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

Motivation What it is2

We are motivated by something, and motivated to do something—there are two pieces to any given moment of motivation. We’ve already discussed the “by”; either intrinsic or extrinsic. But what about the “to do” part?


To be certain, there are a ton of different things that we might be motivated to do. When we boil it down, though, the really compelling motivations come from the things that keep us alive and give us purpose, wellbeing, and growth. Motivation to eat (usually) comes pretty easily, we’re highly motivated by sex and sunlight and sleep. These things keep us alive. We also find high motivation when we’re working towards a goal that gives us the warm fuzzies mentioned above: purpose, wellbeing, and growth. We are also motivated by more intangible concepts like power, autonomy, self-actualization, though they can be slightly harder to quantify.


As we discuss motivation, we have to also consider the opposite of motivation: procrastination and avoidance. When doing *the thing* feels like pulling teeth, when you’d rather poke your eyeballs out than do something… you know the feeling. When we feel avoidance or procrastination, it’s likely that there’s a mismatch between the goal you’re working towards and your intrinsic motivation, or you have no need for the achievement. Our environment, relationships, and mental health also greatly influence motivation.


One of the biggest takeaways we can take from the concept of motivation is that it’s our propelling force—the thing that helps us put one foot in front of the other. We can work to “hack” motivation and make it come more easily, and we keep its fleeting nature top of mind. In the next few days, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of motivation in more depth.