Motivation has been explored from the beginning of time. Questions such as “What is motivation?” and “How can one become motivated?” continue to be discussed and analyzed. Many theories of how to motivate individuals exist. Some authorities feel that the key to motivation is the use of a reward system in which an individual is enticed to act by an external motivator. Conversely, other experts believe in the concept of “self-talk” where one simply talks positively to become motivated from within. Scholars continue to debate the sources of motivation, both external and internal. Before exploring the various routes to achieving motivation, the question “What is motivation?” must be addressed. Motivation has been described in a variety of ways. From a Christian perspective, motivation can be defined as occurring when an individual is convinced of the appropriateness and urgency of Christian goals, to the degree that he or she is driven not from without but from within to act, and continues to act in order to reach these goals, despite what others do or think.
In order to understand motivation, one must be aware of the sources of motivation. These include those that arise from within oneself and those that derive from external factors. One of the main sources of external motivation is an external financial incentive. Other external motivators include social pressure as well as attractive or magnetic personalities. Some personalities have the ability to attract individuals who may fail to consider the implications of becoming enticed. External motivators inspire individuals to act first and think later. In such cases, one is solely motivated by the external incentive. Alternatively, individuals may experience genuine motivation, which comes from within oneself.
Before addressing how to become genuinely motivated, a further distinction must be made between “internal motivation” and “external motivation.” Internal motivation is what the author considers to be true motivation due to the fact that it is internally generated and not externally stimulated. For example, an individual becomes enthusiastic or excited about a cause merely due to a personal interest in that cause or an individual may become passionate about performing a task simply because it is something that is a part of that individual because of a choice which he or she has made to identify with that task and not because of any external incentive.
On the other hand, the author views external motivation as an artificial stimulus. External motivation is artificial in the sense that it produces emotional stimulation which may lead to excitement without creating an awareness of the true source of such feelings. In other words, support or positive reinforcement from others may create a feeling of motivation which may dissipate once the external source is removed. An example of external motivation is verbal praise or financial reinforcements. External motivation is based on external incentives. One may find him or herself asking the question, “What is in it for me?” External motivation causes one to become consumed with personal rewards, rather than focusing on the goal at hand. Nevertheless, it is important to note that in the early stages of motivation, people may need emotional support or encouragement from others in order to promote action. However, individuals are not truly motivated as defined above, unless their actions are produced by internal motives regardless of the presence of support from others.
Sequence of Internal Motivation:
Internal motivation is produced through a six stage sequence: (1) Informed, (2) Interested, (3) Identification, (4) Internal Passion, and (5) Internal Motivation. The first stage involves the initial process of becoming aware. Awareness requires a time of enlightenment. This may take place by various means, including but not limited to learning through verbal communication or through media forms such as handout literature. It is important to note that if one is not cognizant of the reasons he or she performs certain actions, there may be consequences when one discovers that manipulation rather than motivation has occurred. True motivation involves both understanding the purpose and reasoning behind actions.
The second stage involves one becoming interested. This occurs after enlightenment when one makes a choice to further invest of him or herself. At this stage, there is a level of curiosity due to the desire to obtain more information. He or she may become personally intrigued by the obtained information and feel like such sounds like or defines who he or she is.
After obtaining the information necessary to understand why he or she is about to make an investment, the individual proceeds to stage three. During this period, an individual will begin to identify with what he or she just learned. He or she will begin to embrace the cause as part of his or her person. It is important to note that in order to be motivated about a cause you have to identify with that cause. When you identify with something, the identified aspect becomes a part of your being, resulting in a sense of belongingness. If you begin to identify with being a “counselor,” then counseling becomes a part of your total being.
The fourth stage, internal passion, begins with an igniting spark. This is the preliminary occurrence that is needed in order to instigate motivation within an individual. However, it is important that this spark does not become consuming. A balance between one’s passion or motivating force and one’s being or person needs to exist. This is crucial so that one does not become burnt out or tired because too much emphasis has been placed on one aspect while the other aspects of life have been forgotten. For example, this may occur if a counselor places a great deal of emphasis on the occupation and forgets about the personal walk with Christ or the responsibilities associated with being a family person.
Becoming internally motivated is the final stage. At this stage, one has a desire to do something solely for the love of it; thus achieving genuine internal motivation. This motivation is not reliant on external rewards but originates solely from within the individual. The significance of internal motivation is that this motivation drives one regardless of the opinions or actions of others. A person will perform an action merely because it is something that he or she is called to do and not because of reliance on secular reinforcements.
Nurturing Ongoing Motivation
Even though one may possess internal motivation, he or she eventually may move from being internally motivated, to externally motivated when personal drive or passion comes no longer from within, but rather from external factors such as the praise of others. When one places too much emphasis on the opinions of others, it is easy to lose sight of the origin of one’s passion. That which originally came from within now is being influenced by external factors. Once external factors become nonexistent; one is no longer rewarded for what he or she is doing. When having moved to being externally motivated and one finds themselves no longer receiving external reinforcements is when burnout or becoming tired occurs.
When one continues to act with little or no reinforcement, a crisis may result. An individual may begin to wonder why he or she continues to engage in an act if no one seems to appreciate the effort. Therefore, in order to prevent this burning out or moving away from being internally motivated and losing one’s desire to move forward when external reinforcements are not present, it is important that one revisit his or her initial passion and move away from having to rely on external factors to influence action. This period of retaining one’s internal motivational state involves a weaning process where people re-learn to live based on what God wants rather than on social reasoning.