Do you really need motivation or goal setting?

August 6, 2021

We live in a world where practical and logical thoughts rule. As a society, we’ve advanced in technology, construction, and medical sciences, yet we still debate about the concepts and philosophies dating way before the times of Aristotle and the Greek Gods, without an extraordinary progress.

It seems to be easier to apply known patterns of 'proven to work' relational ties (suchas those in mathematics or laws of physics) than to shift our lens towards something a lot more “messy” and different to the straightforwardness of what we recognize as logic.

In the past, I’ve professionally developed in parallel two careers. I’ve worked in financial services and at one time studied with passion engineering as well as finance and economics. Meanwhile, life dipped me into practical psychology (performance coaching), subsequently occupational psychology… and later on a PhD in social psychology.

The reason I’m starting with this background is because I want to point out how different these worlds are and yet what continues to blow my mind the most is that even though what’s known in psychology to date doesn’t fit into the exact same box that we use for engineering or finance, we still try to force it in! By “we”, I mean society. We still try to somehow simplify and “distil” concepts such as love, motivation, performance, etc., meanwhile arguing with each other when there is no clear-cut answer to such important components of our lives.

The era of mass media has made it super accessible for everyone to share and respectively consume solutions to psychological conundrums nevertheless. We need answers and solutions, and this is not gonna go away.

‘How do be motivated?’ and ‘How to set your goals in order to be successful?’ is on top of the agenda when it comes to literature associated with entrepreneurs, business people, and high performance in general.

 

However, as much as I like synthesizing (and I do) how this or that can be achieved, there are a couple of trends in the area of personal development that burden people with wrong expectations. These are ideas that get stuck in our brains and chain us to a box of unrealistic concepts, ultimately killing the whole idea of “reaching your true potential”, which all of us, one way or another, want, regardless of what language we use to express it.

Many of us tend to think that if we are not motivated or our goals don’t materialize or don’t inspire us, we are doing something wrong, we are not on the right track, or even worst, there is a character flaw in us...

So let’s cut to the chase here.

To simplify, apply the much-needed “logic” and explain what you need to truly know about how to set goals and cultivate motivation, I will go through them both in turn.

 

WHAT YOUNEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOTIVATION:

1.    MOTIVATION DOES NOT HAVE A SINGLE DEFINITION...

...that is accepted by scholars or the public. What this means is that MY MOTIVATION IS NOT YOUR MOTIVATION. My solutions for being motivated do not need to work for you!

To put it differently, if you read an article that proposes a great way to feel motivated and you try it but it doesn’t work – don’t beat yourself up too harshly.

It is an ambiguous concept where perception plays an enormous role. The good news is that this also means you can self-proclaim yourself as motivated right now using a simple powerful sentence such as:
“I am just this kind of a person – always motivated. It’s never been a problem for me” - Too simple to be true?

Believe it or not, there are people like that. They are individuals whose self-perception and self-image do not allow them to label themselves as someone who lacks motivation and they never allow space to focus on the times when they experience symptoms of lacking motivation.

Instead of calling those times “lack of motivation” they are likely to attribute it to anything else – “I am tired”, “I don’t like doing this”; “I need more time to understand it…” but they will not say they aren’t motivated.

So motivation is, to a substantial degree, a perception-based phenomenon. This doesn’t exclude the fact that there are shared characteristics that people tend to report when they talk about being motivated.

 

2.    MOTIVATION IS CONSIDERED AS SO IMPORTANT ...

...Because we believe that: Motivation leads to performance --> which leads to positive outcomes.

Great, BUT EMPIRICAL STUDIES DON’T SUPPORT THE FIRST BIT OF THE EQUATION 100% .

 

Although research shows that feelings of motivation CAN LEAD to subsequent increased performance, it is not at all the ultimate rule. So, this nice, subjective feeling of motivation is pleasurable and desirable, yes, but if you don’t have it right now it does NOT mean you are unable to perform really well and achieve incredible results.

You shouldn’t give up on something just because at this stage your brain says - “I don’t feel motivated”.

