To define motivation in a simple manner I would say that it is "a general desire, need or want that generates the energy required for someone to behave in a particular way."
Still, it is not enough to simply define motivation, if we did; I'm not sure what value this would bring as motivation is a much more complex as well as multi dimensional phenomenon.
Motivation theories will help us understand what motivation is. They will strive to comprehend what will make us achieve our goals by understanding what are the driving forces which will convert our thoughts into behaviors and ultimately results. More specifically, they will try to predict how a particular stimulus, for example having a bonus plan based on production quotas, will result in a specific set of behaviors which will produce the desired outcome, in our example, a sustainable increased efficiencies in the work place.
While motivation is always from within, there are two main types of motivators, intrinsic and extrinsic. First, intrinsic, means that we the origin of the motivation is coming from within the individual, (e.g. sense of pride or ethics). Secondly, extrinsic motivator, meaning that it is coming from outside of the individual (e.g. like receiving a paycheck). We should note that we can break the sources of motivation further (e.g. social, cognitive, spiritual, etc...). However, the point to take away here is that your desire to be motivated is either self-generate or externally generated, but the final choice will always remain within the individual, since one cannot give motivation, but only set the context for one to be motivated.
We need to add another dimension to define motivation, which is that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators can see their roots emanating from a positive thought or a negative one. As a side note, you probably already heard about managing by the carrot or stick approach. This approach is often referred to in the context where someone else will exercise either the carrot or the stick, but for intrinsic motivators we are often the source of the stick approach.
The most famous "stick" is the fear of failure, how often did you want to actually do something but refrained from it because you were too scared that you would actually fail?
On the one hand you let the desire or eagerness to behave in a manner that would provide a pleasurable outcome for yourself, and that desired came from within. On a personal level this could be like seeing something in a store and wanting to purchase it for a friend or a loved one, but did not do so because you were afraid that they might either perceive the gesture or the gift in a negative manner.
This situation really illustrates the concept of opposing forces which is also one that needs to be included when we need to reflect on motivation as opposed to define motivation. In fact, we cannot ignore the relation between motivation and emotions.
Sharing your motivating thoughts or your motivational tips will benefit every leader. Motivation is what give them the energy to constantly seek to improve their self-motivation as well as motivating other. Consequently increase our leadership influence.
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