Being motivated does not have to be something that we wait to happen to us.
We can learn to motivate ourselves — if we are intentional about it, and if we practice keeping our pride and our humility in balance.
Consider this excerpt from the book Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg:
That’s when self-motivation flourishes: when we realize that replying to an email, or helping a co-worker, on its own, might be relatively unimportant. But it is part of a bigger project that we believe in, that we want to achieve, that we have chosen to do.
Self-motivation, in other words, is a choice we make because it is part of something bigger and more emotionally rewarding than the immediate task that needs doing.
That last sentence is primility through and through.
Consider the first part: a choice we make …
We human beings are not motivated, at least not in the long-term, by being told what to do. We are motivated by making our own choices from a set of reasonable options. When we choose, we are motivated see that choice through and make it a successful.
This is our pride. And it’s an essential element of self-motivation.
Now consider the second part: because it is part of something bigger and more emotionally rewarding than the immediate task that needs doing.
Humility is, by definition, a modest or low view of one’s own importance. Those words can have a negative twinge to them, but they don’t need to. Humility simply means viewing ourselves as part of something bigger and much greater than ourselves.
When it comes to self-motivation, this means linking the choice that we made (pride) with something bigger than the immediate task our choice will lead us to doing, or whatever benefit we might individually derive from the action (humility).
The doing of said task may or may not have independent value, but what really matters is that it has value above outside of ourselves and above and beyond its specific output or the time invested to complete it.
Duhigg spends a large part of the beginning of his book breaking down this idea (though, of course, not using our terms of pride and humility to describe it). As science provides more and more evidence about how self-motivation works, we are learning more about the impact of choices. But not just any choices, choices that contribute to some kind of bigger, greater good.
This is a fundamental concept of primility.
If I don’t take pride in my own choices, and my own ability to contribute something meaningful, then my excess humility will only lead me to meekness, feelings of inadequacy, and, ultimately, inaction. In other words, no internal motivation to do … anything.
But if I don’t balance that feeling of pride with humility, then the choices I make will be driven by narcissism. These choices will be focused on benefitting me rather than for the purpose of contributing to something bigger and greater than myself.
Ultimately, this can lead to a lack of self-motivation as well, because if I only care about myself, in this moment, I allow for laziness and vice to replace meaningful self-motivation.
In what area of your life have you been struggling with self-motivation?
What choice can you make that will give you a feeling of control while also leading to an action that will create some benefit outside of yourself?
Make that choice today. See if helps propel you forward.
Be better now.
I am not done with Duhigg’s book yet, but I am quite enjoying it. I’m currently listening to the audiobook version, but I plan to get the hard copy as well for reference.
Here are links to get the book for yourself (each link is an affiliate link):