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Learning self-motivation: what really motivates us

There can be different reasons why we are not motivated. Above all, there is often one reason behind it: We focus too much on the reward - and confuse cause with effect. Deadly for self-motivation! Quite a few people strive for top grades, a top job, a promotion or a raise - and torment themselves through work that means nothing to them. A promotion then only leads to a new “suffering” position. Motivation cannot arise from being excited about the carrot that we hold in front of our noses and at the same time suffer from the path that we cover ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Self-motivation: thinking if-then is wrong

The problem with self-motivation is often the if-then thinking behind it:

  • IF I've made a career, THEN I'm happier ...
  • IF I earn so and so much, THEN I am motivated ...
  • IF I get this job, THEN I am happy ...

Most of it is sheer self-deception. Anyone who hates their job for 2,000 euros a month will still not love it for 4,000 euros. And advancement does not necessarily mean more freedom, more free time or satisfaction. Often the opposite is the case.

External motivators are addictive

No question about it, rewards are a powerful motivational tool. And it's also true: We should reward ourselves again and again, for example when we have achieved partial successes (so-called milestones). But carrots like money or bonuses only motivate for a short time. External influences and incentives remain (extrinsic motivators). And they ultimately make us dependent. In the long run they work like drugs: you have to keep increasing the dose to be able to feel anything at all.

The better drive comes from within (Technical term: intrinsic motivation). We have to love it ourselves, strive for it, want it.

Self-motivation: 3 things that really inspire us

If you believe motivation researchers, there are three main drivers that motivate us to the maximum (in the job):

1. Autonomy

As long as we have the feeling that we are only doing what others want, we feel powerless and controlled by others. Of course, there is no such thing as absolute freedom: even those who are self-employed still have to court customers and meet demand. Hierarchies also make sense at work because democratic decision-making processes often take too long. And even then you can be outvoted. In this context, autonomy means being able to give direction to one's life by and large, instead of being directed. Just because you bend over once doesn't mean you lose your inner freedom. But those who are mostly able to confidently shape their work content and career path are motivated.

2nd championship

Learning is usually not much fun. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling that we can't do something (yet). But over time, with a lot of practice, we usually get better - and feel that way too. Suddenly we experience a real motivational kick: Progress is small success that brings us closer to the championship. This is also the reason why sports clubs or video games have levels and leaderboards: They motivate you to keep going, to practice more, to surpass yourself.

3. Purpose

The things we love to do need to make sense. Even those who regularly lubricate only one gearbox will work all the more if they know that the gearbox is important for the machine and that this in turn serves a higher purpose. He or she is making an important contribution. To put it more pathetically: We feel that we are serving a cause that is bigger than we are. But it can also be a size smaller: It is enough if our work makes a difference. If we didn't do it, companies and customers would have a problem. Anyone who feels that it is noticeable whether he or she is there or not is obviously fulfilling an important purpose - and is motivated accordingly.

The secret of self motivation

We are maximally motivated when all three of the above-mentioned drives are given and we are aware of them. But there is a motivation factor running through all these points like a red thread: Whatever we do, it has to mean something FOR US. For us - not for others! We have to find meaning in our task. Achieving a goal only becomes a success if it is also worth striving for for us.

This is the secret of self-motivation: Ask yourself what is really important to YOU. Recognize the meaning in what you do - and joy and commitment, progress and creativity come naturally and survive crises and setbacks. But it's the consequences, not the causes.

Use positive feelings

Just knowing what we are doing is a big step towards promoting your own motivation. But is that enough? The power of imagination usually decreases again after a short time and with that the power of motivation decreases again. Setbacks also support the path to old lethargy.

To prevent this, a second step is necessary: Use your feelings to reinforce the idea. Imagine the joy and happiness that flows through you and make these feelings palpable and perceptible for yourself. And if that doesn't help, we have 11 tips on how you can enjoy your work more in the future:

  • set goals

    Make it clear what you want to achieve and set yourself measurable and realistic (!) Goals.

  • Internal attitude

    Make sure that you approach your task with a positive attitude. Get rid of negative thoughts and instead say to yourself, "This task is fun."

  • Reduce demotivation

    Be clear about what is demotivating you about your job. List all points and remove them as far as possible in your environment.

  • Motivating things

    Do you know what motivates you? What are the reasons and things that make you lose track of time? List everything you can think of.

  • Motivation through visualization

    What do you get after your work is done? Imagine your success in your mind's eye. This should help you instill an inner urge to put that idea into practice.

  • Motivation through feelings

    Associate positive feelings with your goals and tasks. Feelings underline this, give us additional and long-term motivation.

  • Motivation through reward

    Reward yourself for the work you do. Even small partial successes should be rewarded. In response, the brain associates work with something positive. With this trick you can reduce some motivation problems in the long term.

  • Motivation through memory

    Write down your individual incentives on small DIN A7 cards. Put a card in your field of vision every day, for example on the phone, where you will see it again and again.

