“Motivation is the key to success!” How often have you heard this phrase? Do you believe it to be true? The fact is we feel like we do our best work when motivated. That’s because motivation can affect productivity, dedication, and commitment to work and success. But motivation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and there are many reasons to build better habits instead of relying on motivation, especially when it comes to your finances.
Several factors influence our level of motivation, including those from within (intrinsic) or outside sources (extrinsic). However, even with these factors, there are times when no matter how hard you try, you can’t find the motivation you need to keep pushing to reach your goals; that is where habits take over.
What is motivation?
Motivation refers to your general willingness to do something. It is the driving force behind every human action, including the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive factors that drive human behavior. It refers to the internal and external factors contributing to your desire to stay committed to pursuing your goals and achieving success.
Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Different people are motivated by different things. For example, some people are motivated by potential incentives or rewards for completing a task. Others are motivated by achievement, power, fear, affiliation, competence, attitude, or expectancy. Your past, present, future, someone else’s needs, passion, and the thrill of discovery, can also be a significant source of motivation. The list is endless.
Why is motivation important?
Motivation allows us to change behavior, develop competencies, be creative, set goals, grow interests, make plans, develop talents, and boost engagement. It is a vital resource that allows us to adapt, function productively, and maintain well-being in the face of a constantly changing stream of opportunities and threats. More specifically, motivation helps to:
Increase your efficiency in achieving your goals
Drive you to take action
Encourage you to engage in health-oriented behaviors and avoid unhealthy or maladaptive behaviors, such as risk-taking and addiction
Improve your overall well-being and happiness
Why does motivation wain?
Motivation can disappear for several reasons, such as poor or vague goals, inaction, tedious or tiring process, uncertainty and self-doubt, and inconsistency in approach. Self-control, discipline, and a robust routine will help you reach your goals when motivation disappears.
Tony Robbins, New York Times bestselling author, says, “As a society, we actually have a problem with motivation. We’re always looking for more of it, and we think that more of it is going to solve all our problems. The truth is that motivation can only take you so far; it can get you to the starting line but not the finish line.”
Jim Ryun once said, “motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
As such, while motivation will get you started, habits are essential for your productivity, consistent progress, and sustainable outcomes.
What are habits?
People assume that successful people must have superhuman self-control. However, studies show beneficial habits are essential to linking self-control with positive life outcomes. People with good habits can resist spending hours on social media instead of working, eating greasy foods, or procrastinating on assignments. With good habits, little or no willpower or motivation is required to make you work towards achieving your goals.
Habits are rituals or behaviors we perform automatically. They allow us to fulfill everyday tasks such as taking a shower, brushing our teeth, dressing up for the day, etc. Unconscious habits free up resources for our brains to carry out more complex tasks like solving problems.
Habits influence how we think, what we do, and how we feel about ourselves. However, even though most of our behaviors are habitual, most people don’t have a strategy for creating them.
Steps to building good habits
1. Set SMART goals:
Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, or in other words S.M.A.R.T. For example, if you want to build a habit of meditating every day instead of setting a goal that says,
I will meditate regularly.
I will meditate for 30 minutes three days a week.
This way, it will be easier to measure progress and make adjustments if you deviate from it
2. Create a detailed cue-based plan:
The second step to building or changing habits is to develop a detailed cue-based plan. You tend to progress towards goal achievement more if you cue when you’ll do it, where, and how. For example, instead of saying,
I will meditate for 30 minutes three times a week.
After my morning devotion on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will spend 30 minutes meditating on the balcony.
A plan like this is more likely to stick as a habit. It will significantly reduce the chances that you will forget to follow through.
3. Make it fun and repeat:
Don’t overestimate your willpower when forming new habits. You will persist longer if you find ways to make your goal pursuit fun. For example, I hate working out. The thought of going to the gym to work out or going for a run will make me want to crawl back into bed and never wake up. However, I would go to a Zumba class any day and never get tired. Since I love dancing, my goal is to dance for 30 minutes daily with a friend, the kids, or some youtube Zumba class instructor video. And I have been able to stick to this routine for the longest.
Repetition is the key to habit formation, and you are likelier to stick to something you enjoy. Making the experience positive is the most critical part of habit formation, yet it is the most overlooked.
4. Foster flexibility:
A flexible habit means you can still do what you need, even when life throws you a curveball. For example, it’s okay to skip it for that day if you are stuck in traffic while making a school run and can’t make it to your 30-minute workout.
One way to ensure this flexibility is to give yourself emergency reserves. These are limited get-out-of-jail-free cards for those days when you can’t squeeze in the 30-minute workout. A few emergency reserves each week allow you the flexibility to miss a day when a real emergency arises without getting discouraged and abandoning your objective entirely.
5. Find the proper social support:
Evidence shows that the behaviors of the people around us strongly influence us. Want to start running regularly? You’re probably better off joining an established running club than asking a few friends who aren’t yet in the habit of jogging to get in shape with you. People in the running club have already built the habits you want. You can learn from them about what works and gain friends who will make you feel like a slouch when you slack off.
Good habits are contagious, so try to catch some by hanging out with people ahead of you on the learning curve.
The bottom line on why you should rely on habits instead of motivation
Because habits are ingrained in our lives, they also affect our motivation levels. Certain practices or routines we pick up encourage motivation in us, while others may distract, drain or demotivate us. So, the solution to staying motivated is to learn how to control your habits so that you can steer and use them as a tool to create consistent and systematic actions toward goal achievement.