Motivation: Key Aspects You Need to Know

We all need motivation to accomplish what we want. It is necessary to get up in the morning or anytime we’re bored and uninspired. Most importantly, we need it when the going gets tough. Motivation is a crucial ingredient of success. But how do you find your motivation?

This blog will discuss motivation and touch on human behavior, human motivation, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation.

Some people think that they can wait for someone else’s example or words to inspire them; others believe that only people with high intelligence can be creative; still, others see creativity as something one must be born with. And these myths lead us into taking some very damaging shortcuts: stopping too soon, never questioning our assumptions, and not following through on ideas because “we don’t have time”. The truth is that creativity exists in all of us, whether we believe it or not.

What is motivation?

Motivation causes us to act, get up, and do something. It is the reason why we take specific actions. Motivation has two components: direction and intensity. Direction refers to whether or not a person has set goals for their future, and intensity reflects the strength of interest in achieving these goals.

Direction of motivation

The direction of motivation is the path that a person has decided to take. It is having a picture of what you want and how you will get there. It helps you to understand your purpose for being in this world.

Intensity of motivation

The intensity of motivation is the strength of interest in achieving the goals that you have set. It is staying focused on your objectives and moving towards them even when you get negative feedback.


Motivating factors

We can motivate ourselves through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. In other words, we can motivate ourselves with positive emotional experiences or negative emotional experiences.

Pleasure as a motivator

Pleasure motivates people when they find interest in the outcome of an action. For example, when you see a delicious doughnut in front of you and your mouth waters at the sight of it, your motivation is a pleasure. We are also motivated through pleasure when we are attracted to the act of completing an action. For instance, you may feel compelled to complete a task because it will give you a sense of accomplishment once you have finished it.

Pain as a motivator

People sometimes motivate themselves by avoiding unpleasant experiences or consequences by not taking action. You might work hard on your homework because you don’t want to be grounded by your parent. You might study for hours at night because you don’t want to ruin your high-school career by getting a lousy grade.

Motivation factors

Human motivation

Human motivation is different from the motivations of animals because humans have complex brains. Humans have different types of motivation than animals; next to this, the goals themselves are more complicated than those of animals.

Unconscious motivation

Unconscious motivation is the force within us that causes us to behave differently. The part of your brain causes your heart to beat and your blood pressure to rise and fall, giving you the energy you need each day.

Many people think that they don’t have any motivation because they can’t see it; however, motivation exists within us, even if we can’t see it. Unconscious motivation is what gives you the energy to do things every day, like walk up a flight of stairs or go for a jog.

Conscious motivation

Conscious motivation is what you use to direct your unconscious motivation toward a certain behavior. You make your motivation conscious when you put your mind to doing something that you don’t want to do. For example, if you feel like staying and watching TV instead of going to school, your conscious motivation makes you go to school.

Conscious motivation is a good driver, but it is more challenging to use. It takes more willpower and self-control because the behavior isn’t always automatic. If you consciously motivate yourself, you have to feel as if you want to do the behavior, and it’s easier for your mind to rationalize doing something else instead. Self-disciple can be difficult because you have to override the feelings of your unconscious motivation.

You can train your conscious motivation by putting your mind to tedious or difficult things, like studying for an exam. Just like training in a gym, your mind will become more robust, and you can do more difficult things than before.

You can also use the conscious mind to create a new habit, this way, you make your habit unconscious, meaning that you will complete any task without much effort and not thinking about it. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you only eat healthy foods. Eating healthy becomes a habit, and you don’t have to put yourself into it anymore.

Conscious Motivation

How to look at human behavior to find motivation

Motivation triggers human behavior to act. Human behavior is how humans act, react and interact. The environment, thoughts, feelings, moods, personality traits, and motivation influence human behavior, and motivation is the cause of human behavior.

Because human behavior is one of the most studied and analyzed theories in psychology and philosophy, there are different branches that you can use to try to understand motivation. Behaviorism looks at human behavior only through the lens of environmental factors and stimuli. Cognitivism uses “how learning is influenced by thinking and cognition” as its foundation. Gestalt focuses on how the mind sees things as unified wholes rather than separate parts.

