Motivation, what is it good for?

The past few weeks I have been feeling indifferent and slovenly unable to complete a range of basic tasks either work or home related. This leads to a feeling of inadequacy and laziness and letting the side down. In my mind I know I want to achieve certain outcomes but I seem unable to properly engage the necessary gears to make things happen. I have come to the conclusion that I lack the required motivation to compel me to execute a given task in a timely manner. I have encountered this feeling many times through my life so I’d like to get under the bonnet and examine why I feel the way I do and what I can do to address it.

It is probably best to start with a definition of motivation:

Motivation is the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviours. For instance: An individual has not eaten, he or she feels hungry, and as a response he or she eats and diminishes feelings of hunger. There are many approaches to motivation: physiological, behavioural, cognitive, and social.

Motivation may be rooted in a basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or for a desired object. Conceptually, motivation is related to, but distinct from, emotion.

This definition was taken from Wikipedia. Clearly, motivation is a complex subject and needs careful examination. The purpose of greater understanding is to help me change my behaviours in a way that enriches both me and my relationships which ultimately leads to greater satisfaction for all.

Some of the key elements contained within the definition

  • Arousal
  • Action
  • Goal
  • Behaviour

It could be argued that each of the above represent a progressive step in a virtuous circle. Arousal leads to action towards a goal and this leads to a particular behaviour. Over time this behaviour becomes second nature and leads to habits. Positive habits can lead to positive behaviours, arousal and action towards goals. The virtuous circle. For me, the pleasure comes in the arousal and action whereas the achievement of a goal delivers satisfaction. Therefore, breaking down motivation we have the stimulus that leads to arousal and action and we have goals that provide feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment. Behaviour can be classified as the catch-all of a group of actions that become engrained

What are these ideal habits and behaviours that can lead to arousal and action?

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The Aggregation Of Marginal Gains

Famous quote from Dave Brailsford, the man responsible for transforming British Cycling over the past decade to world-leading. So, how can a mere amateur such as I learn from the great guru himself! I guess the most important thing to do with respect to my own cycling is split it down into the individual components which can be improved upon, so what are they?

1. Endurance

2. Strength

3. Flexibility

4. Diet & nutrition

5. Mental attitude & visualisation

6. Goal setting and achievement

7. Breathing

8. Rest & recovery

9. Equipment

10. Motivation

I am sure there are others and I can add to these at a later date. The important thing is to recognise the marginal gains that can be made in each of these areas and that when added together they can lead to significant improvements. My goal is to make improvements in each of these areas. My ultimate goal is to get into good physical shape by the time of my 50th birthday. The outcome of achieving this goal will be 1) Achieving a major goal 2) Setting in place habits that will prolong my well-being (physical & mental) as I progress from middle to older age 3) Allowing me to enjoy food without worrying too much about it