You are doing it right! Misconceptions about Motivation and Goal-Setting!

Stop burdening yourself with wrong information.

You are doing it indeed right, chill and know that...

From where I stand, we live in a world where practical and logical thoughts rule. We have advanced in technology, in construction and in medical sciences, yet we still debate about the concepts and philosophies which date probably way before the times of Aristotle and the Greek Gods, without a particularly mind-blowing (if any for that matter) progress .

It seems to be easier to apply known patterns of 'proven to work' relational ties (such as those in mathematics or laws of physics) than to shift our lens into something a lot more… “messy” and different to the straightforwardness of what we recognize as logic.

In the past 4 years, I have professionally developed in parallel two career streams. I work in financial services and at one time studied with passion engineering (mobile tech. believe it or not) as well as finance and economics. Meanwhile life dipped me into practical psychology (performance coaching) and subsequently occupational psychology. Now, understand me well, both worlds are quite different but what strikes me is that even thought what’s known in psychology to date doesn’t fit into the exact same box that we use for engineering or finance, we still try to force it in!

We still try to somehow simplify and “distill” concepts such as love, motivation, performance, etc., meanwhile arguing with each other when there is no clear cut answer to such important components of our lives.

The era of mass media has made it super accessible for everyone to share and respectively consume solutions to psychological problems nevertheless. We need answer and solutions, and this is not gonna go away. ‘How do be motivated?’ and ‘How to set your goals for yourself to be successful?’ is on top of the agenda when it comes to literature associated with entrepreneurs, business people and high-performance in the workforce.

However, as much as I like synthesizing (and I do) how this or that can be achieved, there are a couple of trends which burden people with wrong expectations. Ideas which get stuck in our brains and chain us to a box of unrealistic concepts which ultimately kill the whole idea of “reaching your true potential”, which all of us, one way or another secretly want, regardless of what language we use to express it (if we in fact express it at all).

Many of us tend to think that if we are not motivated or our goals don’t materialize or don’t inspire us, we are doing something wrong, we are not on the right track or even worst, there is a character flaw that we possess...

To simplify it and apply the much needed “logic” for us to accept information and process it, I will go through Motivation and Goal-Setting briefly and in turn.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOTIVATION: (4 steps to go - 7min read time)

1. Motivation does not to this date have a single definition which is accepted by scholars or the public. What this means is that MY MOTIVATION IS NOT YOUR MOTIVATION. My solutions for being motivated do not need to work for you! To put it differently, if you read an article which proposes a great way to feel motivated and you try it but it doesn’t work – don’t beat yourself too harshly. It is an ambiguous concept where perception plays an enormous role. The good news is that this also means you can self-proclaim yourself as motivated right now using a simple powerful sentence such as “I am just like that as a person – always motivated. That’s never been a problem for me”. Believe it or not there are people like that. There are people who’s self-perception and self-image does not allow them to label themselves as someone who lacks motivation and they never do. So it is to a substantial degree a perception based phenomenon if you will which does not exclude the fact that there are shared characteristic that people tend to report when they talk about being motivated.

2. Motivation is considered as so important because we believe that:

motivation links to performance -> which leads to positive outcomes. Great, BUT the reality is that EMPIRICAL STUDIES DON’T NECESSARILY SUPPORT 100% THE FIRST BIT OF THE EQUATION. Although research shows that feelings of motivation CAN LEAD to subsequent increased performance it is not at all the ultimate rule. So, this nice, subjective feeling of motivation is pleasurable and desirable, yes but if you don’t have it right now it does NOT mean you are not able to perform really well and achieve substantial results. You shouldn’t give up on something just because at this stage your brain says… “I don’t feel motivated”. It is probably not the wrong goal at all.

3. As we touched upon what the brain said, let’s continue a little longer talking about this fellow of ours. Some well-known speakers and trend-setters in business suggest that the whole concept may in fact be bollocks. Why? Because our brain’s job is to protect us from unknown, scary, risky, uncomfortable situations. When we set a goal we want, what happens is that 1) it means it’s something we don’t have right now 2) which also means it most likely requires us to do stuff we haven’t done before. So, what your brain does is – it goes into a “run for your life mode” and motivation is the last thing you are likely to feel when shit hits the fan. I.e. we may feel motivated when we first decide on a particular desirable outcome for us, but when we need to undertake consistent difficult, new actions, the feeling of motivation is challenged and we are left only with our brain shouting frantically “go in the opposite direction you silly!”.

What this reiterates is that motivation is an elusive thing that we should not be relying on that much. If you don’t feel motivated right now make adjustments to your life but don’t overwhelm yourself with the false expectation that something is wrong. It’s not wrong, most likely it’s just normal and you are still able to move in the right direction.

4. Finally, motivation comes out of action. You don’t need to be motivated BEFORE you take action, it’s indeed the other way around very often.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SETTING GOALS?: (4 steps to go - 5min read time)

Goal-setting as a theory is very much linked to motivation or at least we try to link it because it makes “logical sense”. However, once again and not to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no definitive proof of that. Goal setting does affect performance, YES! But let’s discuss again when would it work best and what you need to NOT believe about it.

1. Goal setting works best with shorter term goals which are somewhat more straightforward. It’s not ideal for complex, convoluted ones.

  • The goals should be specific, moderately challenging (in other words slightly in your stretch zone but you still believe you can achieve it) and you should have someone to discuss your progress with (where you can evaluate yourself/ provide feedback to yourself or ask the other person to do it for you).

2. Performance, in regard to a specific goal, actually decreases after around 8 months of hard work. Unfortunate, but seems about right, doesn’t it? So, if you see a dip in your performance, although you continue to set goals and work towards them, don’t worry but introduce a break, a fresh ‘out of the box’ activity that can shift your focus….

3. Focus wise, be aware that the beauty of goal setting is that it focuses us on something we desire. However, this also means that you might lose sight of other important aspects of your life.

4. People say that you must really love your goals, be fully invested in them, and you must have chosen them yourself. That’s a great thought which sits well with how we would like to see ourselves and the world, but yet again, research suggest we are likely to perform just as well if someone sets a goal for us.

My experience with clients can confirm this. I can often see the need of direction coming from someone else. Especially when this “someone else” has certain level of authority or instills respect in us, we are happy to take the helping hand and execute on a goal which is not something we have chosen ourselves, but something we regard as reasonable. This means that we should be aware that we are not as independent as we’d like to be when it comes to goal setting and because it is likely for our goals to lead to results, make sure you really want the end outcomes. On the other hand, if you are happy with a goal set by someone else, don’t worry then and take it.

There are mixed results from hundreds of researches conducted on the topic and it’s unfair to promise you motivation if you set goals. Nevertheless, motivation is still something extremely potent and it does exist!


#goalsetting #motivation #lifecoaching

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