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Increasing Your Motivation: 2 Sources and 6 Techniques To Up Your Energy

If achieve anything great, we much learn how to increase our self-motivation. For if we can’t increase intrinsic motivation, we will surely give up before even trying.

By Murray Johannsen. Comments? Feel free to connect with the author via this website, Linkedin profile, or by email.

Dare To Be Great

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” – Kennedy Family Motto

“Fall seven times and stand up eight”– Japanese Proverb

Want to Learn About Resilience?

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Motivational Quotes

“Invisible doesn’t mean unimportant.” — Seth Godin

“Kites rise against, not with the wind. No man has ever worked his passage anywhere in a dead calm.” — John Neal; Source: The Forbes Book of Business Quotations

“This easy enough to be pleasant, when life flows like a song. But the man worthwhile is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox; Source: Treasury of Women’s Quotations

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.; Source: The Book of Positive Quotations

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” —Vince Lombardi.

Two Empowering Sources To Access Self-Motivation

Essentially, motivation means that we are driven from the inside. There are five major drivers of this. The first is Ego.

Motivation Source 1: Your Ego

Image by: Monica Yañez

One may be driven due to In English, the language is driven by the word self—self motivated, self achiever, self driven, and so on.

And nowhere does this get more heated, than the issue of pay. Do people primarily work because they are getting paid or due to intrinsic factors such as recognition or challenge? The simple answer might be that some don’t care that much about money and others care a great deal about it.

Another variable is hard work. Some people believe in the relationship between hard work and success. But not all.

Should You be a Slacker? There is always tension between the employee and the employer. The employer expects you to work 60 hours and pays you for 40; while you might prefer a job where you get paid for 40 but work 20. So how do you get ahead with minimal effort? Check out these must-know dodgy techniques from the Economist.

Motivation Source 2: Your Unconscious

What most people don’t realize is that the unconscious has a motivational force. It influences your behavior without you knowing that you have been influenced. Many psychologists believe that most behaviors actually run automatically, without conscious awareness.

After all, where did that impulse to have another piece of pie come from? What stopped you from doing what you know you must do. Procrastinating again? What caused that? Most would say, “ I don’t know.” Indeed the Ego does not know but it should know. Worrying huh.

Of course, unconscious motivation can work in our favor as well. And that is what makes it so interesting. You can set up motivational tendencies to do positive things as well. Essentially, that is what a hypnotist do, they plant a suggestion into the unconscious, one that has motivational force. After all, where did that love of learning come from? The drive to shop until you drop? The need to do your personal best?

View An Overview of Unconscious Motivation on a  Slide Desk

Actually, this overview on unconscious motivation tends to be a bit Freudian, though, so be prepared. This is appropriate since Freud was the person who “discovered” the unconscious.

Self-Motivation Techniques

There are many ways to motivate yourself. It’s one of those skills — nobody teaches in college but it should have been taught in 6th grade. For example, goal setting is supposed to be important — but for a lot of people — most people — it just doesn’t work. Few individuals are self-motivated truly to work towards a goal.

This raises an interesting question. One that goes, “What Makes Some People So Motivated and Self-Controlled?” This is a bit of a mystery but much is known (6 Proven Self-Motivation Techniques To Reach Any Goal).

For example, perhaps you might:

  • Make it fun
  • Create empowering beliefs (and change limiting ones)
  • Model others
  • Visualize the end result 
  • Get feedback & track your progress
  • Surround yourself the highly motivated
  • Read motivational books
  • Journal your ‘Why’
  • Use affirmations
  • Strive for perfection (but be kind when you fail to make it)

For example, in the article, “27 Smart and Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself” there are many, many techniques. Some work, most don’t.

However, the techniques below generally work; but only if you know how to use them properly.

1. Willpower: A Skill Element Powering Skills

“Skill is nil without will.”— Judah ibn Tibbon, c. 1120-c.1190 Spanish physician and translator, A Father’s Admonition to His Son

Willpower is another key component of the motivational puzzle. Some have an extreme amount of it. Others don’t. Where it comes from is a bit of a mystery, but it seems like the energy the Ego puts out. We are all familiar with lifting weights, an activity that surely requires this type of energy. So does learning any skill.

