could say that a craving is motivation to drink alcohol; this example shows the power of motivation, though, when we can find it.

Souders, B. (2021, April 16). What is Motivation? A Psychologist Explains. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-motivation/.