Motivation Is More Than Willpower
I can’t say it in Tony Robbins voice, but I can hear it in his deep, growly voice- “You have the power within you.” You really do. We all have the power within us to live the lives we want.
Intro over Music: Welcome to An Owner’s Guide for Your Life, the podcast that combines psychology, coaching, common sense and fun. I’m Tracey Browning, an entrepreneur, life coach and lover of people. Now let’s talk about how to live, love, make money and change the world.
Hey, I’m glad you’re here. This is episode 13, and we’re going to keep talking about motivation.
What motivates you? Why do we do the things that we do or why don’t we do the things that we want to do? Motivation is so important, and most people think motivation is willpower. It’s deeper. It’s bigger. It’s broader. It’s more than willpower. There’s a lot of reasons why we’re doing or not doing.
Last week, I challenged you to look at the things you’re doing and look at why you’re doing them. Think through your reasons why. I have an example in my own life. I did, I did what I challenged you to do. I looked at why I was doing what I’m doing.
In my family, I am the leftover queen- I freely admit it. I will eat leftovers until they’re gone. And there’s more than one reason why I do it.
One, I’m a really good cook, so I like to eat my food. It’s good food. Usually it’s pretty good. Sometimes I’m a little off, but I’m a really good cook.
Now, two, I have leftovers for lunch every day of the week. It’s convenient. I don’t have to go get something new or fix something from scratch. I’ve got leftovers, very convenient.
There’s a big reason that kind of snuck up on me. I value being thrifty. Thrifty’s just kind of the best word. I want to be a good steward of everything I have, a good steward of my food and my time and my energy and my money. So by eating my leftovers, I feel really good about being a good steward. And I like that feeling so much that I am willing to eat chicken and some random salad for four days in a row without complaint, because I really like to have that feeling of knowing I’m a good steward. I value it.
So my motivation for eating leftovers. Yeah, it’s convenient. For the most part, it’s good food, but it gives me that good feeling. I’ve been thrifty.
So I imagine that if you look in your own life, you see instances of that. What are you valuing? What’s important to you? It’s more than willpower, because willpower is more like when you’re faced with something and you’ve got to get it done. So you just power through and you’re white knuckling it to get it done. And maybe you value it, maybe you don’t. Willpower can only take you so far in life. But when you’re looking at what really motivates you, why you’re doing the things you’re doing. That’s where it really gets interesting.
I had asked this question on my Facebook page the other week- Where do you think people most struggle with motivation? And first I want to say, oh, my goodness, I am surrounded by such creative, thoughtful, and insightful people in my Facebook world. I really appreciate y’all.
There was a lot of discussion about where do you struggle. A lot of funny responses too, oh, hey, my biggest struggle is between the couch and the front door. Well, there’s a lot of truth to that. You’re in the “I’ve got it in my head. I want to do it, how do I get into action?”
Here’s the thing that most people just completely miss out on. You’re just not ready for all the BS that your brain is going to throw at you when you want to make a change, or you want to do something different, to get up from the couch, to go out the front door, to walk the dog, or take a run or ride your bike. Whatever it is- to get up off the couch and do something instead of watching TV. Whatever. Your brain is going to give you a lot of grief.
Change is hard, you know. You know, a body in motion tends to remain in motion. A body at rest remains at rest. It works in physics. It works the same in your brain.
Now, our brains don’t like to change. Our brains are energy efficient. So when we start to do something different, our brain’s just gonna start. You know, we’re gonna have this little chatter in our head of, “Wait a minute. Oh, no, no, no, no. We’re not doing that.”
Oh, and your brain’s gonna offer you reasons why you should not do that. Why you shouldn’t make the change. You’re probably gonna fail. Anyway, there’s a lot of negative self talk that can very quickly ratchet up and just keep you sitting on the couch.
So how do you get past that? How do you get started? Oh, there’s so many things you can do. First is understand that it is possible, and that’s where some people just completely miss out on it because they don’t understand that it’s possible to make a change to decide. Hey, I want that. I value that more than I value this, and we’ll just keep on. I get off the couch and go out the front door. I want to be a person of action. So think about why. Why is it important to you?