Some behaviors are driven primarily because the person who will just succeed, it seems that willpower is associated with the ego and just closely related to the idea of overcoming problems, adversity and showing perseverance or resilience in the face of adversity. This is related to your ability to overcome your own doubts and is related to the old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going. “

Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was Governor of California

Someone who exemplifies the idea of the use of Will would be the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not only was he a well thought of politician, but he also has made quite a lot of money with the movies he started. However, before the movies, he was a bodybuilder. Every day he had to spend many hours lifting weights most likely hundreds of hours ultimately, this dedication resulting in him winning the Mr. Universe title at the age of 20. (Wikipedia, ND)

Ego Depletion. It is often true, that we don’t have as much willpower as we might wish. In other words, we lack self-control. The term in play in psychology is Ego depletion. In effect, you don’t have enough. It’s like you are in a can’t resist that impulse, the urge even though you know you shouldn’t.

Let’s assume that you feel hungry. This is a big assumption in most of the developed world given the fact that you are socialized into eating three or four big meals a day whether you are hungry or not. But let’s assume that a feeling of being hungry comes up. You could eat that snack sitting on the counter but you are also carrying a bit too much weight. How many of us can resist? The fact that you cannot is partly explained by the concept of Ego depletion, where you cannot marshall the motivational force to resist an impulse.

2. Consequences

For example, you can tie a psychological, tangible, or symbolic reward to progress. But if something was not learned or you did not practice, you deny yourself that reward.

Let’s say you set an objective to get on it for five hours of practice next week. If you make it, you will reward yourself with your favorite dessert. Yup, so delicious you start to salivate as you see it in your mind’s eye. Yummy. But let’s say you only practice for 4.5 hours. Be self-disciplined enough to deny yourself that desert. Can you do it?

3. Self-Talk

Great athletes talk about “psyching themselves up” by using self-talk and guided imagery to attain peak performance. Actually, our ability to use self-talk to give us a few “attaboys” or “attagirl’s” is even more important than the deserts of life.

4. Learn Need For Achievement

“A backwoods farmer, sitting on the steps of his tumbledown shack, was approached by a stranger who stopped for a drink of water. “How’s your wheat coming along?” asked the stranger. “Didn’t plant none.” “Really? I thought this was good wheat country.” “Afraid it wouldn’t rain.” “Oh. Well, how’s your corn crop?” “Ain’t got none,” said the farmer. “Didn’t you plant any corn, either?” “Nope. Afraid of corn blight.” “For heaven’s sake,” said the stranger. “What did you plant?” “Nothin’,” said the farmer. “I just played it safe.” — The Best of Bits & Pieces, The Economics Press, Fairfield, NJ

McClelland felt that certain needs are not preprogrammed into the body via the genes, but learned from the environment.  This means we can teach the need for achievement, something associated with success in various fields of endeavor. It’s believed, for example, that it is one of the primary motive forces driving entrepreneurs to start a business.

5. Increase Resilience

For relevant learning and development programs consult:

“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” — 
English proverb; Source: The Forbes Book of Business Quotations

This resilience learning program focuses on a trait lacked by many: resilience. Other names for this are persistence, perseverance, and mental toughness. 

It’s a necessary mental state, one seemingly magically installed in great transformational leaders and entrepreneurs; but really, like most traits, it can be learned.

6. Visualization

Jan Styka (1858–1925): Dream of Polish volunteers in French trenches

This technique is often not used. However, it’s very powerful when used in concert with setting a goal. Rather than just having a goal written on a piece of paper, you imagine that it has already happened.

For example, let’s assume that you would like to get a promotion. Something this could happen this month but that doesn’t mean it will. Best to use your imagination to imagine that you have it.


All of us want to receive some positive reinforcement from the environment. But many times, we don’t get motivated. What really keeps us going, are the efforts to motivate ourselves.

This is especially the case where we have to put in years of learning or practice before success occurs something known as delayed gratification.

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 First Published, October 14, 2017Last Update July 16, 2023  

Work Skills For the 21st Century