Motivation makes it possible to achieve success and satisfaction. We all want to have a high level of motivation, but we also know how hard it is to get motivated and to stay motivated.
Recent research reveals that the inner desire to do things – intrinsic motivation – is inherent in almost all human beings. But intrinsic motivation is like a spark – it ignites a fire only when the right conditions are present. These conditions consist of satisfying three core human needs: relatedness, autonomy, and competence.
Relatedness involves relationships that give us a sense of security. Feeling that someone believes in us and has our best interests at heart creates an internal motivation to reciprocate by being at our best when we’re relating to that person.
Autonomy evolves from the feeling that the other person understands us and trusts us enough to give us a choice about how to handle a given situation. Intrinsic motivation increases when we have common goals with others, but are left to our own devices in determining how to reach those goals.
Competence is built by receiving effective feedback about our efforts to reach a goal. There is strong evidence that for feedback to be effective it must exceed a ratio of 3 positive observations for every negative pointer. Otherwise, the amount of perceived criticism causes us to lose our confidence and our motivation
When you have high levels of relatedness, autonomy, and competence, the conditions are right to ignite your passion for achieving a goal. Motivation occurs along a continuum with six distinct levels. We don’t need the same level of motivation for all activities, just the right amount for being able to accomplish a particular goal.
1. Minimal motivation describes the level where we have no intention to act or we’re simply going through the motions. This state arises when we don’t value the activity, we feel incompetent, or we’re pessimistic about achieving a positive outcome.
To amplify this small amount of motivation, people must develop a vision of how achieving a positive outcome will feel to them and to people they care about. It’s helpful to have someone who can foster the belief that it’s possible for them to learn the skills that are necessary to achieve success.
2. External motivation occurs when our actions are driven purely by the rewards and consequences that other people provide. We usually feel we’re being controlled or manipulated when we’re at this level.
For external influence to be effective, people have to buy in to accomplishing the goal by seeing how a positive result ends up satisfying everyone’s needs. Then positive reinforcement is perceived to be recognition of one’s efforts to contribute to achieving a win-win outcome.
3. Extrinsic motivation involves taking care of other people as a way of feeling good about ourselves. When we satisfy the needs of those we care about, we’re very likely to get positive responses from them. To enhance extrinsic motivation, it’s important to develop clarity with a person about exactly what they need in order to be satisfied.
4. Strengths-based motivation involves seeing that we have the inner strengths that will enable us to achieve our goals. We need to know both our personal character strengths and our professional interpersonal strengths in order to be able to draw upon our inner resources when we’re facing a challenge. It also helps to have mentors, coaches, and colleagues who can remind us when and how to use our strengths.
5. Innate motivation arises when we act primarily out of our sense of what will bring us a profound sense of satisfaction with ourselves. At this level, our goals must be congruent with our deepest values, generating a feeling of purpose that propels us to peak performance.
To heighten this level of motivation, expand your awareness of your deepest values. One effective way to do this is the peaks and valleys exercise: review each decade of your life and write down both the best and worst thing that happened to you. What valuable lessons did you learn from living through those experiences? Make note of the 3-5 values that stand out most clearly for you.
6. Intuitive motivation occurs when we’re able to achieve “flow” – participating in an activity for which we’ve practiced so long and hard that we can perform it effortlessly. Flow occurs when our level skill development matches the degree of challenge. To become a high performer in an activity you’re passionate about, find ways to make deliberate practice enjoyable.