I am sure I am not the only one who has struggled at times this year with motivation levels. I know that our learners certainly have!!
So what is motivation? How can we improve it? Should we try and artificially stimulate it?
Most motivation is something inherent within us. We respond to conditioning: Rather like Pavlov’s famous salivating canine.
Some of us are conditioned to respond to praise. We seek external gratification and validation and are therefore motivated to repeat actions that lead to us receiving this outcome. The majority of humans respond positively to external rewards BUT we can become complacent and even DEmotivated if that reward is easily achieved. There is then no requirement for us to “push” or work harder to receive the desired outcome.
Some of us respond to the school of tough love. Usually, this is because we have been taught by early childhood experiences to avoid repercussions or negative outcomes by improving performance. Fear can be a motivational weapon: yes, I say weapon because alongside fear comes cortisol and unwanted health implications.
Some are naturally competitive and this certainly ties in with the survival of the fittest theory to a large extent. The success of this motivational model relies on one very important factor though: are we competing against others? Or ourselves?
Invidious comparison can create a demotivational state of mind. When we see others “beat” us it can devalue our own successes.
Healthy self-competition is a great motivational strategy though and this is used by athletes the world over to make sure they are always performing at their very best.
So, why are we so demotivated this year?
There are so many reasons:
⁃ Future focus. It is hard to be motivated when the future feels uncertain. The impetus and importance of what we are working towards seems lacking.
⁃ Bigger picture. Sometimes life has other plans. It is difficult to remain focused on something when the world is in crisis around you. Sometimes previous “goals” seem smaller in comparison.
⁃ Routine changes. Being motivated by something requires you to care about the same things you always have. When our routine changes so does our mindset. It can be hard to refocus.
⁃ Meaning and purpose. During times of crisis and grief, we naturally question our existence. We question the fundamental respects of humanity. We ask “why?” And sometimes this can highlight the fact that we aren’t entirely certain what the reason for our goals or work is.
⁃ Pace. One of the greatest positives to come from COVID-19 is the slowing down of our hectic lifestyles. Not for everyone, but for many. This means that some are now finding it a struggle to work with the same urgency and pressure as before.
So what can we do?
I suppose it is a personal choice. We can recondition, reaffirm and reinforce. Or we can choose to think about why we have been demotivated and ask if it is a temporary thing or if something genuinely needs to change.
Either way, a lack of motivation is not a crime. It is normal, functional, and human and we should be forgiving of ourselves and others during this ongoing difficult time.