What Is Motivating You?

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Each of us moves through life with our own philosophy.

These all tend to be slightly different. We have our own dreams and aims, and we’re unique in the stages of our each of lives. Importantly, despite sharing the same biology, we all have our own motivations.

If you have any goals you want to achieve in your life, it’s likely that they require effort, and you’re going to need to know how to get yourself to act in a way that moves towards them.

So it’s important to ask the question;

What is motivating you?

The answer can vary greatly, and when you take a long hard look, it’s unlikely to be what you initially thought. For example, you may think that money is motivating you, but what’s really motivating you is need to feel accomplished. Or you might think that you want respect, but what you truly want is fame.

You shouldn’t judge yourself for your motivations, and other people shouldn’t judge you either. But regardless, it’s very important to know what your motivations are, so you can best drive yourself in the short-term and long-term, when things are running smoothly and when times are tough.

Panoramic view of mountains at sunrise with a climber holding a pick
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Why is it important to know?

It’s important to know your motivations for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s common, both in professional and social situations, that someone will ask you what motivates you. If you are in a job interview, for example, your potential employer will want to be sure that you’re the type of person with goals, aims, and self-awareness. When in a social situation, people are more likely to respect you if you know where you’re going.

What does it reveal?

When you ask yourself the question: what is motivating you? It will reveal a lot about yourself. Maybe you’ll come to a realization that money isn’t what motivates you, and what you truly want is creativity. You could start to see that this is why your earnings haven’t been as fruitful as you had expected, because whenever you’ve needed to make a business decision which lies at the crossroads between passion and profit, you’ve chosen passion.

A smiling woman carrying a basket of rocks on her head
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

How to know what motivates you?

Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.

Zig Ziglar

This quote by the legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar makes an incredibly important point about motivation. As time goes on, your motivations will constantly change. It’s important, however, to make sure you know how they are evolving, so you can keep yourself motivated and continue to build momentum in all areas of your life.

Know Yourself

To know what is motivating you, you need to first know who you are. Three ways to get to know yourself are by journaling, through meditation, and by asking other people. Journal about your past, present, and future, and try and see what actions and values have remains consistent over time. Meditation will reveal your motivations as your mind slows down and you get a closer look at your thoughts. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of asking others about what they believe motivates you. We tend to be slightly blinded by our own self-perception, whereas others can see how we are acting and may be able to deduce why.

Two men shake hands over a desk with open laptop computers and papers
“The thing that motivates me is a very common form of motivation. And that is, with other folks counting on me, it’s so easy to be motivated.” – Jeff Bezos

Put yourself in different situations

If you have been stuck in the same routine for years on end, then you can never really know your motivations. This is because we become driven by habit, and we may not be venturing far enough outside of our comfort zone to even allow our motivations to come forth. By putting yourself in different situations, you can find where your limits are, and you can see what kind of thoughts and rewards will give you an extra boost when you are under stress and strain.

Getting hit motivates me. It makes me punish the guy more. A fighter takes a punch, hits back with three punches.

Roberto Duran

Read motivational quotes

This seems like a strange point to put in here, but there is good reasoning behind it. When we read motivational quotes, certain phrases may resonate with us. The reason this is, is because they are aligned with our own motivations, or at least those to which we aspire. Reading motivational quotes, therefore, has the two-fold advantage of giving us motivation and allowing us a peek inside our own mind to know what is motivating us.

Basketball players watch a man taking a jump shot to win a game
“If revenge motivates you, go for it! But the main thing is to set your game in order.” – Viswanathan Anand

Be honest

We’ve all heard the timeless cliche; honesty is the best policy, well, when it comes to seeing what motivates you, this is absolutely true. It’s easy for us to claim that we are being motivated by our highest values, whereas in reality, it’s probably a mixture of many of our ideals. For example, your drive at work may be determined by loyalty to your team and the desire to be your best self, but other motivations such as vanity or revenge may also be playing a role. Again, the point is not to judge yourself, it’s to be completely honest, so you get a more holistic picture of exactly what is pushing you forward.

Ultimately, knowing what motivates you is very important for your personal growth. Follow the suggestions laid out in this article and by being honest and open, you’ll start to see what drives you. Living a life that is guided by your motivations and not by the interests of others, will be the difference between a rich and fulfilling time on this earth, and one that feels like it lacks meaning and depth.

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Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's lead editor and content writer, and has invested in online properties since 2009. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.