How Motivation happens

Have you ever been reallly motivated to do something?

An interesting experiment was conducted recently where people were asked to pick out films from a selection of what they’d like to watch. 2 conditions were placed upon the subjects. The first time they were asked to choose, they had to pick films they were to watch over the space of a couple of weeks. The second time they were told to pick films they had to watch straight away one after the other.

The results showed that when the subjects had to choose movies to watch over the space of a couple of weeks (creating a future thinking mindset) they picked more hard hittting thought provoking movies, but when they were told to pick movies to watch straight away they chose more light hearted comedy films.

This study highlights a lot about the nature of motivation. Think about it in terms of losing weight. You make a commitment to lose weight and you tell yourself you are going to exercise 3 times a week and eat healthier (hard hitting films that require a bit of thought). However when the moment comes to sticking to that plan you opt for the easier option which is to revert back to the old habits and behaviours that require little thinking (light hearted comedy films that require little thinking).

The word ‘Motivation’ comes from ‘moveo’ which is latin for ‘move’. So motivation is to move and yet in working with clients and through observing people I see people think they can’t move until they get motivation.

How this relates to the study is that doing something requires effort and thought. Any type of change requires even more effort and thought! So here we have people wanting to change:

  • Expecting to be motivated before they act

  • But changing requires thought and effort

  • When motivation isn’t perceived to be present at the moment they feel they need it they revert to a more familiar behaviour that requires no thought or effort (because you’ve done it some many times before).

So based on what has been pointed out, here are some considerations if you find yourself lacking motivation:

 Don’t go looking for motivation because you won’t find it: Motivation is a process that happens outside of your awareness. It is like trying to urinate on demand, it just doesn’t happen!

Once you have established your goal, create a system: This is the building block of habit building. This means an act of repetition needs to be established in order for you to carry on with the behaviour. How do you do this? Map out the sequence of events you want to be motivated to do (leave work, your kit in the car, drive to gym, workout, go home) and then implement it into your daily routine.

Avoid relying on your current mood to determine whether to act: Your mood is affected by so many variables, creating an attachment between how you feel and the decision of whether to act is a bad move. Instead follow a schedule and stick to it.

When you read about people who succeeded, you rarely hear about them waiting for motivation. You rarely hear them say they did what they needed to do during periods of motivation. Thats because motivation comes through the act of doing, not the continued thinking of the act!

 I want to hear from you! When do you feel your most motivated?
Aaron Morton is the creator of The Confidence Lounge. A platform where you can discover how to turn your ideas into reality. Aaron works with individuals who want to earn a side income using the skills and talents they already have or have the confidence to leave their job and go solo. Visit for a more articles and a free ebook ‘How to handle fear’.