How to Stay Motivated in Everything You Do


29 november 2018, 13:45

3 min read

Despite the abundant body of literature, human motivation remains vastly misunderstood topic by most people, governments, and businesses. So much so that numerous studies over the last few years show that money isn’t as important motivator as previously thought.

In research conducted by TINYpulse surveying a wide swath of employees across different organizations (for-profit and nonprofit), remuneration landed seventh on the list of things that drives us at work.

Turns out that people are willing to go an extra mile not for external motivators  - the all-prevailing “stick and carrot” approach that made the industrial revolution of the 20th century  - but for things entirely intrinsic. Human core performance drives are:

  • camaraderie
  • self-enjoyment for doing a good job
  • feeling praised and valued
  • having a voice in the workplace
  • being recognized
  • professional growth
  • meeting and excelling client/customer needs

This only resonates well with the first studies of primate behavior held by Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin who in 1949 coined the phrase “intrinsic motivation”.

Intrinsic Motivation

A group of rhesus monkeys were given some puzzles to solve.

How to stay motivated 1

Solving the contraption required three steps: (a) pull out the vertical pin, (b) undo the hook, and (c) lift the hinged cover.

Nobody had taught monkeys how to unlock contraptions or motivated them with food, affection or applause, but oddly enough it took simians only a few minutes to solve them. What really puzzled the researchers is that monkeys were far less productive when incentivized with external rewards. When given treats for their actions, monkeys made more errors and solved puzzles less frequently. It seemed that monkeys were more active out of sheer enjoyment.

How to stay motivated 2

In studies of human behavior, the bulk of evidence suggests that large external rewards often impede motivation. A study showed that adults who were paid to do simple tasks often spend less time and performed worse than those who were asked to do the same tasks just for test. In another research, children who were asked to draw pictures were more engaged in the process than kids who were receiving rewards for drawing but were renounced of them afterward. 

All this suggested that there must be some internal basic drive in human behavior other than core external reward/punishment motivator.   

Secret of Motivation

Regardless if you wish to do your work better, get things done more effectively, or just live a more fulfilled life, you basically have to do one thing - find an inner meaning in what you do. To do this, you have to:

  • Answer yourself: is your goal constructed on something everlasting and good or something fleeting and ill? A desire to live a healthier life is a great motivator to lose extra weight. Looking better than someone, on the other hand, is not and probably won’t get you very far beyond the ruinous sense of envy.
  • Align your task with your passion and skill set: if your goal doesn’t fit you, you’ll more likely to fail.
  • Add milestones to your goals: celebrate each small step toward it and make notes of what has been done already. Praising yourself for achievements will make you crave for accomplishing more. Success is very addictive and soon you’ll find yourself wanting to
  • Surround yourself with motivated people: inspiration is highly contagious and you’ll be getting boosts of energy by just hanging out with active people.
  • Organize your time: schedule can do wonders to your brain. Instead of re-motivating yourself every morning, make it a useful habit. Your brain will adjust to your timetable and will be prone to certain tasks at certain periods of the day.

Top small tricks to stay more productive at work:

  • Don’t look at the clocks. Time will seem relentlessly slow if you keep looking at the clocks every 5 minutes. Instead, make it a habit to check your task list (yes, get one immediately if you still don’t have any) and plan how many can you cross out this day.
  • Take regular breaks. It’s all down to your personal characteristics. Some very productive people take a small break every 30 minutes of dedicated work, some more often, some less. Bottom line is your performance levels will drop after some hours of continuous work. Use breaks for rehydration, stretching, meditation or just moving around.
  • Make your workplace more enjoyable and personalized. Think of your desk/stand as an extension of yourself so you can spend more time among the things you love.


The inner desire to do things better is the vital part of what human beings are in essence - more than the sum of their biological urges. And if you think of how much time have you spent on “mastering” Diablo II, watching TV or surfing useless sites and the fact that these “skills” won’t get you any food or sexual partner, i.e., core primal drives, you’ll suspect something intrinsic behind most things you do. So to recap what has been said here:

  • Money isn’t even among the top six primary motivators at work;
  • People are stimulated by their intrinsic motivations, not the external rewards;
  • You can accomplish anything if you find the inner meaning that resonates with your inner self.

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