One of the things I value in my life is I want to be physically strong. I decided a couple of years ago I just wasn’t going to worry about my weight. My weight is not my driver, but I want to be strong. I want to be healthy. So that guides me in my food decisions and then my exercise decisions. And it’s become something that’s important to me. So I weigh that I’m motivated by that when I make choices. No, I don’t always make the best choices. But overall, I’m guided by that motivation of wanting to be strong and wanting to be healthy.
I’ve done things in my own life, and I’ve taught other people how to do these things, too, to set yourself up for success, to think through the thing you want to do, get your system in place, get your support system in place, set your environment up so you succeed.
You’re more apt to succeed by taking a small first step. I’ve done this with my exercise practice. My friend Karen has done this with her cycling practice. She has cycled, she’s got an indoor cycle and she has cycled for, oh, gosh, hundreds of days in a row now. And when she started out, she was really overwhelmed thinking, oh, gosh, I’d love to be able to do it, but I don’t know if I can. So she started out thinking, “I’m just going to get on my cycle and cycle for two minutes. That’s all. Two minutes. That is all. I’m gonna do it every day.” And she would get on and she’d start to cycle. And there was not a day that she didn’t do less than 20 minutes of cycling. But just that getting her body in motion, that first small step.
But if you’re still sitting on the couch thinking, ”It’s hard. I’m probably not going to be able to do it anyway.” And you’re listening to your negative self talk. And you don’t have good examples of what really is possible and how to set yourself up to succeed. You’re going to keep sitting on the couch. It’s easier. You’re not changing, it’s comfortable. It’s the routine, your brain’s happy, your body’s happy. You’re just kind of sitting there.
If you’ve studied any psychology at all, you’ve probably heard the words intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. All that means is that intrinsic means it’s an internal motivation. You’re doing something for the sheer pleasure of it just because you like it. And if you have an external or an extrinsic motivation, you’re doing something for a reward, like getting paid for a job.
So just kind of bearing in mind the differences between an internal motivation and an external motivation. Which one do you think is going to help you power through and be more in line with what matters to you? Well, if you’re intrinsically motivated to do something, you’re just wrapped up in it for the sheer pleasure of it. It’s not hard at all to do something that you love to do, right? So it makes sense that intrinsic motivation is kind of going to carry you farther with what you do.
There have been so many studies in the field of psychology and economics even with looking at the different kinds of motivation. There’s one study I want to share with you real quick that was a study of over 14 years. They looked at West Point cadets, and I’ve got a special place in my heart for West Point. My father is a West Point graduate, so I love my dad and it’s cool to be able to share this.
So anyway, they looked at over ten thousand cadets over 14 years at West Point, and they were looking to see the impact of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. And the way they looked at it was, were these cadets coming in, looking at their West Point career and their five year army commitment afterwards- Did they look at it as a job, a career or a calling? And if they looked at it as a calling, that was deemed to be an intrinsic motivation.
What the study showed in real life out in the field, not in a lab, what it showed was that intrinsically motivated cadets got promoted more quickly. They lasted longer. It was like a 20% increase, I think it was on that one.
And those who were more extrinsically motivated, who were just seeing their West Point education as a job or just let me get my education and do my service minimum and get out. They didn’t tend to get promoted as quickly. They weren’t as satisfied. So it was really interesting to see that.
Now, if you think about it, we don’t need studies to show us that. We see that every day in our lives, right? That when we love something, when it matters to us, when we value it, it’s easy. We’re satisfied. We want to hang in there with it. Sometimes we have to work to convince our brains of that and to set ourselves up to succeed.
I believe we all have the power within us to do the things we want to do, to live the life that we want to live, to change the world, in the ways that we want to change the world. And it doesn’t matter how smart you are, how driven you are, how successful you are. Sometimes you need someone to sit with you to hear you out, to give a fresh perspective, to help you figure these things out. That’s part of what I want to do with this podcast. But that’s also what I do with my clients. Sometimes you just need that extra coaching to get you where you want to be.
I can’t say it in Tony Robbins voice, but I can hear it in his deep, growly voice. “You have the power within you.”
You really do. We all have the power within us to live the lives we want. So let’s go do it. Let’s live, love, make money and change the world.
Now let’s go live, love, make some money and change the world!