How much motivation is in your tank?


By David Joel Miller

Don’t run out of motivation before you reach your destination

Motivation

How much motivation do you have? One mistake we tend to make is to think of motivation as an all or nothing characteristic. It is not true that some people are motivated and others are not. In fact we find that levels of motivation ebb and flow.

If you have ever found yourself driving along a lonely stretch of road and looked down at the gas gauge to see you are getting low, you know the feeling of anxiety that comes with running out of the resource you need to complete your journey.

Motivation is like that gasoline in your tank. None of us has an unlimited supply of motivation and even the most motivate can run out from time to time. The size of our motivation supply may vary but the most successful people also know all the places to stop to refill their motivation.

At the beginning of most novel tasks we can all summon up some motivation. Unfortunately many of us run out of that motivation before we reach our goal.

The way in which your motivation tank gets filled up also makes a difference. Some people are highly self-motivating. They are able to refill their own motivation tank. Others need lots of external motivation.

Students, especially college students are particularly prone to lose motivation. This running out of motivation in your tank has been particularly well studied in college students.

Every year college fills up with hoards of students anxious to get an education and find a new better paying job as a result. They struggle through registration, sometimes standing in lines for hours to add classes that were full. Books are bought and the studying commences. From the long lines and the patience of these students you would be tempted to believe that they were all highly motivated.

But between that first week and the third something happens. Some find they are going to have to work to pay for their tuition, others are tempted away by the immediacy of a job, usually a low paying job but it is a source of income. Some decide that they may want a degree but they don’t want to attend classes or do homework. At this point students are starting to disappear.

By the semester midpoint the class has shrunk. Those students who remain are in for the duration. Dropping a class is no longer an option. This group looks like a highly motivated class. Then something happens.

We find that even the most motivated students begin to slack off.  It is difficult if not impossible to hold that same level of motivation for a full semester. The effective students do their papers early while there is still some motivation in their tank.

Over breaks some students do things that are positive they rest and replenish their motivation. They will return towards the end of the semester ready to jump in and run the distance to finals. A few students never get their motivation back. The process repeats semester after semester. Some students are able to get refueled on motivation enough times to reach the finish line.

Something else also happens here. Frequently we see a decline in motivation within the same student from semester to semester.  At the onset they are motivated by wanting to master their subject and become proficient in their future occupation. By the last semester in school many students are now motivated only to do what is needed to finish school and get that degree.

A significant number of students complete the degree so devoid of motivation, so tired of their field of study that they may never work in that field. 

There are two takeaways here. If you want to keep up you motivation to accomplish something, you need to be able to break that task up into sections so that you can reward yourself for completing each section. You need to find ways to replenish your motivation. The other thing you need to be sure of is that you have looked down the road sufficiently to be sure that if you keep up this motivation when you get to the goal you will really be in a place that makes you happy.

Let’s see what else we can do this mount to crank up our motivation. Anything that especially motivates you over the long haul? Care to share about that motivation?

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com

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2 thoughts on “How much motivation is in your tank?

  1. I find that I need to touch base with those who believe in me and in what I am capable of doing with my life. It can be a difficult cycle: I get discouraged and withdraw, and need the interaction with my ‘cheerleaders’, but I am too discouraged and withdrawn to ask for what I need. Sometimes I just need to screw up the courage to ask them to meet for lunch and mutual encouragement. It’s best if we make plans for the next meeup while we are still out together.

  2. Pingback: Motivational March | counselorssoapbox

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