Hi everyone,

This week was a very busy week for me. I was able to do much more work than usual thanks to a deadline. That got me thinking: what other than deadlines motivate me? So, let’s talk about it.

Motivation is the push that gets us to do things. It can be internal or external. Internal motivation is when we do things because of our own likes and wants. External motivation is when something outside of us gives us the push. It could be a deadline, a friend or an event.

I tend to be internally motivated. That is my default, hopefully. I try to do things if I want to do them. ‘Try’ is the crucial word here, because there are also things that I do because I have to. For example, on normal days, I study because I want to. But in times like this past week, I study because there is a deadline. Or sometimes, I lose my internal motivation  for no apparent reason. Then, I need to ask a friend to get me started.

Both internal motivation and external motivation have advantages and disadvantages. Internal motivation is good because it allows us to internalize what we do. We own them. But it is not always achievable. It is not always practical. It is also subjective. External motivation is good because it somehow makes us do things that we would normally not be able to do. For example, I wrote for many hours every day for the past week. Under normal circumstances, that would not be possible because I do not write every day, especially not that much. External motivation is generally also a stress factor, however. It might mess up our bodily and cognitive functions.

If I had to choose between them, I would prefer to have internal motivation at all times. The ideal world is where everyone finds their own internal push. But this ideal does not exist. So, we will always need to find the balance between the two. I believe the balance is when internal motivation is the default and external motivation is time or situation-specific. Too much reliance on internal motivation might cause us not to do things that need to be done. Too much reliance on external factors brings in too much reliance on people. What would we then do when we don’t have people around?

What motivates you the most? Are you internally motivated naturally or do you like deadlines or reminders from friends? Do you generally find it hard to motivate yourself? What do you do if you have to? Let’s talk about motivation.

















121 thoughts on “Motivation

  1. I just got done reading this book called “Ikigai” by Hector Garcia. Ikigai is the Japanese philosophy of doing one thing at a time, with dedication, devotion, presence and joy. They don’t wait for an internal or an external push. This philosophy is based on a purpose driven life where when we contribute and fulfill our purpose, happiness in the natural byproduct.
    I’ve been deeply influenced by this book
    I spent the last hour cleaning my bathroom and unclogging a drain. Of course I didn’t feel like doing it but it’s been on my to-do list for the past 3 days. So I just rolled up my sleeves and got to it, got it done systematically and am sitting here feeling mildly stunned

    1. Yesss ! Just do it, while thinking only about that ONE thing at a time but remembering ONLY the number of tasks remaining.

      The “number of tasks” becomes the driver while “one at a time” relieves unnecessary stress.

    2. That sounds very interesting! Sounds like a perfect way!
      One thing that I am not clear, though: how is internal push different from fulfilling our purpose? For me, they go hand in had. I was wondering what the difference is in this philosophy.

      1. I think, it is like neither rowing along the wave nor against it but floating without rowing at all, or simply doing what we are meant to do. Every person experiences it as in quotidian tasks. The art is to make the new tasks inclusive of such “actuation”, in contrast to motivation.

        As Oracle says in The Matrix Trilogy, “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do.”

      2. I ask myself this too!!!!!
        On the one hand, I’ve waited almost all my life – up to now nearly – for the purpose of my existence, the direction of my destiny and the reason for my life to be made apparent to me. I’ve studied and listened to philosophy and psychology …. and yet, this little book just made it all clear.
        I am the purpose.
        I am the destiny.
        I am the reason I’m alive.
        The simplicity is profound.
        Now, I start action from THIS place. I do one thing at a time, because that action becomes a holy, joyful and elevated thing because I am doing it, and I do it excellently and purposefully, because I am on purpose and not an accident 😊

    3. I just read the book called The One Thing and ikigai was mentioned in there. That book focused on research and trend analysis to analyze concepts like multitasking and office environment setup. It would be good to follow that up with the philosophy of just doing one thing. I have always been flipping back and forth between tasks and the progress gets slow with disruption and “noise”

  2. 1)Fresh mind motivates me.
    2)Deadlines demotivate me.
    3)Reminders assist me, unless too much.
    4)I find myself “IMMUNE” to external motivation ! Words like “I believe, you can do it” sound completely unhelpful but not distractive.
    5)If I have to, I still don’t do it if I think I can’t.

    1. 1) Same
      2) Depends. Absolute deadlines motivate because I don’t have any other choice but do it. Milder or tentative ones, they stress me out because I can’t decide if I should pass it or obey it.
      4)Same, same, same. Those are completely useless for me.
      5) Hmm, tentative. Sometimes I just have to start somewhere

  3. I’m definitely strongly internally motivated but as you’ve said sometimes I put too much pressure on myself. I also try to listen to the advice and wisdom of those around me, but I judge it all for myself on its merits. Great post.

