Most of us have an instinctive concept of motivation based on our own experience. We know what it feels like when we’re motivated, full of crackling energy and eager to get things done. We’re also familiar with the slothful malaise that covers us when we’re unmotivated.
But what exactly is motivation and why is it so important to us?
At a high level, motivation is a combination of biological, social, cognitive, and emotional forces that lead us to perform particular actions. It’s important to note that motivation can’t be boiled down to a single factor. Rather, it’s the result of the complex interplay between a variety of factors.
The important implication is that the more we can bring these factors into alignment with one another, the more motivated we’ll be.
When our biology, emotions, thinking, and social understanding are all pointed in the same direction, we’re motivated to take action.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to write a paper for a college class. If you’re sick or tired (biology), your motivation will be low, but if you’re robustly healthy, you’ll be much more enthusiastic about writing the paper. If you don’t care about the teacher or the class (social), you won’t care much about getting the paper done. On the other hand, if you respect the teacher and want to do well in the class, your motivation levels will increase.
Starting to see the big picture? One of the keys to being more motivated is harnessing all the motivational forces together to point you in a single direction. You can almost think of it like an equation:
Biology + Social Forces + Cognition + Emotion = Motivation