Motivation is directed by positive emotion. Motivation propels us towards something rather than holding us back.
If there is a positive expectation for the outcome of what we are doing, then that expectation will motivate us towards it.
If we experience anxiety, anger or other negative expectations, then this will maintain and increase stress levels, which, if unchecked, will in turn interfere with the positive elements of the expectation, often by distorting or deleting those positive elements.
What is it we want to achieve? Is it motivation we lack when feeling lacklustre about a Monday morning or a particular task? Or is it something else? Are we tired? What is going on in the rest of our lives?
If we think of our life as a hammock with strings on either side supporting it – each of those strings representing status, competence, achievement, privacy, a sense of volition, autonomy, a safe and secure environment, connection with the wider community, social connection, and a close connection with a friend or partner or family member – is there any particular aspect which is lacking or at low levels? If so, this will be causing background stress, because the emotional brain will be telling us that something in our life is out of balance and reducing our capacity for motivation and for building positive expectations. From time to time, we need to step back to have a calm look at what is actually going on and to address things which may be out of kilter; this way, we can get back our balance. Sometimes we can become so caught up in what we are doing that we don’t spend the time to reflect on the bigger picture.
A client who had been finding work difficult and who had been sleeping badly told me recently that as she went into the kitchen one evening, she saw a packet of biscuits and was overcome with hunger for them. She could think of nothing else but to wolf down the lot. She paused for a moment, however, and asked herself – what was it she was actually hungry for? She concluded that she was hungry for sleep. She left the biscuits, had an early night, slept soundly and woke up refreshed in the morning, ready for whatever the day had to throw at her. Her mind-set motivated her to refocus her desires.
Might the real problem be that our motivation is reduced because we are scared of getting things wrong or not doing a good enough job – or, on the flip side, of raising the bar of perfectionism so high that it is too daunting to embark on or finish something? These emotions, too, can hold us back. It is really important to build a detailed picture of what it is that we want. Without the detail, it is a tough mission for the mind to mobilise its resources to bring about what you want to achieve. So, to break down the barriers to feeling positive and motivated, we need to be really specific in building the necessary positive expectations and also identifying any skills that we might need to help us get what we want. Then, of course, if we do need certain skills, we must then do something about acquiring them!