 

3.    THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF MOTIVATION MAY IN FACT BE BOLLOCKS! WHY?

As we touched upon what the brain said, let’s continue a little longer talking about this fellow of ours. Some well-known speakers and trendsetters in business suggest that the whole concept of motivation may in fact be bollocks. Why? Because our brain’s job is to protect us from unknown, scary, risky, uncomfortable situations. When we set a goal we want, what happens is that: 1) it means it’s something we don’t have right now 2) which also means it most likely requires us to do things we haven’t exactly done before.

So, what your brain does is – it goes into a “run for your life mode” and motivation is the last thing you are likely to feel. We may feel motivated when we first decide on a particularly desirable outcome for ourselves, but when we need to undertake consistent, difficult, new actions,the feeling of motivation is challenged and we are left only with our brain shouting frantically “go in the opposite direction you silly!”

What this reiterates is that motivation is an elusive thing that we should not be relying on as much. If you don’t feel motivated right now make adjustments to your life but don’t overwhelm yourself with the false idea that something is wrong. It’s not wrong, it’s normal and you are still able to move in the right direction.

 

4.    MOTIVATION IS A BUY-PRODUCT OF ACTION

You don’t need to be motivated BEFORE you take an action and steps forward. Use the presence or lack of motivation only as a signal that you are given. Evaluate its roots and make changes as and when required.

Above all, remember that you are the boss of you and you tell yourself whether or not you are motivated.

 

WHAT YOUNEED TO KNOW ABOUT SETTING GOALS?:

As a theory, goal-setting is very much linked to motivation … or at least we try hard to link it because it makes “logical sense”.

However, once again, and not to be the bearer of bad news, there is no definitive proof of a straight forward link. Goal setting does affect performance, YES! But we must discuss when exactly it works best and what you need to NOT believe about goal-setting.

1. GOAL SETTING WORKS BEST WITH SHORTER-TERM GOALS WHICH ARE SOMEWHAT STRAIGHTFORWARD.

It’s not an ideal way of tackling complex, convoluted or long-term ones.

  • The goals should be  specific, moderately challenging (in other words, slightly in your stretch  zone but you still believe you can achieve them) and you should have someone to discuss your progress with (where you can evaluate yourself/ provide feedback to yourself or ask the other person to do it for you).


2. PERFORMANCE DECREASES AFTER 8 MONTHS....

Research suggests that if all of the above goal setting requirements are in place, performance, in regard to a specific goal, would still actually decrease after around 8 months. Unfortunate, but seems about right, doesn’t it?

So, if you see a dip in your performance, although you continue to set goals and work towards them, consider introducing a break, or a fresh ‘out of the box’ activity that can shift your focus….

3. BE AWARE OF WHY GOAL SETTING IS ALLURING...

The beauty of goal setting is that it focuses us on something we desire. However, this also means that you might lose sight of other important aspects of your life. So, focus wisely. Prioritise well what matters to you and your life.

4. WHO SETS YOUR GOALS?

Many advice giving gurus say that you must really love your goals, be fully invested in them, and very importantly - you must have chosen them yourself. That’s a great thought which sits well with how we'd like to see ourselves and the world, but yet again, research suggests we are likely to perform just as well if someone sets a goal for us. This "someone" could be society in general, a family member, an authority...

My experience with clients confirms this. I often see the need for direction from someone else. Especially when this “someone else” has a certain level of gravitas and instils respect in us. We are happy to take the helping hand and execute on a goal(s) that is not something we have chosen ourselves.

This point is critical because it means we should be aware that we are not as independent as we’d like to be when it comes to goal setting and because it is likely for our goals to lead to results, ensure you really know where they come from and if you want the end outcomes…  

Final words...

There are mixed results from hundreds of researches conducted on the topic and it’s unfair to promise you motivation if you set a goal. Nevertheless, motivation is still something extremely potent and it does exist!

Cultivate yours with determination but take well-thought through actions when you perceive yourself as demotivated.

Respect,
The ILC Team

 

Grow yourself and your endeavours.
Today is the day to build yourself up. We will support and guide your progress, staying side by side through the challenges, helping you achieve your most valuable goals.
Start Now
Made with ♡ by ILC