Several studies have demonstrated that motivation is very tough to create “on demand” – meaning that if a task is not tied to a strong inner personal desire, it will be difficult to continue working toward that task for very long. Going back to our previous example of healthy eating, there are cases where people have struggled for a long time to lead a healthy lifestyle, and are then struck with a serious health problem – such as a heart attack, or cancer. Often they suddenly find that they are able to quit smoking, change their exercise habits, and lose weight. Did motivation suddenly get created? In fact no, it did not. They simply now saw their lifestyle habits as tied to something different that was already important to them – survival!
There is another major contributor to motivation problems. Imagine yourself being chased by a bully as a kid (a “stick” motivator); once you got away, did you keep running? No, at least not anything like as fast. There’s the core limitation to stick motivators; they collapse at some point. They may repeat, causing motivation cycles of boom and bust, or feast followed by famine. Stick motivators are very common. They may be set consciously, but very often they hide in the depths of the mind, out of awareness. They might take the form of the dread of financial insecurity, or the need to prove oneself, or the push for recognition. In relationships they might be the fear of being alone, or the need to be loved or appreciated. Same problem – boom and bust cycles. What can you do about them? Well, you can begin by asking yourself, honestly, “why do I do what I do? And, why is it important to me?” in connection with any goal you seek.