How to Use the Theories of Motivation
Have you ever wondered why you are motivated in some instances and not in others? More importantly, have you considered what effect this has on your life in general? The theories of motivation can help explain all of this.
Research has revealed numerous theories of motivation and motivating factors. They all have their merits and can work especially well as a mix. But what is motivation really, and what effect does this have on the reality we create for ourselves?
generally includes an experience of desire or aversion. This means we either desire something we want, or we have the desire to avoid something. This motivates people in certain directions.
This explains why we might find it easy to take action on some things and procrastinate on others. As you likely know, procrastination can really cause us to get in our own way.
Take a look at this TED Talk, where Dan Pink explains how motivation affects us all.
Here are three of the most useful theories of motivation to help you stay motivated with anything you set your mind to.
1. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory
In 1968 Edward E. Locke published his groundbreaking Goal Setting Theory.
It has been some 50 years since the first goal-setting experiments were conducted and 28 years since the first statement of the theory.
Certainly, in my own personal experience and working with clients, goal setting has been a powerful motivator. When we have a goal that we desire, it motivates us to move towards it. This makes us more focused and less inclined to procrastinate.
Here’s the thing though: goal-setting only works effectively when certain criteria are met, so it’s essential to know what those criteria are.
Here are the important elements of Locke’s theory:
Goals Must Be Challenging and Attainable
If a goal is too easy or perceived as too difficult, we will lack motivation. This means goals must be both realistic and stretch us a little.
Goals Must Be Specific and Measurable
This gives us a much clearer direction and helps us measure progress as we reach milestones.
Commitment to the Goal
A firm decision must be made to commit to the goal. If there is no commitment, it will be easy to avoid putting in the effort.
His suggested strategies to achieve this could include participation in the goal-setting process, the use of extrinsic rewards (bonuses), and encouraging intrinsic motivation through providing feedback about goal attainment.
Support elements need to be provided. For example, encouragement, needed materials and resources, and moral support can be included.
Goals need to be quantifiable, and there needs to be feedback.
These criteria are mainly designed for the workplace and are effective as a member of a team. But what about working alone?
USING LOCKE’S THEORY WHEN YOU WORK ALONE
The SMART model contains important criteria, which relate to Locke’s theory. This model will help you write a good goal statement.
SMART is an acronym and means making goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed-bound.
Commitment can also be a challenge when working on goals alone. Because of this, it’s important to find some way to hold yourself accountable when using the theories of motivation.
A good way to do this is to confide your goal in a trusted friend and ask for accountability. If you are feeling very brave, you could even announce it on social media or to coworkers in your work environment.
If you have a high need for achievement, setting up your own reward system can act as an external motivator. However, a reward you will receive in 12 months time may not be enough to drive you.
A reward system works best when your goals are broken down into shorter-term goals and you need extrinsic motivation. Giving yourself a reward at each milestone will give you a sense of achievement earlier, and this creates more desire.
If you need help coming up with some useful rewards and punishments to achieve your goals, this article may be able to help.
One of the elements of a well-formed goal is that you must have the required resources or a way of obtaining them. If you set a goal without these essential elements, you can often find motivation is lacking.
Resources can include physical materials, information, and people.
If you have confided your goal with a trusted friend, also ask that friend for support and encouragement. Identify where you may need training, and seek out a course or the support of a mentor or coach. Do your own research to make sure these vital resources are available to you before setting your goal.
Feedback is another essential element that could be a problem when working alone because feedback is often received from others.
If our results disappoint us, then we receive essential feedback that we need to change something.
Regular reflection is an effective way to receive feedback and look at what needs to change. When this process is utilized in a positive way, it has the potential to positively impact the first of these three theories of motivation.
2. McClelland’s Achievement and Required Needs Theory
David McClelland wrote about his theory of motivation in his book The Achieving Society in 1961. It explains why certain individuals are more motivated to achieve than others.
This theory is based on two psychological principles: the motive of an individual to achieve success, and the motive of an individual to avoid failure.
Some people have an intense desire to succeed and are more motivated to move towards what they want. This means they will take action, even if they are attempting something challenging.
Others are afraid of failure and so are more motivated to move away from what they don’t want. This means they will procrastinate on doing challenging things where there is a risk of failure. They are less inclined to set goals for the same reason.
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION OF PAIN
When you know that you avoid pain, it gives you the power to work with it by using the theories of motivation. You can do this quite simply by turning your perception of pain around.
If you are resisting a step that will help you achieve something, explore why you are procrastinating. Ask yourself what you are afraid of.
Place yourself in the future and imagine what will happen if you don’t take the step. Notice how it will impact your goal negatively. Imagine how you will feel when you don’t achieve it and notice how painful that will be.
Now create pleasure around the thing you have been avoiding. Imagine how much closer that will bring you to achieving your goal, and notice how you will feel as you celebrate the achievement.
This change tool has been extremely effective with a number of my clients. As you use it, you will notice your procrastination morphing into motivation.
3. Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory
This theory was first proposed by American Psychologist Clark Hull in 1943. It centers round the premise that humans are motivated to take action where there are disturbances to homeostasis.
Homeostasis means to maintain stability and stay the same, referring to our overall health. This is a natural tendency, but we can use the theories of motivation to overcome the resistance it generates.
Many things in our external environment can affect our overall health. This includes our ability to put food on our table, a roof over our head, and money that enables us to provide those things. If our stability is threatened in any way, we are more inclined to take action. This also means that if we feel our stability is threatened by taking action, we will do nothing.
I see this theory play out a lot with business owners. They avoid things they feel uncomfortable doing, like networking or follow-up calls — at least until their income levels drop. When this happens, they find the motivation they had been lacking and pull out all stops.