New research has revealed the secret to staying motivated – and it’s surprisingly simple

Struggling to get things done? New research has revealed the secret to staying motivated, and it’s a lot simpler than you might imagine.

It’s normal to feel unmotivated from time to time, but when you’re trying to get things done, it can be pretty damn frustrating. 

Motivation, after all, is a fickle quality – one moment you’re raring to get things done, and the next you’re struggling to muster the drive to complete the simplest of tasks.

But according to new research, motivation may not be as complex as we think. The study, published in the Journal Of Research In Personality, puts forward the idea that there are two different types of motivation – and that these types determine the number of obstacles we face in pursuit of our goals.

In turn, the study suggests that the type of motivation we possess can make a big difference to our ability to complete tasks – and provides tips on how to generate one type of motivation over the other.  

Before we get into that, however, let’s get back to the basics. According to the study, the two types of motivation are want-to motivation and have-to motivation. 

Their names are self-explanatory – while the first describes the internal motivation we feel when we want to get something done (the feeling most of us are typically referring to when we use the word ‘motivation’), the latter represents the external pressure we feel when we have to do something, either because of the expectations of others or because of guilt.

But that’s not even the most fascinating part of the study. Once the researchers had defined these two types of motivation, they used seven different studies to measure the motivation levels of numerous participants, which, when combined, pointed to an interesting discovery.  

In short, the researchers found that those who possessed ‘want-to’ motivation – aka people who had a personal drive to complete the task at hand – made a conscious decision to move away from any potential obstacles, reducing the risk of them getting distracted and, in turn, making achieving their goals easier. 

The opposite was true for those with ‘have-to’ motivation – despite still feeling the need to get something done, they were more likely to place themselves near distractions and therefore limit their ability to achieve.

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be internally motivated by every task put in front of you, but according to the researchers, there are some simple ways to generate more ‘want-to’ motivation when your levels are lacking.  

How to generate internal motivation 

Doing something fun while working is an easy way to boost your internal motivation levels.

Think about how the task fits your values

By tying the task in front of you to your underlying values, you’re more likely to see the task as something you want-to do rather than have-to do. For example, if you want to be seen as someone who is reliable, getting something done before your deadline could help you achieve this.

Do something fun at the same time

If the task doesn’t fit with your values in the slightest – after all, not all tasks are that deep – simply making the experience more enjoyable can generate some want-to motivation. There are numerous ways to do this, but some examples include doing the task while eating a tasty snack, listening to music or buying new stationery to complete it with. 

So, there you have it. While we’ll all have moments when getting things done feels extra challenging, focusing on where your motivation is coming from can make a big difference to how you feel about the task at hand.

By helping yourself to feel more personally rewarded by the task – either because it helps you towards a bigger goal or because you get something nice as a result – you’ll be more likely to avoid any obstacles in your path, helping you to complete even the least-appealing of tasks. 

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