We might feel motivated to do lots of things - laze on the beach, eat chocolate, or drink champagne, but when we think of motivation most of us mean the motivation to achieve. Whether we want the motivation to make millions of dollars, to lose weight, stop smoking, save money, or apply for a promotion, what we actually want to do is achieve some goal. Motivation is all about accomplishment, performance, action, deeds, and following something through to completion.

Human beings are generally motivated to gain mastery over our world, to explore, to develop competence and to achieve. Yet individuals differ greatly in their need or desire to accomplish things and to excel. Some people have little interest in anything more than getting by, while others have moderate levels of achievement motivation, and some others are highly success motivated.

A lack of motivation can come from:

  1. A naturally low level of achievement motivation due to innate temperament and personality.
  2. A childhood upbringing where achievement and success were not encouraged or were even frowned upon. Many girls for example, were taught not to compete or strive because it was ‘unladylike’ and a turn off for males, and many parents give the impression it is ‘uppity’ or conceited if children try to do better in life than the parents.
  3. A childhood upbringing where parents ’spoiled’ the child by doing everything for them and giving them whatever they wanted. The child never learned independence or how to plan and work for what they want.
  4. Low levels of physical energy due to illness or overwork.
  5. Low emotional energy caused by burnout, dissatisfaction, depression, stress, or relationship conflicts.
  6. Lack of external support or even active discouragement. If those around us belittle our goals or our ability to reach them it is much harder to find enthusiasm for them.
  7. External distractions, demanding commitments or responsibilities.
  8. Internal barriers such as fear and limiting beliefs.

Motivation is a process that prompts, directs, and sustains behaviour toward achieving a specific goal. Studies of high achievers and elite athletes, people with high levels of achievement motivation, show that:

  • they believe in their success more than they fear failure.
  • they are persistent and determined.
  • material gain is not always the main reward. Often the satisfaction of performing well is enough.
  • they are moderate risk takers, that is, they avoid things that are too easy because there is no satisfaction in them as well as things that are unlikely to succeed or need luck to do so.
  • they take personal responsibility for their success or failure and learn from their failures.
  • drive and determination are often more important to success than talent, intelligence, or privilege.
  • they are able to concentrate intensely and focus on their goals.
  • they have a realistic estimation of their abilities and a healthy level of self-confidence.
  • they can tolerate demanding and stressful situations.
  • they set reasonable and realistic goals and work systematically toward them.
  • their approach is balanced - they don’t push themselves too hard so that they don’t burn out, nor do they lose interest in other areas of their lives.
  • they have control over their emotions.

But what do we do