While all of us want to excel in life and achieve the desired goals, motivating ourself and sustaining those motivation levels over a prolonged period is the biggest challenge that we face in our endeavour towards reaching our goals. We need not to be an expert in psychology to motivate ourselves because all of us use various motivational techniques in our daily lives that we have learned through our experiences however it is advised to have a basic understanding of our motivational processes because it helps us to better organise our thoughts and mental processes.
First we need to understand what is motivation. Motivation is channelising our mental energy into the service of our goal. It constitutes various push and pull factors that leads to sustained goal directed behavior. Mental energy is needed for performing any mental task and we need to properly channelise this energy in service of our goal otherwise it may get wasted or in the worst circumstances may serve to fuel our negative impulses and thoughts and may lead to negative and pessimistic behavioral pattern. So now we know what is motivation and why we should make a conscious effort to properly channelise it into the service of our goal.
The question that arises is how? Well first and foremost requirement before we make an effort to motivate ourself is to know what are my current level of motivation and what is my motivational pattern. Suppose you wake up in the morning and you are not feeling like going to your work and taking it as a burden. It is an indication that your motivational levels are low and your motivational engine is low on fuel of mental energy. It has been found that most of us are able to gauge that our motivational levels are low but we follow the wait and watch policy that things will get better in due course of time and sometimes this period of inactivation sustains for a long time. This inactivation period leads to frequent delaying and revision of our goals and we may end up getting much lower results than what we were looking for. What we need to do is actively observe ourself and make an active intervention when we see our motivational levels going down. Motivational levels are bound to fluctuate from high to low but all we need to do is do not let the inactivation period of low motivation to prolong beyond a level.
Now moving on to the techniques about how to motivate ourself. The first and foremost requirement is setting up the goal and our approach towards the goal. There are three ways in which we can approach a goal. First is called as Mastery goal orientation in which we compete with ourself and try to get the best of ourself and be the best that we can become. Second approach is called as Ego goal orientation in which we compete with others and want to be better than others. Third approach is the Ego avoidance approach which results from fear of failure where we want to succeed because we think we might get criticized if we fail. Ego avoidance approach is a negative approach and should not be resorted to. Mastery goal orientation is the best because it results in best possible realisation of our potential. By following the ego goal orientation we can become better than others but may not get the best out of ourself. Many psychologists suggest that while practicing and preparing for the goal we should follow mastery goal orientation while in actual competition when we compete with others we should follow the ego goal orientation.
After we are done with getting our approach right we need to set the goal. The goal that we set must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, Time bound). We should set specific goals because ambiguous goals can be frustrating and fail to give a direction to your efforts and motivational energy. Our goals should be measurable because it provide us regular feedback to us about our progress and reinforces our motivational levels. Goals should be action oriented and not result oriented because when we focus on product or ends our attention get distracted from the process or means and our goal is compromised. Goal should be realistic and moderately challenging because while easy goals result in low motivation, overambitious and unrealistic goals can overwhelm the individual. Goals should be time bound for them serve to give us feedback about our progress and reinforces our future motivation and expectancy about realisation of our goal. Also always prefer to engage in activities that you have interest in because you get satisfaction merely by engaging in such activities and such activities naturally motivates you. When we engage in activities for external rewards and not for the pleasure that we get by engaging in activity, it is relatively harder to sustain the motivational levels.
We should follow a healthy life style and do meditation, yoga or aerobic exercises because they lead to a healthy body and healthy mind. We should engage in leisure activities and also take time to talk and laugh. These activities serve to recharge your mental facilities and discharges the hidden stores of negative impulses and pent up feelings. Playing sports is a good way for cathartic release of our negative impulses and feelings.
We should indulge in positive self talk because it changes our negative cognitions and beliefs and reorients our motivational processes in positive direction. As Hellen Keller has aptly said, ‘Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. So when you are in a low motivational phase, talk yourself out of it. We can also take inspiration from the role models who were in similar position to us and emerged as successful. It reinforces our belief that we can also succeed in the things that we are doing. It fuels our motivational engine with much required positive mental energy.
Imagery is a very potent technique to motivate ourself. When we frequently imagine our future desired image in our mind it becomes part of the self and our belief and motivation about achievement of the goal increases. William Arthur Ward has famously said,’ If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it’. Karlene Sugarman observed that our body can not distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. This underlines the importance and power of imagination.