Using cognitive motivation to motivate yourself

As you might expect from its name, cognitive motivation focuses on how we think about behavior and process information related to behavior. It’s based on information processing and is also called the cognitive theory of motivation.

The basis of cognitive motivation is the idea that we can motivate ourselves by being –for example- aware of our goals and desired results. This way, we can motivate ourselves. You have to believe that as human beings, we can use our memories to motivate ourselves by reflecting on past events, accomplishments, motivational reasons, motivation theories, and motivation science.

Thinking of motivation like this can play a crucial role to:

  • Find different motivational states
  • Show goal-directed behavior
  • Stay motivated
  • Increase well being

Cognitive motivation is a powerful way to think about motivation because it puts the power of self-determination in your hands. It gives a person the power to control their own emotions, actions, and behaviors. Feeling in control will motivate you to keep trying until you find something that works.

This way, when your motivation is low or even non-existent, you can still search for ways to motivate yourself and work toward achieving your goals. People might think a desire is just a dream, but a desire can also help towards success, and a desire can start the process of handling challenges and receiving rewards.

Cognitive motivation

Using the self-determination theory to get the right motivation

When someone struggles to find motivation and wants to increase it, a good idea is to analyze where motivation comes from. The self-determination theory states that motivation can come from intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation: focus on the positive outcomes that are internal

Intrinsic motivation is a type of motivation that comes from within a person. You do things because you find certain tasks or behaviors interesting, enjoyable, and challenging. People often enjoy doing things because they are fun and rewarding to them. They feel fulfilled when completing a task because they see the act as valuable on its merit.

Examples of intrinsic motivation are:

  • Playing football for fun
  • Reading books to feel intelligent
  • Watching movies to feel entertained
  • Working out to feel strong
  • Making music to be creative

People feel intrinsically motivated when they enjoy something so much that they don’t need an outside force pushing them. When someone is intrinsically motivated, they are more likely to continue engaging in a behavior or activity because it’s rewarding internally and doesn’t require anything, only the mindset.

Use intrinsic motivation in your life

Intrinsic motivation is the optimal experience for someone motivated. Intrinsic motivation is persistent, focused, and hard to break down, and it often leads to the best performances. It is also doing something because of its interest or satisfaction, apart from any external reward or motivation. You can motivate yourself and someone else by focusing on positive internal results, like better health and feeling more fulfilled, safe, confident, relaxed, and in control.

In the next paragraph, we discuss extrinsic motivation. But I want to note here that it’s best to catch yourself when you have extrinsic motivation and mentally replace it with intrinsic motivation. For example, change your “Looking good for someone else” motivation for the gym to feel strong, flexible, and in control. This way, you will stay motivated when you have achieved your goal.

Intrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation: using external rewards to feel motivated

Extrinsic motivation is a type of motivation that comes from outside a person. It is caused by extrinsic rewards. People perform behaviors or engage in activities because they feel pressured to do so by either extrinsic rewards. These extrinsic rewards are, for example:

  • Money
  • Trophies
  • Discounts

But also external motivations can be from psychological pressures such as:

  • Praise
  • Fame
  • Avoiding Judgement

Individuals can be extrinsically motivated when they do something for an external reason. For example, a person may aim to earn money with football. In this case, football is extrinsically motivated because it’s not being done for its own sake but as a means of achieving another purpose, which is the need for financial resources.

Individuals can find external motivation when they do something to avoid external punishment, such as failing a test. External motivation leads to internal satisfaction with completing a task, but rather only an external reward. The external reward can then lead to an internal reward, like feeling good.

Use external rewards with caution

People tend to increase motivation with extrinsic rewards. While these rewards can steer people towards certain behaviors, they can also backfire. You can become dependent on these rewards and start to see your motivation as coming from them and not from within you. This way, motivated employees can turn into demotivated employees overnight. When this happens, the extrinsic reward itself becomes a source of frustration instead of pleasure because it fails to motivate you anymore; you will only want more.