  • Motivation through time pressure

    Many people are motivated by a deadline. You can also use this for yourself by setting appointments for your tasks yourself.

  • Motivation through the right measure

    Do you know how much you can do in one day and when the workload becomes too much for you? Use this knowledge to avoid doing too much in a day. Otherwise you will create failures, which will result in new demotivation.

  • Motivation through fear

    Make it clear to yourself what happens if you do not complete the task or if the work stops. What are the consequences for you or for others?

Self-test: can you motivate yourself?

Real Motivation or Duty Fulfillment? A question that many employees deal with: Am I really motivated or am I just doing my job? Our self-test can show you whether you have problems motivating yourself. Read the following statements carefully and decide whether they apply to you or not. Add up the number of times you have given your consent. You will find the evaluation at the end of the test.

  1. Facebook, phone, email or even coffee with colleagues. Distractions are a problem for me and sometimes I find it difficult to get myself up and focus on the really important things.
  2. If I receive praise and positive feedback on a regular basis, I can immediately feel how my motivation increases and I work harder on the following days to do my work even better. Without this encouragement, my motivation also suffers.
  3. I always do tasks that I enjoy, and I always do it with great pleasure. If, on the other hand, I find a task boring, exhausting or just stupid, I postpone it for as long as possible and then have to force myself to finally get started.
  4. When working in a team, I am happy when someone else takes the lead, assigns tasks and takes over the organization. So I know exactly what to concentrate on and don't have to worry about other things.
  5. I hate the beginning of the week and every Monday I hardly get out of bed because I know the week is still so long. Unfortunately, this feeling usually lasts until the middle of the week - or even longer if it is particularly stressful.
  6. Sometimes I have problems with particularly simple tasks because I underestimate them and don't take care of them in time. When I feel underchallenged, I find it difficult to really hang in and do my best.
  7. When I do something, I always take breaks. However, I often drag this out because it is difficult for me to return to my tasks afterwards.
  8. What motivates me in my job is the payment, after all, not only do I have to make a living from it, but I also want to be able to save up something so that I can later fulfill a dream.
  9. With new tasks I first need some time to find access. I just don't know how to start and before I do it wrong I first analyze and figure out how I want to go about it.
  10. Excuses are one of my specialties. I can persuade myself for hours that I can't do something, which is why I can wait longer and longer until I start at some point because time is running out.
  11. I have often been asked by colleagues that I sometimes lack the necessary motivation and that work sticks with them as a result. Fortunately, the boss doesn't seem to have noticed this yet.

Test Resolution: Can You Motivate Yourself?

If you have agreed on a few points and nodded silently, there is still no need to worry. Everyone motivates themselves in a different way. So it's only likely that you recognized yourself in some statements and not in others. You should pay attention if you have given your consent more than six times. Here you should question what is robbing you of your motivation and how you can counteract it in order to find your drive again.

Have you consented 9 times or more, you are having serious trouble motivating yourself. Probably not only your work will suffer, but your satisfaction as well. Try to find out what motivates you, what you enjoy and what is currently lacking. A change is likely to be necessary to achieve this, but if you really want to regain your motivation, you need to have that courage.

Cheering yourself actually works

“Tschakka - you can do it!” - Such simple motivational sayings belong in the corner of quackery and dodgy motivational speakers. Nevertheless, there is a real core to it: Those who verbally encourage themselves, significantly improve their own performance. This is the result of a British study by sports psychologist Andrew M. Lane from the University of Wolverhampton. More than 44,000 test persons took part in the experiments. To motivate themselves, the test subjects should talk to themselves, use their imagination or play out if-then scenarios.

The result was clear: Those who cheered themselves on released more energy and consistently performed better than all comparison groups. In addition, the self-talk led to more positive emotions. Those affected felt better, stronger - and then they did.

The ABC of motivation

In view of the large number of motivational seminars, courses, books, films and workshops, it is amazing how difficult it is for many to motivate themselves. As an inspiration, you will therefore find an ABC of motivation here. Any of the following tips may (but don't have to) work for you. Because motivation is something highly individual, there can be no universal rules - only suggestions:

  • Hide

    One of the most important measures to keep yourself motivated: hide envious people and notorious complainers and concentrate on yourself and those around you. This is not an ostrich tactic, but often a pure necessity so as not to burden yourself with negative thoughts and approaches.

  • balance

    You can only maintain your motivation if you have the necessary energy. Make sure to take time for your health - physically and mentally - in addition to work.

  • opportunities

    You may be familiar with the saying: “One person sees problems, the other sees opportunities.” This basic attitude is decisive for a consistently high level of motivation. Anyone who consciously pays attention to opportunities, seizes them and - if they fit - seizes them, will not only be rewarded but also motivated by new opportunities and success stories.

  • Thought patterns

    Over time, each person's thought patterns solidify. Some of them can slow you down in your development and weaken your motivation over the long term. For example, do you intuitively look for weak points and sources of error in every new project? Do you then perceive this as an opportunity for improvement or as an argument against the project? In order to recognize such thought patterns, you need external reflection. This can come from friends, colleagues or coaches.

