A Simple Motivation Equation

Here is a simple equation for motivation that I learned about in the book, Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. It goes like this:

Motivation = reasons to give/sustain effort - reasons to not give (or reduce) effort

I like this equation because it is easy to understand and because it can be a great tool to increase your motivation.

To make this motivation equation even easier to understand, think of a scale. Your level of motivation is determined by which side of the scale outweighs the other. If your reasons to give/sustain effort outweigh your reasons to not give (or reduce) effort, then you'll have the motivation to give/sustain effort. The more this side of the scale outweighs the other, the more motivation you'll have. But on the other hand, if your reasons to not give (or reduce) effort outweigh your reasons to give/sustain effort, you won't have the motivation to give/sustain effort. The more this side of the scale outweighs the other, the less motivation you'll have.

Now if you want to increase your motivation, all you need to do is examine this motivation equation inside of you, and try your best to strengthen your reasons to give/sustain effort and weaken your reasons to not give (or reduce) effort.

Here are some ways to strengthen your reasons to give/sustain effort:
  • Think deeply about a good reason to give/sustain effort. For example, to motivate yourself to wake up early to exercise, think deeply about your desire to win a championship. Don't just acknowledge the fact that you desire to win a championship. Think deeply about what it means to you, visualize reaching your goal, and think about how waking up early to exercise will help you reach your goal.
  • Think about a wide variety of reasons to give/sustain effort. For example, you can think about your desire to improve, to win, to have fun, to help your team, and to support your family. When you realize that there are many reasons to give effort, your motivation will increase. The most motivated athletes have a wide variety of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Together, all these different motivations add up to provide a lot of "fuel."
  • Increase your self-confidence. The more you increase your self-confidence, the more your effort will feel worth it. If you don't believe you can accomplish your goals, you'll be less likely to give effort because you won't feel like it's worth it. You can increase your self-confidence by improving your skills, improving your self-talk, or by breaking your biggest goals into small, attainable sub-goals.
  • Surround yourself with other motivated people. It's much easier to maintain motivation when you have others to inspire you and push you to keep working hard.
Here are some ways to weaken your reasons to not give (or reduce) effort:
  • Challenge and defeat your excuses, justifications, and rationalizations. When we lack motivation to give effort, it's often because we have excuses, justifications, and rationalizations. If you want to increase your motivation, you need to challenge and defeat these negative thoughts. When you notice yourself making excuses and justifying your laziness, you need to examine these excuses and find ways to defeat them with positivity, logic, and facts. For example, if you're telling yourself that you don't have enough time to exercise in the morning, you can defeat this excuse by acknowledging the fact that you could improve your time management skills to make more time for exercise.
  • Put yourself in a better environment. Another big reason why we lack motivation at times is because we're surrounded by temptations and distractions. For example, it's hard to build the motivation to study if you have easy access to videogames/netflix/twitter. It's much easier to build motivation if you put yourself in a better environment with less temptations and distractions.
  • Improve your sleep, diet, and recovery. Many times we lack motivation because we feel too sluggish, tired, or sore. These physical sensations can discourage us from putting in effort towards our goals. If we feel that we don't have the energy to work hard, we are more likely to be lazy. This is why it's important to sleep well, eat healthy, and take care of our bodies in general. The more refreshed and energized we feel, the easier it is to motivate ourselves to work hard.
  • Improve your habits. When we first start some type of routine such as exercising in the morning or meditating at night, it feels difficult and uncomfortable. But the more you do your routines, the more you get used to them. After a while, they begin to feel easier or even habitual. This is why improving our habits and being consistent greatly helps increase our motivation.
  • Improve your concentration and willpower. Your reasons to not give effort can only hurt your motivation if you are consciously or subconsciously thinking about them. This is why concentration is important. The more you concentrate on the task at hand, the less likely your mind will wander and begin looking for reasons to give up or reduce effort. The mentally toughest athletes are able to maintain their motivation because they're good at blocking out distractions and staying focused on the task at hand.
As you can see, there are many different ways to strengthen your reasons to give effort and weaken your reasons to not give effort. Since every athlete is different, every athlete has their own set of strategies that best helps improve their motivation. But for every athlete, the equation remains the same. If you want to improve your motivation, examine your mindset and find ways to tip your motivational scale in a positive direction!

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