  4. Sometimes because of my personality type I’m internally and externally motivated at the same time. For example if someone (externally) asks me for help I’m internally motivated to do it because that’s how I show love/ think people will accept me. I’m not suggesting it’s the best motivation but there you have it. 😝

  5. I find that a paycheck is my only motivation for going to work 😂

    But seriously, I do think it’s easier to find motivation when it is something you are driven to do over something that you have to do

  6. I prefer interior motivation. I’m working ahead in some of my classes, in part because I know of events that are coming up that will take time, in part so I can spend more time on the classes I am slowly trudging through, and lastly, because I want to get some of this stuff off my plate so I can enjoy my free time. I find I’m more likely to do whatever the thing is if I’ve decided it has value.
    External motivation – whoof… Deadlines, expectations, obligations – they all tend to make me anxious, probably because they are outside my control.

    1. I agree! If I do something, it has to have value for me too. But sometimes, deadlines work. It might be the procrastinator in me. Deadlines mean I have no choice but do the thing.

  7. There’s a wonderful (or rather, one of many wonderful :)) quote by Carl Sagan where he says that “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” It’s what motivated us to start our Endless Weekend now, instead of waiting for… someday.

    In a way, it’s the ultimate deadline… if we were immortal, would we have the same hunger to experience more?

  8. Very nice piece, Betul. When you say “internal motivation,” you’re really talking about passion. Of course, it’s easy to do things if we have a passion for doing them. When you say “external motivation,” you’re talking about obligation. Things we’re obliged to do often feel like “chores” (probably because they are). Often, such duties are things we feel dispassionate about, at the least, and downright hostile to, at the most extreme end of the motivational spectrum. Like you, I’m very internally driven. When there is something I love doing, I do it no matter what. You can’t keep me away from doing it. When I’m obliged to do something, I often find myself procrastinating. I often do things out of external motivation just to keep from getting into trouble. Doing stuff just to keep bad things from happening is not very inspiring, is it?

    1. This is a very nice distinction! Yes, internal motivation is passion and external motivation is obligation. We need both, but we need the latter to keep ‘the order’, which is not really inspiring, as you said. Thanks for the comment!

  9. Internal motivation seems to hit me in cycles. It will wash over me quickly and I’ll have it for months at a time. Then it will disappear just as quickly as it came. The cycle continues.

  10. I tend to see things more in terms of procrastination than in terms on internal or external motivation. Don’t get me wrong, I like the dicotomy but ultimately, whether it’s something inside of us or external factors, there are certain things that we know we are supposed to do.

    Most of us procrastinate at one point or another, from the small “I need to fix that door squeak” to preparing for a major exam or presentation.

    There’s a good TED talk, called “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”, on YouTube, you might want to check it out.

  11. Well, to me it’s the other side of the ‘getting things done’ coin. On one side you have motivation (internal+external), i.e. the push to getting things done. This side pulls you in the right direction. By ‘right’ I mean in the direction you know you need to go towards.

    On the opposide side of the coine is procrastination, meaning: you know you are supposed to do certain things, but procrastination gets in the way. This side of the coin pulls you in the wrong direction, or prevents you from making progress with the things you know you need to be doing.

    When you write “I try to do things if I want to do them. ‘Try’ is the crucial word here, because there are also things that I do because I have to. For example, on normal days, I study because I want to. But in times like this past week, I study because there is a deadline. Or sometimes, I lose my internal motivation for no apparent reason. Then, I need to ask a friend to get me started.” it sounds like at times you study more because of a deadline.

    What would happen if that deadline was further in the future? From the sound of what you write, you’d probably put it off some more. That could be procrastination.

    I hope it makes sense.

    1. Thank you for the explanation! Yes, it makes sense! And yes, if it is something I don’t want to do, I would probably postpone it. I do things I want to do right away and procrastinate other things.

      1. I believe all of us procrastinate to a certain extent. I have yet to meet someone who has never put off something, no matter how big or small. It may be calling that friend we always mean to call, repairing the fence that broke last winter or performing car maintenance.

        There’s a very apt metaphor from the late Stephen R. Covey, whom in turn borrowed it from one of Aesop’s Fables: I can’t relate the whole thing here because of time constraints but, in a nutshell, when we don’t tend to the people or things that we know we should be tending to, they stop bearing fruits for us.

      2. Oh, I like the quote! It is very true! We all postpone certain things but some of these certain things are actually very vital to lead a more meaningful life.