Extrinsic motivation leads to behavior performed for external rewards or threats, which diminishes once the motivation is removed. So if there are limited external factors to motivate present, the motivation will not be sustainable in the long run.

Next to this, external incentives can also lead to a diminishing of internal motivation. Therefore only make the motivational focus on external rewards when you have to. Extrinsic motivators are not inherently wrong when they are used correctly. To increase motivation, focus on feeling good about your actions.

Extrinsic motivation

Goldilocks Rule to keep yourself motivated

The Goldilocks Rule is a motivational state that explains why people are more motivated to do tasks at certain times than others. The Goldilocks Rule states that you will not find motivation if you are doing something too easy or too difficult because it is outside the sweet spot.

The sweet spot is when something is hard enough, so it’s challenging but not too hard where the task feels impossible. People can use the Goldilocks Rule to study motivation at school or work. For example, if you are trying to lose weight and set a goal for yourself that is too high or too low, you will not have as much motivation as when it’s in the sweet spot.

Find interesting tasks that are achievable

Set an achievable goal, and you will keep your interest in it. When a task is just achievable, it remains interesting, and you will get the motivation to perform the task. When something is too easy, we get bored and we miss the motivation to continue doing it. If something is too difficult, we avoid it and lose motivation because we give up.

Maslow Theory Shelter

Motivating yourself for important topics with Maslow’s theory

Maslow’s theory is one of the best-known theories of motivation. It states that people are motivated to achieve certain needs arranged in a hierarchy. The most basic need is the first one to be met, and as this need gets fulfilled, it allows you to fulfill other needs higher up on the pyramid until you reach your full potential.

For example, if someone is hungry, they won’t be motivated to go out and play basketball because they need fulfillment for their basic need of food. If they eat, they may start thinking about the fun they can have by playing basketball. Food is considered a lower-level need or want rather than love and belonging.

According to Maslow, social needs are after food and shelter needs. If you fulfill social needs, the next step is “becoming the most they can be.” Self-actualization means to become the most you can be, and it is the highest level of need. Under self-actualization are creative activities and the idea of being the best you can be.

First, it is a good idea to settle your basic psychological needs before focusing on self-actualization. When you cover your basic psychological needs, set new goals at the higher levels. For example, try to help others or improve a good cause.



Use priming to motivate yourself by surrounding yourself with positive and motivating influences, such as by watching motivational videos or reading self-help books.

Priming is a memory phenomenon where exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus. An example of priming might be studying for a test after you’ve watched a movie about Einstein; afterward, you will unconsciously act like Einstein and take a test seriously, even if you did not think about the movie at all.

People are often primed to get certain feelings by specific stimuli. Even thinking about a dumb person can make you think you are not smart, which happens because of the priming effect. Priming is a great way to motivate things you desire. When you want to achieve something, but you can’t get any motivation or feel insecure, try using priming as a driving force to change your mind.

Surround yourself with successful people, achieve significant challenges, put in the effort, and have a mind with focus. Doing this will prime your mind with inspiration, positive psychology, rewards, and successful thoughts, which will keep you motivated and achieve your dreams.

Getting motivation

A word from Sublime People

Learning about motivation can help you understand what is your motivation and how to get it for the things that matter.

Science shows that having motivation for certain things will improve your life. Externally, if you have a certain motivation to earn money, you can improve your life to a certain extent. Internally, if you have the motivation to stay healthy, you will eat well and stay fit.

Define motivation for yourself. With this, you will understand yourself better, feel in control, learn what motivates you, how to achieve motivation, why you lose your motivation, and how to improve the situation.

Consistently looking for motivating factors will keep you motivated. It will help you explore and enjoy why you want to do something. It will help you learn and understand what drives you.

When people lose motivation, they lack a specific goal or purpose; it also means they lack inspiration. When this happens, grabbing a piece of paper and writing down the reasons you do something can help.

Motivation does not always come from within someone. Sometimes, we depend on other people and their opinions to stay motivated. However, if this disappears, there is a chance that we feel lost. If you notice this is your case and you are struggling, we recommend looking for professional advice.

What motivates you in life? Leave us a comment!