Motivation: Where is that magical “on” button?

How do you motivate yourself to move forward in life? When you get up in the morning and start your day, is it just a routine and the feeling of obligation that makes you do certain things? And what about the BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals)? There are always ups and downs on the way to them and it is only strong motivation that can get you through the valley and on to the uphill road. So where is that magical “on” button for motivation that will help you achieve the best potential in your life? Related to that is also the  question how you can find that “on” button to help your kids move forward and  achieve the best potential in their lives?

Speaking about motivation, we need to first address the very basic question of needs, because needs are at the very core of motivation. There are several ground theories around needs. First theory is the theory of needs formulated by Abraham Maslow in the early 1940s. Quintessence of it is the famous Maslow’s pyramid. The pyramid ranks our needs and allows further drawing conclusions about motivation triggers. There is an Internet meme  nowadays that puts Wi-Fi at the very basis of that pyramid. While meant as a joke it holds a grain of truth, especially given that Wi-Fi translates into connectioninterest and some other intrinsic motivation triggers. The second theory is that of David McClelland. He identified the so-called learned motivators: a need for achievement, a need for affiliation, and a need for power. McClelland claims we all have them, but usually one of the three acts as a dominant motivator. Some other researchers of motivation mention pride, bonding, reward, recognition, appreciation, challenge and so on. Lots of possible motivators, lots of possible “on” buttons, but where does it bring us on the question about how to motivate yourself or your kids?

Let me begin with grown-ups first. I believe that it all starts with knowing yourself and your values. It almost always starts there. Once you know yourself and what is important for you – which things, which feelings, which circumstances – you are also able to understand what drives you. Likewise, once you know yourself you are able to work out counter-actions to things that put you down. To give you an example, I know that if I am able to see a result fast, I am motivated to go for it full force. However, in the majority of cases it is simply not possible to have result fast. Nonetheless, if you know that seeing the result acts as a stimuli, as your “on” button, then it is always possible to split the task at hand, even if just artificially. It is possible to identify certain milestones on the way. It is not going to be the final result, yet reaching another milestone will act as more or less the same motivator to “go for it”. If you are not result-driven, that advice might be useless for you. Then you need to search for something else.

Speaking about counter-actions to things that put you down; let me give you the following example: I know that when I start doing something, working on a new project for instance, I tend to have lots of different, largely crazy and unworkable, ideas. However, for me this is the phase of “dreaming out” a project. What puts me down in this phase is when somebody immediately starts listing all the reasons why it will never work. That’s definitely needed and logically speaking what’s the point of spending time to think about something that’s inherently unworkable? Fair enough. But that’s not what it’s all about! For me the phase of “dreaming out” is more of an inspiration booster, it’s more of a – “allow me to stretch my wings” kinda thing. By the moment it will come to the actual realization of the project, I will most probably eliminate already all these non-workable options. I am not a naive girl after all. However, harshly criticizing from the very start denies me that illogical inspiration I get from “dreaming out”. Knowing that this is important for me, nowadays I keep this starting phase secret or share my ideas only with people of who I am 100% confident that won’t kill them immediately. That’s what happened with launching my blog for example. I kept the phase of “dreaming out” my blog and having all those insane ideas about the content and structure, and even the name, selfishly to myself. That was my counter-action and that allowed me to keep the flame of my motivation “burning”. But once again, it is possible to identify these things only if you know yourself sufficiently well.

Now the difficult part: kids. The obvious advice would be to know your kids. However, this is of course easier said than done. Nonetheless, if you take time and effort to truly get to know your kids (…over and over again…), you will be able to spot which approach resonates with them (…in this particular moment…). It goes without saying that you are only able to understand others if you understood yourself first. Sounds somewhat academically theoretical? True. However, for example, for our daughter I know that at this moment she is motivated by appreciation. If you keep on explicitly admiring her sometimes little achievements (despite the fact that she showed them to you a 1000 times), she tries even harder and these achievements step-by-step become bigger and bigger. Also the need for inclusion acts as an “on” button for her. She gladly cleans up if we are doing it together and I am asking for her help or offering her to join me. Without doubt, these motivators will change with her growing up. Therefore, I come back to the importance of constantly re-discovering you kids.

To conclude, whatever your motivation, your “on” button is, if you want to achieve your dreams you need to find it and actively use it. As famous Zig Ziglar said:

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.



11 thoughts on “Motivation: Where is that magical “on” button?”

  1. I am not a parent, however this is a great post. I am sure that many parents will find it useful.


      1. Apologies. I must’ve misinterpreted the post. Motivating myself and knowing myself has been a project that I have been working on.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s probably a neverending process! 🙂 We grow and change with time, so there is always more to discover even about ourselves and even if we thought we already know ourselves sufficiently well. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with what you wrote. I don’t have kids, but a lot of nephews and nieces. Every child needs another approach.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simply stated. It’s an interesting thing to try to understand what drives you and keeps you motivated in a project. With regards to the “dreaming out” phase, I know that for me, especially when it comes to brainstorming, I *need* to have this hands-off, anything goes approach. Like you said, it’s not a sign of being naive; in many ways, it helps to give inspiration to what’s possible and it forces you to stretch out and understand creative ways of going about a problem (even if you’ll end up doing a much simpler solution).


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