“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.”
― Oprah Winfrey.
Rooted in understanding
In the writings of the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, there is found this advice, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding”. I always find the last section to be very intriguing. Understanding is such a simple word but carries a lot of weight. The ability to understand is what gives us roots in anything we apply our minds to. When it comes to motivation, understanding how it works in achieving the goals we are passionate about, helps grow its roots deep in us.
Every time I think about stability, I think of a large tree with deep roots. No matter the storm, it remains in place. For you to remain motivated long enough to achieve your goals and dreams, despite whatever you face, you must understand the factors affecting your motivation.
In today’s post, I will share three critical factors or pillars that your motivation depends on. I promise you that when you get these pillars working for you, you will discover that it will be easier for you to remain motivated when others lose heart. Let’s begin
1. Your willpower
One of the best books on achieving extraordinary results that I have read so far is The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. In this book, Keller and Papasan write about the lies that we tell ourselves that mislead and derail us in the quest for achieving our purpose and extraordinary results. One of the lies that really gave me a wakeup call was about will power. The lie is, willpower is on will call. Basically, they argued that willpower is limited and it’s not always at our disposal.
Your willpower is the first pillar to your motivation. Before reading The One Thing, I noticed something about my performance that I wasn’t really clear about. As you might have read in a previous post, I enjoy jogging for my exercise, but what I noticed was that it was easier for me to go for a run in the morning than in the evening. I also realized that writing was not very easy for me at certain times of the day. I noticed that my performance at cognitive or energy demanding tasks varied with the time of day. I am sure that you might relate to this. But after I read The One Thing, I realize that I was living the lie that my willpower was at will call (I could turn it on whenever). This new realization explained to me why I was motivated to go for a run in the morning as opposed to the evening. I realized that my motivation for cognitive demanding task was lower when I was mentally drained.
Willpower is an attribute of the mind. A stronger mind means stronger willpower. Which explains why people who are mentally strong achieve greater results. You have to imagine your willpower as the battery in your phone. Your willpower gets depleted as you use it. When you’re well rested, well nourished (your diet affects your mind), and have proper blood circulation (achieved through routine exercise), your willpower is at 100% and motivation is high. The opposite is true. When tired and poorly nourished your willpower is at 1% and motivation is down.
While your willpower is an internal determinant of your motivation, your environment plays an external role in affecting your motivation.
2. Your Environment
I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Biotechnology. Every time I speak about the goal of getting a Ph.D., which I made while in fourth grade, my friends responds by saying that I must have been very focused and hardworking to achieve that goal. That might hold some truth since I have not been always at the top of my classes. But motivation has played a greater part than focus and hard work to get me to where I am today. Motivation to achieve the goal has helped me regain focus the many times I lost it and made me work harder even when I struggled in some classes.
But as I am no longer in graduate school and have had some time to reflect upon the motivation to achieve such a long-term goal as earning a Ph.D., I have discovered that my environment greatly supported my motivation. And my environment has never played a greater role in my motivation as it does now while I am in graduate school. Actually, if I spun down all the advice, I have received for being successful as a Ph.D. student to one single advice it would be, take care of your environment. I believe that this advice is applicable in all areas where we need to achieve results, be it at school, work, or in our personal quest for achieving our life’s purpose.
Our environment is made up of the people we surround ourselves with, the books we read, and voices we listen to. Our environment determines if we receive encouragement or discouragement. It determines if our goals are easily achievable or there are hindrances. And most important, our environment affects if resources to achieve our goals are readily accessible to us.
Therefore, we must design our environments to work for us and keep us motivated. To do this, I suggest two things to keep in mind. First design your environment to help you easily make the right decisions. I do this by surrounding myself with people who I have seen make great decisions in their lives. Second, design your environment to make things easier for you. I achieve this by staying organized. The power of environment is well captured in the quote “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior” by James Clear.
As you design your environment to work for you, it will enhance your willpower and positively affect the next motivation pillar, your experiences.
3. Your Experiences
Our experiences are never neutral. They are never zero calories like Coke Zero. Everything you experience in life had an impact on you whether you were conscious of it or not.
I believe that our experiences, in most cases, could be categorized as a success or failure. (Notice I didn’t say all experiences). It often feels like we store experiences directly associated with success or failure at the forefront of our brains; we readily remember them and strongly relate to them. They strongly influence how we feel about pursuing certain goals depending on our past successes or failures.
I have observed that it takes more energy to do something we failed at or saw people fail at. This breeds hesitation and procrastination. While, it takes much less energy to do something that we were successful in the past doing or we saw others succeed at it. Basically, we are motivated to do what we experience or expect to experience success in, while less motivated in doing what we failed at or anticipate failure in.
To leverage your experiences, I have two ideas. First, eliminate negative emotions from how you view your experiences. Emotions such as fear will stop you from experiencing new things. And regret will distort your view of old experiences. Second, use deliberate reflection to extract valuable lessons from all your experiences. Reflection will pull out the failure value and position you for future success.
The next step is to closely examine each pillar and find ways to improve them. Here are three questions to help you get started: Is my willpower available to my high-impact tasks or am I using it up it on low-impact tasks? Does my environment increase my odds for success or not? And, Am I extracting value from my experiences for a better tomorrow? Do this and you will soon see great improvement in your performance.