Why Motivating Yourself Matters and How To Do It

How To Motivate Yourself

Image by: Arya Ziai (Flickr)

Before you can lead others to higher results, you must master your own motivation. Learn why motivating yourself matters and six motivation strategies you use today to increase your productivity and satisfaction.

Increasing complexity and the pace of change make it difficult to know if we are making progress. If your work involves knowledge and creativity, our day to day work swings between satisfying and frustrating several times each day. For our purposes, I define motivation as follows:

The (conscious or unconscious) stimulus for action towards a desired goal, esp. as resulting from psychological or social factors; the factors giving purpose or direction to human or animal behaviour…. : the reason a person has for acting in a particular way, a motive.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Why Motivation Matters To Your Productivity

Motivation improves the quality of time spent at work. I can speak from personal experience on this front. On high motivation days, I’m certain that my output is significantly higher. Even better, I also notice that the quality of my contribution increases when I have high motivation. Aside from my experience, here are three other findings showing the cost of low motivation.

  • $300 billion: The annual cost of disengaged employees to the U.S. economy (source: Gallup study reported in The New York Times)
  • 70% of U.S. workers are not reaching their full potential according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report in 2012 (even worse, this figure has not changed significantly since 2000 when Gallup began collecting data).
  • No progress, no motivation. Teresa Amabile Steven J. Kramer reports a compelling relationship between motivation and making meaningful progress in work (source: Harvard Business Review, May 2011).

In addition to these research findings, there is another reason to demonstrate high performance and motivation. Demonstrating high motivation is one way to lead by example, whether or not you have staff reporting to you.

3 Strategies To Build Your Motivation Foundation

Self-knowledge and self-care are fundamental practices that build your motivation. Without this foundation in place, your motivation and productivity will be built on a castle of sand – likely to collapse at the slightest stress.

  • Good sleep habits. Lack of quality sleep progressively slow your ability to function. According to a case study reported in Brain Rules by John J. Medina, prolonged sleep deprivation leads to anxiety, depression and numerous other problems.
  • Understand your career priorities. Over the course of our careers, our career priorities may evolve especially as we achieve goals and obtain new responsibilities.
  • Setting exciting goals for your career and life. Setting exciting goals is one of the best ways to maintain your motivation – a key insight I learned from Michael Hyatt (learn more: The Missing Ingredient in Most Goals). A sense that you are simply drifting through each day will destroy your motivation levels fast.

3 Sources of Motivation To Take You To The Next Level

“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them”  ― Jim Rohn

Once you lay the foundation for motivation, it is time to add to your motivation. In this section, I will cover emphasize intrinsic motivation factors. If there is no intrinsic attraction to your work, it will be difficult to remain engaged. Finally, let’s be clear that the drive for increased compensation is an important and legitimate motivating force. Without further ado, here are three sources of

  • Autonomy

The freedom to shape your day to day actions is an asset. As Daniel Pink explains in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the drive for autonomy is a major economic trend impacting the lives of many people. Autonomy means YOU decide how to achieve a goal. IT also means that you decide how to run your day.

 The drive for autonomy is one reason why many people are attracted to the life of a university professor. It’s also the reason why Google became famous for the 20% rule: encouraging staff to spend 20% of their working time on their own projects.

  • Increased Compensation

Making more money is an important goal. At one level, increased income is a requirement to keep up with increased living costs today (e.g. ) and the need to save and invest for the future. For others, increased compensation means more options – the money to buy what you want when you want it. Increased income also means the capacity to cross items off your bucket list.

  • Mastery

Achieving mastery in work that matters is the Holy Grail of motivation. Achieving mastery tends to bring recognition (though not always in your lifetime!) and increased rewards. As Robert Greene explains in his book Mastery, the path to excellence is a long road that is worth the price. If you have not achieved mastery yet, you may be in the wrong field. Greene shows many examples including noted scientist Michael Faraday who took time to reach mastery.

Next week, we will cover how to motivate others in projects and other environments.

Discussion Question:

What motivation strategies have made the difference for you in reaching your goals?


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10 thoughts on “Why Motivating Yourself Matters and How To Do It

  1. Hi Bruce,

    Enjoyed your post. I agree that autonomy and mastery are important to motivation but increased compensation is not an essential goal in all circumstances. Depending on your initial salary, it’s possible to respond to increased costs of living by simplifying your lifestyle. Also, there are a lot of bucket list goals that require more time rather than more money!

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you for contributing to the discussion!

      You certainly make an excellent point. Income isn’t everything but it is high on my list. Also, I would add that income can be used to obtain more leisure time.


      • Years ago, I worked with a woman who was weighing a job offer from a consulting firm. I asked her what she liked about the new job, and it was all about the challenges and opportunities for growth. I asked what she liked about the current job, and she listed her paid time off, holidays, and flexible hours. “So, the thing you like most about your current job is that you don’t have to do it very often?”

        She took the offer.

        • Dave, that is GREAT summary of the difference.

          I agree that the consulting world has plenty of growth opportunities – that’s one of the best aspects of that industry.