  12. Thanks for the amazing post, I fully agree about having deadlines to be motivated, that’sso important in daily life.
    I extra enjoyed reading the difference of the internal and external motivation, the advantages and disadvantages, to keep trying and to take action.
    I would say as an addition, “motivation” might also help for the mind, (I’m actually in middle of writing a series of articles about the mind,
    Thanks again it’s really inspiring,

  13. Very nice article. I personally prefer inner motivation more, because I see myself as a well organized person and I do most of things because a want them to do. But motivational quotes on the Internet can easily push me into work a be proud of myself.

    1. They do that to me too, unless I don’t have any other options. If the deadline is too tight, it somehow motivates me. If it is ok-tight, I don’t like that.

  14. I think a healthy balance between internal and external motivation is ideal. Too much of the former and we can be a slave to our own drives and impulses – the tyrant in the head – too much of the latter and we won’t be self-dependent, as you say, but also because deadlines and commitments are stress inducing, and that isn’t congenial to a happy and healthy life

      1. Have you ever read ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham? It’s wonderful book which explores that very question.

      2. It’s the first thing that came to mind. It’s a great book, at least, it left its impression on me. Which I think is always a sign of a good book. Btw, I love your story about an owner being reunited with their cat. My cat passed several months ago and I still find her black fur on the furniture. Losing animals is so tough.

      3. I know it is hard, right! My brother has a cat and it was with my mom for a long time. Now he is back with my brother. My mom says that she still expects him to pop up everywhere and she expects to see his fur on the couches. But at the end of the day, they have a limited life span, as we also do. I am sure your cat had great times with you!

      4. I like that. It’s almost as if your brother’s cat is a full member of the family and not just a pet. I think your mom would have missed having her around, like in your story. It’s hard to say goodbye to animals. At least, I find it hard. I suppose that’s life – it’s about loss and knowing how to let go. And then one day it’s our time and people have to lose us. In the meantime, we remember never to take things for granted, including our cats 😊

  15. Quite a relevant topic presented with such simple insight Betul. Yes, these day’s everyone one needs the find ways to stay on top of their game by staying motivated. Some wake up and go to bed motivated, many find ways to get through the next moment. Everyone can do with help in this area and I certainly look forward to more from you in this area.

  16. I think motivational quotes on the Internet can easily push me into work. How lives are changing what motivation they get and get on success. I am also a Motivational Speaker write an article on motivation. Visit my site for more INFOTITUDE

  17. This is so very true! I am personally a deadline person! I like having concrete deadlines so that i can focus on what is important first and space out my efforts. I also have internal motivation for such things as working out and simple things; however, definite deadlines gets me more motivated! Great read thanks.

  18. Deadline do motivate me too. At times I just stick to my bed or my sofa thinking that I will do the work later but then this thing ‘deadline’ comes up all of sudden and no matter if I want to work or not but deadline force me to work.

      1. Yes, most of the time, it makes me stress. Sometimes I feel like quitting, and whenever this thought strikes my mind, all I do is ask for some more time (extended deadline), take some rest, possibly sleep or write some blog, and then continue with work after some time again. Writing r makes me feel amazing, fresh, and energized.

  19. I don’t find hard to motivate myself, I can sit and think about a worthwhile goal and I get ready to take action easily. However it is sometimes hard to sustain it for long.
    So I am struggling to be consistent with it.

  20. I decide something and I can act really well for a day or two. After that the initial thought starts fading away. So I tend to become less consistent in taking action. But the good thing is that I become aware of it and start taking actions as soon as possible. So the struggle is there, but it is fun. And also I am working on two-three areas in my life. For example, I am an Architect, recently graduated. I am a chess player and I am also keen to learn music. So I am trying to cover these three areas, plus the blog, which makes it difficult to bring focus to one particular activity at a time. But I am working on it, and enjoying it..:)

    1. You have a lot going on! But if you can keep up with all these at least to a certain extent, I think this is an accomplishment and it shows that you can concentrate (if you didn’t, you would have stopped doing some of these). Good for you!

  21. Wise words and a good reflection, thanks for sharing. For me sometimes its a shock or a change and that feeling of I have to do it, I have no choice. But, where I find most drive, is when I’m inspired by an idea thought or situation and I want to do it, sometime just to see if I can. That passion burns a lot longer than sheep dogs and cattle prods. Thank You, John.

  22. Sometimes it does become very difficult to get back on track especially after holidays so I try to motivate my “inner” self. I would like to appreciate your post, it’s amazing, made my day!

      1. That’s absolutely correct and once we get back we should be grateful for not being misled, oh I have written a bit about “Gratefulness” if you would like to check it out please, it will be an honor if you share it with others too ✨

      2. When you provide the link, I can see it, but not when I click on your name and blog extension. You might want to check your settings for a potential mismatch in your blog’s name or extension.

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