Motivation: Does it Ever Get Easier?

I wrote this for my PR class blog, but this is the less work-oriented, more personal, expanded version. And if all this introspection is too much for you, don’t worry, I’ve got a mean, green kale post for you tomorrow.

I thought when I was at my internship last fall, my productivity for the organization would soar all semester long. But the reality set in quickly. My supervisor was a busy guy with his own full-time job to do. I had to work on my assignments myself. I didn’t have many hard deadlines. Just like with schoolwork, I found myself wasting time and then rushing to finish it later.

I had to motivate myself.

Of course I wanted to do a good job and get a real feel for the PR profession, but when it came down to daily decisions like researching an article (valid goal) or “improving our company Facebook profile,” (vague, somewhat unnecessary goal) I still had trouble choosing the better, harder thing.

I did all my assigned work, sure, but I could have done it better, learned more and gained more experience if I would have applied myself more.

What I’ve learned this semester about motivation speaks to this situation. I’m taking Psychology, Organizational Behavior (management course), PR Media Programming, and Advertising Procedures. Their interconnectedness pleases me – I like knowing what I’m learning isn’t an isolated discipline with no relevance to anything else – not to mention it’s handy having similar material to study.

All my subjects reside under the umbrella of psychology, which is funny because I just picked up the class for my last social science.

Sociology, check, economics, check… I guess psych would be good. Indeed.

Psychology – the science of the mind and human behavior

  • Organizational Behavior – basically psychology applied in the workplace
  • PR Media Programming – psychology applied to your communication with audiences.
  • Advertising Procedures – history, types, and again, psychology applied: this time to society and consumers’ perceptions of advertising.

Anyway, one theme I see reoccurring and even acted out in my own life is motivation. Why do people do the things they do?

In Psychology, the answer is that behavior comes from our biology (brain, hormones), our psychology (learned expectations, emotional reactions, perceptions) and our culture (others expectations, peers, role models).

Organizational Behavior say that people are motivated by exchanges (I work for you, you pay me), or that they’re trying to satisfy needs like self-actualization and respect.

PR and Advertising portray people as acting in their own self-interest, so you have to show them how your product/service/idea is best for them.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – a common view of what intrinsically motivates people’s actions at work and in everyday life.

Now I know all about motivation. I know why I’m in school (exchange: I work through the classes, Baylor rewards me with a degree). I can tell you, one-dimensionally, why I run (I put in the training, running satisfies my need for accomplishment). I know why it’s hard to make myself finish schoolwork before I get on the internet and read cooking blogs (instant gratification! haha).

I’ve learned about the best way to train your mind to take in information (repetition, spaced learning, organize what you know, connect it, get ample sleep).

I’ve learned how to motivate myself to get through a large amount of work (break it up into manageable chunks of time, reward yourself with snacks or a diverting activity).

But after learning all of this – what works and why it works – I still find myself battling every day to do everything I want and need to do. I consider myself a highly motivated person. Grades are really important to me. Last semester’s B in Intro to Marketing was quite the blow. And success in running is an even bigger priority. I want to be fast, kick butt, do things I didn’t expect and take my running to the next level. I’ll do anything I have to do to get there.

This came up in Google Images for “Motivation,” haha

That’s basically what I do, but my relationships with God and people are who I am. I want to live my life like God wants me to. I have to maintain the relationships with people too: my parents, siblings, boyfriend, roommates, teammates, coaches, college friends and friends from back home.

Lower on the priority list are hobbies like cooking, baking and design. Keeping my room clean. Wearing an outfit that makes me feel good every day. Keeping vaguely up-to-date on world news and popular entertainment.

These are things I want to do: things I’m motivated to do.

I understand motivation, scientifically, but there’s a gap between what I’m motivated to do and what I end up doing.

Maybe there’s some crazy ulterior motivations in there I don’t see, called being a slacker, doing my best to hurt myself and other people, and jeopardizing my performance in school, work or running.

I know, it’s a classic debate going back to Bible times: Romans 7:18-19 “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Being passionate about something helps but certainly doesn’t solve all motivation problems.

I’ve had a hard time lately with motivation in school and running. I see my life sort of coming apart. Grades slipping, not getting enough sleep, not eating well; it’s just one ugly cycle. Maybe I can attribute it to not being able to run… but I don’t want to make excuses. This is always a sort of problem in my life (procrastination) and it feels the biggest it’s ever felt right now.

The only thing I’ve learned for sure is you can’t give up. Do you hear me? If you stop trying, you’re guaranteed to fail.

And hey, there’s the next couple verses in Romans 7. This should be all the motivation I ever need:

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Another day, another battle for motivation to do something that matters. This is my prayer.


3 thoughts on “Motivation: Does it Ever Get Easier?

  1. beabee

    Uh… good luck with that. I enjoyed reading and identifying with you about everything you said. But I have no answers for you. For me, it gets a little better when I’m busier. And outside structure — like jobs, Bible studies, and classes — help me as well. I guess some consolation is that I think most people are like this. If you’re doing poorly, everyone else is probably doing even worse! Haha.

    I think it is just a part of growing up.

    Objectivism (Ayn Rand’s system of philosophy) has some interesting thoughts on the subject. It says that people who behave in ways harmful to their goals are committing the ultimate sin — choosing death instead of a full, rich, abundant life. John Piper talks about the same ideas from a Christian perspective.

  2. Unboxed CJP

    Enjoyed your post. Certainly motivation is a fickle thing that, as you allude to, can spin out of your control quite easily. It can be tough to keep that end objective in sight. That said, at CJP we preach the mantra: “Solve Don’t Swell” We believe, as a matter of corporate culture, that you have to break projects, goals, objectives into achievable components. From there, just keep your eyes ahead, take the baby steps and work toward your own motivation — doing a stellar job, impressing a client, wowing your boss, leaving the office on time… it’s unique to each individual.

    Keep up the great work.

  3. Pingback: I so hate consequences « cateruns

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