  • empathy

    If you want to motivate other people, you must first understand their needs and situations. It is often important to put the superficial statements aside and focus on the real needs behind them. You can only achieve this if you are empathetic with your counterpart.

  • ask

    Asking questions are one of the best ways to overcome low motivation. Some of them ask themselves in low phases anyway, for example the question: “Why am I doing this to myself?” If you cannot find a positive answer to this yourself, ask these questions to your colleagues and friends and use their answers as fuel for your motivation.

  • patience

    Self-motivation can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it enables you to achieve amazing results through enthusiasm and enthusiasm, on the other hand, you can quickly burn out and fall into a motivation hole. So check your motivation and enthusiasm and use them carefully and patiently in order to stay tuned for the long term.

  • tenacity

    Speaking of long-term: motivation can also depend on the results of your work. However, you can only achieve this through perseverance and perseverance. Use these characteristics to keep your motivation high and focus again and again on achievable intermediate goals.

  • inspiration

    Inspirational quotes, films, speeches, books or moments can be food for your motivation and push you further. You should therefore always consciously look for inspiring content and thus strengthen your motivation.

  • Cheers

    Even if it is rather unusual in the German (work) culture: Enjoy the joy of a goal achieved or a success. Realized joy not only feels good, it can also give you a new impulse for your motivation and increase your anticipation for the next success.

  • concentration

    Especially in hectic and stressful times, motivation can decrease due to many everyday tasks and little things. You can counteract this development by consciously withdrawing from day-to-day business - even if only for five minutes - and concentrating on your actual goal.

  • Learn

    Depending on the type and disposition, even learning and discovering new content and paths can trigger a boost in motivation.

  • championship

    Intermediate goals are important, but sometimes a valuable goal can be to develop your skills to mastery in a particular area. Consistent pursuit of this goal can guarantee your motivation for months to come.

  • curiosity

    Without curiosity, people and companies come to a standstill at some point. There is no longer any development or movement, and motivation and activity weaken. So rediscover your curiosity every day, get involved in experiments and learn from the development. Your motivation grows automatically.

  • optimism

    It is quite possible that you can no longer hear the well-known glass-half-full-or-glass-half empty thinking. However, that doesn't change its validity: focus on the positive aspects of projects and situations to keep your motivation fresh.

  • perspective

    Success sometimes only takes weeks or months. Looking at day-to-day work can quickly become frustrating, especially when progress is minimal. Take a few steps back in such phases and look at the development so far. Often you will then notice how far you have come and how fast you are approaching your goal.

  • quality

    Celebrating a lot of successes in a short period of time can significantly increase your motivation. If that is not possible, however, you should focus on the quality of your work and draw satisfaction and motivation from it.

  • reflection

    Seeing your own progress can be quite difficult in everyday life. Ideally, take your time once a week to reflect on the course of the week and the current progress in order to re-motivate yourself.

  • Self-confidence

    Sometimes motivation also disappears because you or your colleagues doubt your own abilities. Then it suddenly seems completely impossible to cope with the tasks at hand. In this situation, reflect on your successes and become aware of your abilities and strengths. With your self-confidence, your motivation will return.

  • dreams

    Concrete goals, analyzes and plans are important and meaningful. However, sometimes it is time to leave it all behind for a few minutes or hours and indulge in your dreams. Such a break can revitalize not only energy and creativity, but also your motivation.

  • support

    No matter how good you are, at some point there is guaranteed to be a point where you will not get anywhere on your own. Therefore, look for support and support right from the start and let your colleagues and friends motivate you in low phases.

  • Visualization

    Defining goals is one thing, really seeing them in front of you and internalizing them is quite another. Use the technology of visualization and imagine your goals and future successes as realistically as possible. Let the appropriate emotions arise in order to reinforce the images.

  • truth

    Lies have short legs. Anyone who deceives employees, colleagues, bosses or themselves is constantly busy maintaining the facade and has to spend a large part of their energy on it. However, if you stick to the truth from the start, you can use this energy sensibly and concentrate on your work - with noticeably positive effects on your motivation.

  • X times

    Some tasks can only be accomplished through trial and error. Don't let the umpteenth attempt frustrate you either, but stick to the attitude of Thomas Alva Edison: “You see 100 failures. I see 100 ways that I know won't get there. "

  • aims

    We have already mentioned you several times in our ABC: Without specific goals, motivation cannot be maintained over the long term. Big goals are important, but you should break them down into realistic intermediate goals that you can achieve in the foreseeable future. Otherwise frustration is bound to happen.

366 motivating & inspiring graphics and sayings

You will find even more daily motivation in our free annual calendar with a total of 366 motivating and inspiring images, graphics, sayings and quotes - one for every day. That gives you a good boost of motivation ... You can download the FREE PDF here. (Attention, the file is around 115MB because of the almost 400 pages!)

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May 17, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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